Friday, March 19, 2010

Taft is Notified; Cincinnati Joyful

Cincinnati, 1908

On July 28, 1908, when William Howard Taft accepted the Republican nomination for president from the portico of his Federalist mansion in Cincinnati, he launched into a one hour and eleven minute speech outlining his principles. Feeling the intense heat that hot summer day, the 300-pound Taft passed over large sections of his manuscript, explaining to the crowd that they could read his entire oration in the newspapers.

“Taft is Notified; Cincinnati Joyful,” declared the New York Times the following day. “Notification day was made a holiday by the people of Cincinnati regardless of party. Most of its citizens were awakened this morning by the booming of cannon from seven hills. Later there were concerts in the downtown parks, parades, a flag raising at the Taft household, daylight fireworks, balloon ascensions, automobile rides…and tonight the heavens were ablaze for hours with fireworks. From a brilliantly lighted river steamer Mr. Taft, surrounded by the visiting Politicians and a host of his friends, witnessed the night display. The weather was perfect...

Fourth Street, Cincinnati (1908)
“The streets were a mass of waving colors, and at night countless electric bulbs outlined tall buildings in the varied-colored splendor and formed decorative designs of unusual beauty...the American flag was almost exclusively used in the decoration of the city. Several of the taller ‘skyscrapers’ displayed a flag from every window…”

The flag-draped, beaux-arts skyscraper on the corner of Fourth and Vine was the new Sinton Hotel.¹ Anna Sinton, one of Ohio’s wealthiest heiresses, was married to Charlie Taft, the future president’s half-brother. It was the Sinton money that would propel Taft to the presidency in November, giving William Jennings Bryan his worst loss in three presidential campaigns.
The a la carte menu below from the Sinton Hotel reflects the exuberant and confident mood in the city that day. It was a time in American history that would be remembered as the “good years.”²

1. When the Hotel Sinton was demolished in 1960s, some of the locally-made Rookwood Pottery tile panels in the dining room were preserved at the Cincinnati Art Museum. The hotel is often remembered as the place where eight players of the visiting Chicago White Sox allegedly agreed to throw the 1919 World Series to the Cincinnati Reds.
2. Henry Allen, What it Felt Like: Living in the American Century (1999).

1 comment:

Stephen Barker said...

I have just come across your site which I find an interesting way of looking at social history.

I would be interested to know what Succotash is.