Journal-News, Monday, Oct. 5,1992
President McKinley's 1898 rail tour capped Spanish-American war victory
(This column is the first in an election-year series on presidential visits to Hamilton.)
By Jim Blount
President William McKinley came to Hamilton in 1898 not as a candidate for re-election, but as a triumphant chief executive who had recently guided the nation to the status of world power.
"The country has had some notable events in the past five months — events which have added luster to the history of our country and given a new and added meaning to American valor," said the 53-year-old native of Niles, Ohio, during his brief stop in Hamilton Friday, Oct. 21,1898.
The 25th president was referring to military success in the Pacific and the Caribbean during the Spanish-American War. Feb. 15, 1898, the U. S. battleship Maine had exploded in Havana harbor in Cuba, then a Spanish possession. Events followed that led to the United States declaration of war on Spain April 25.
In May, a U. S. naval squadron had destroyed the Spanish fleet at Manila Bay in the Philippines. The American army offensive had climaxed July 1 with the Battle of San Juan Hill in Cuba, and two days later the Spanish fleet was destroyed as it tried to leave Santiago harbor.
A peace protocol was reached Aug. 12 and on Dec. 10, 1898, the Treaty of Paris was signed with Spain freeing Cuba and ceding Puerto Rico, Guam and the Philippines to U. S.
"No nation ever had a more superb army than was mustered in 30 days under the flag of the Union to fight for the honor of the country and for the oppressed countrymen so near our shores," McKinley said from the rear of an observation car in Hamilton. 'Tour city, like all other cities of the country, contributed their full share of that splendid army."
The president arrived at 3:45 p.m. over the tracks of the Cincinnati, Hamilton & Indianapolis Railroad. His day had started in Chicago, and between Indianapolis and Hamilton he had given abbreviated speeches at Rushville, Connersville, Liberty, College Corner and Oxford.
The turnouts were estimated at about 2,000 each in College Corner and Oxford and more than 2,000 along Sycamore Street between S. Third and S. Fourth streets in Hamilton.
The three Butler County stops were made during a rail trip which began Oct. 8 from Washington, extending west to Omaha, Neb. The tour was highlighted Wednesday, Oct. 19, by McKinley's participation in a peace Jubilee in Chicago.
His brief Hamilton stop had been arranged by a bi-partisan committee which included Mayor C. S. Bosch, W. C. Margedant, John H. Long, D. W. Fitton, S. D. Fitton, Peter Schwab, O. V. Parrish, George T. Reiss, W. L. Tobey, Lazard Kahn, F. W. Whitaker, Abram Miller, James W. See and Judge W. S. Giffen.
During his Oct. 21, 1898, Hamilton visit, McKinley's vice president was Garret A. Hobart of New Jersey. But in 1900, Hobart was replaced by Theodore Roosevelt, a Spanish-American War hero, who had been elected governor of New York in 1899.
Roosevelt succeeded to the presidency Sept. 14,1901, when McKinley, while attending the Pan American Exposition in Buffalo, N. Y., died after being shot by assassin Leon Czolgosz.
McKinley — whose term was four years and 194 days — had visited Hamilton several times before he became president. The Civil War veteran had been governor of Ohio from Jan. 11, 1892, until Jan. 13,1896.
But he didn't carry Butler County in his two presidential elections, losing to Democrat William Jennings Bryan, who collected 59 percent of the county vote in both 1896 and 1900.
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Journal-News, Monday. Oct. 12 1992
President Hoover optimistic during Depression campaign stop
(This column is the second in an election-year series on presidential visits to Hamilton.)
By Jim Blount
It was an optimistic President Herbert C. Hoover who campaigned in Hamilton Friday afternoon. Oct. 28, 1932, less than two weeks before the presidential election. "We are on the road out," said the 31st president, as between 6,000 and 8,000 people surrounded his train at S. Third and Sycamore streets.
Hoover obviously was referring to the three-year-old Depression. He also could have been describing his troubled term in the White House.
By 1932, Hoover's name had become synonymous with the Great Depression. Shantytowns built by the unemployed and homeless were call Hoovervilles and the discarded newspapers under which they slept were known as Hoover blankets. Popular songs included "A Shanty in Old Shanty Town" and "Brother, Can you Spare a Dime."
The national distress had been triggered by the stock market collapse Oct. 29. 1929, less than a year after Hoover had won the White House in a contest with Democrat Alfred E. Smith.
In 1932, the 58-year-old president didn't begin active campaigning for re-election until October — when about a fourth of the nation's banks were closed.
His five-minute whistle stop in Hamilton was part of his last-minute effort to win a second term. His Democrat opposition was Franklin D. Roosevelt, then the 50-year-old governor of New York, who had promised "a new deal for the American people."
Even the railroad seemed to be conspiring against Hoover in Hamilton as his westbound "train was stopped a few feet sooner than arranged, so that the rear platform was in the center of the intersection," denying many the chance to see the president, according to a newspaper account.
Hoover was introduced by Clinton Egbert, chairman of the Butler County Republican executive committee.
In summarizing the speech, a reporter said Hoover's "brief remarks were a plea to voters to not change the strategy of the government just after the Depression had been forestalled and measures taken by the government proving successful in attaining a start toward prosperity."
Hoover said "we are now attacking the economic Depression with the result that men are returning to work in all parts of the country, freight car loadings are increasing and other signs of recovery are apparent."
"We hope to be able to continue these policies," Hoover told his Hamilton audience, echoing a central theme of his campaign; that the Depression would have been much worse had he not taken action.
President and Mrs. Hoover remained on the platform as the Baltimore & Ohio special pulled away. The train made a two-minute stop in Oxford before proceeding to Indianapolis, where Hoover made a radio address to the nation that night.
Security for the presidential visit was directed by Chief John C. Calhoun of the Hamilton police department with assistance from the Hamilton fire department.
Police had been instructed to keep the crowd several feet from the platform of the observation car, but those plans went awry.
"The great mass of people were packed on Third Street, north of the tracks, and with one surge the police lines were pushed forward and the crowd swept up to the very edge of the platform," a newspaper reported.
Nationally, the 1932 election was the greatest reversal in presidential voting. It was mirrored in the local results.
Hoover had been an easy 13,461-vote winner over Democrat Smith in Butler County in the 1928 election (29.124 to 15,663). But Nov. 8 1932, was another story. Hoover lost by 2.532 votes in the county (21,944) to 19,412).
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Journal-News, Monday, Oct. 19,1992
FDR's 1936 Hamilton visit was surprise
(This column is the third in an election-year series on presidential visits to Hamilton.)
By Jim Blount
Some curious Hamiltonians got more than they expected when President Franklin D. Roosevelt's special train stopped here during the early stages of the 1936 election campaign.
Roosevelt's train steamed into Hamilton at 6:40 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 5, 1936, as he was ending a 7,000-mile inspection tour of drought-affected Midwest states.
The Hamilton stop had been planned so that the steam locomotives could take on water at the Baltimore & Ohio depot on S. Fifth Street. FDR had not been scheduled to speak, but the Journal-News said "he responded to the cheers of the huge crowd."
Most of the more than 7,000 people were not able to see the 54-year-old president, seeking his second term.
"Basing their calculations on advance information," the Journal-News reported, "railroad detectives informed Police Chief John C. Calhoun that the rear coach of the train would be stopped along Sycamore Street between Third and Fourth streets. Plans were made accordingly.
At Indianapolis, the train "had been shortened to such an extent that when it was brought to a stop, the rear platform was in a narrow passageway about 75 feet east of the Fourth Street intersection." The newspaper said "so narrow was the place that only a few hundred were near the platform."
"I am sorry the train pulled way up here and I cannot see you all," FDR apologized. "I have had a wonderful trip, and this is positively my last appearance until we get to Washington."
Robert M. Sohngen, chairman of the Butler County Democratic central committee, headed the official greeters at the seven-minute stop.
Later, another presidential campaign train stopped in Butler County for one hour and 45 minutes, but it didn't include an appearance by FDR.
Friday morning, Oct. 16, FDR's southbound train, headed from Detroit to Cincinnati, pulled into a B&O siding just north of Overpeck so the president could continue sleeping before continuing a 10-day, 5,000-mile whistle stop tour.
The train halted from 6:45 a.m. until about 8:30 a.m. before continuing through Hamilton to Cincinnati. Later that day, the train would head northeast into Butler County on the New York Central System, making a brief Middletown stop on its way to Cleveland.
The Overpeck stop had been a planned one, but not announced to the public. The previous day the Secret Service had requested assistance from Sheriff John C. Schumacher, who provided deputies to guard the train.
The 1936 stops were not Roosevelt's first visits here. In 1920, as a vice presidential candidate, he had been at Democratic Party functions in Hamilton and Oxford.
One of his Oct. 16, 1920 speeches was from a speaker's stand on the north side of the Butler County Courthouse. The party's presidential candidate that year was James M. Cox, a native of Butler County, who lost to another Ohioan, Warren G. Harding.
In 1936, Roosevelt's opponents also campaigned in Hamilton. The Republican ticket was headed by Alfred M. Landon, governor of Kansas. His vice presidential running mate was Colonel Frank Knox, the publisher of the Chicago Daily News.
A small crowd greeted Knox in the rain Wednesday, Sept. 30, as he spoke from a southbound train at Fourth and High streets. About 2,500 to 3,000 people heard Landon speak Saturday morning, Oct. 10, from a northbound special train at the same location.
The Nov. 3, 1936 election was a massive vote of confidence for FDR as he realized a plurality of more than 11 million votes and carried 46 out of 48 states, winning 523 electoral votes to only eight for Landon.
In 1932 Roosevelt had scored a 2,532-vote victory in Butler County over Republican Herbert Hoover (21,944 to 19,412). His 1936 margin stretched to 11,691 votes (28,951 to 17,260).
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Journal-News, Monday, Oct. 26,1992
Hamilton 1948 stop turning point in Truman's re-election campaign
(This column is the fourth in an election-year series on presidential visits to Hamilton.)
By Jim Blount
It has been 40 years and eight administrations since a president of the United States visited Hamilton. The last chief executive to appear in the city was Harry Truman, making brief speeches during the 1948 and 1952 election campaigns.
Monday, Oct. 11, 1948 more than 10,000 people "braved chilly autumn winds" for the 10:20 a.m. 15-minute stop, according to Journal-News accounts.
The president, who had moved into the White House after the death of Franklin D. Roosevelt April 12, 1945, arrived here from Cincinnati via the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad (now CSX).
The president spoke from the rear platform of an observation car (the Ferdinand Megellan) without hat or topcoat and "made a natty appearance in a double-breasted blue suit," the newspaper reported.
"Briefly he touched upon major subjects — peace, prices and places to live — attacked his republican opponents for their failure to discuss issues, and then declared he asks support on his record," said Sam Carr in reporting Truman's remarks.
From 1941-44 he had chaired the Special Senate Committee to Investigate the National Defense Program, known as the Truman Committee.
Based on that experience, the president had some kind words for Hamilton's labor record, noting that the community had fewer man-hours lost during World War II than any comparable area.
His Hamilton speech was one of 11 in a 15-hour, 350-mile day which ended in Akron. Three separate Truman whistle stop tours covered 21,928 miles in 33 days in 1948.
David McCullough, a recent Truman biographer, viewed the Hamilton stop as a turning point in the campaign. He said "the sight of 10,000 people spilling out in all directions at Hamilton" produced what a reporter called "the most striking change in the Democratic candidate's demeanor," then a decided underdog in the campaign.
As the president spoke here, U. S. and British flyers continued the Berlin Airlift, which had started after the Soviet Union began blocking allied road and rail access to West Berlin April 1, 1948. Food, coal and other essentials were delivered by planes until the Soviet blockade ended Sept. 30,1948.
Eight days after his visit, Truman won a 2,100-vote advantage over Republican Thomas Dewey in Hamilton as Democrats swept in Butler County elections for county and state offices. He had a 3,000-vote plurality in the county and nationally his surprise win embarrassed pollsters who had forecast his defeat.
Truman returned to Hamilton Friday, Oct. 31,1952, not in his own behalf, but campaigning for Adlai Stevenson who was opposing Dwight D. Eisenhower, the Republican nominee.
The 16-car special, powered by three diesel units, arrived at 2:26 p.m. over the B&O and again stopped at Fourth and High streets under sunny skies with more than 8,000 people present.
He reminded listeners that the Democrats were responsible for starting Social Security and said the party "never lost sight of the small businessman or the housewife."
As he spoke, the U. S. not only was involved in the Cold War with the Soviet Union, but had been fighting in Korea as part of a United Nations force since June 1950. The progress of that conflict was a major issue in the 1952 campaign. "We have been meeting the threat of Soviet aggression. If we had not acted, we might be fighting the war in Ohio instead of Korea," Truman said here.
A few days later, Democrats again dominated Butler County elections, except in the presidential contest, where Eisenhower topped Stevenson by nearly 2,300 votes in Hamilton and by about 5,100 in the county.
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