Richmond has always loved parades, and never more so than during the Great War. One hundred years ago, the city put on possibly its largest in history.
This parade had eight divisions which formed up on the side streets between Third and Sixth Streets and stepped off at 11:00. As was often the case, the first marchers were three men imitating the “Spirit of ’76” illustration, followed by the members of the Grand Army of the Republic, or GAR. These were elderly Civil War veterans, so they rode in cars. Many of the Spanish-American War vets who came next rode in cars as well. One other important veteran was in this section. It was Cambridge City native, Bruce Peters, who had been wounded in France and was home recuperating. Local militia companies, War Mothers and Fathers, and Boy Scouts rounded out the first division.
The second division consisted of Friends of German Democracy, or “organizations of American citizens of German birth or parentage.” These included the German-speaking churches – St. Andrew Catholic, and Lutheran St. John, St. Paul and Trinity, as well as the Wernle Orphan’s Home, which was run by St. John’s. The third division consisted of “other nationalities,” like Italian, French, English, Irish, and even Hungarian, Polish and Greek. Sunday School organizations of the city made up the fourth division.
Richmond’s many fraternal orders marched in the fifth section, beginning with the Knights of Columbus with a young lady portraying the Statue of Liberty flanked by two sailors. The Elks, Eagles, Moose, Red Men, Odd Fellows and others also marched, along with the employees of the Post Office and other City and County officials.
Township delegations from all around Wayne County marched in the sixth division and the Red Cross Society made up the seventh. The Palladium said that this section was the largest of all, with Red Cross nurses heading it up. These nurses were to be in the service within six weeks, and they received a huge reception. Student nurses from Reid Hospital followed with their service flag. At least four floats plus members of the Red Cross Clubs from around the county followed.
The last section consisted of “Floats and Delegations Representing Richmond Industrial Concerns.” The one that got the most notice was the airplane representing the Starr Piano Company. The company didn’t make planes, but its woodworkers were manufacturing wooden propellers for the Army. Wayne Works, Himes Dairy, and The American Seeding Machine Company all had appropriate floats, but the F. N. Watt Company got one of the biggest responses. The casket manufacturer’s float was a large coffin with a sign that read, “Rush! Funeral Supplies! No Delay! Herr William Hollenzollern & Sons, Berlin, Germany.” The crowd loved the thought of Kaiser Wilhelm needing a casket very soon.
In addition to the parade, there were bands set up along the route to provide patriotic music to the thousands gathered. The police department estimated that between 30,000 and 35,000 people descended on Richmond for the day.