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World War I Tank on Main Street


Richmond held another parade on September 3, 1917 for the purpose of sending off the first Army enlistees the next day.  This one started at Fourth and Main Streets and headed east to Ninth Street where it headed north to North E Street.  Here the parade broke up, but most people headed back down 9th Street, stopping in front of the “Federal Building” or Post Office at the corner of North 9th and A.  A reviewing stand was set up in front of the building where several men gave patriotic speeches, including William Dudley Foulke and Henry Underwood Johnson.  Also present for the parade were two Belgian envoys to the United States, a General LeClerq and Major Oesterreich.  The general addressed the crowd in broken English, telling about terrible things that the Germans had done to the Belgian people, and how grateful his country was for America’s entry into the war.

"Tank" built by Starr Piano Co. in parade

Later that evening the city held a military-style ball on North A Street between 8th and 9th Streets.

One of the striking floats in the parade was the “tank” that was constructed by the Window Display Department of the Starr Piano Company. The Palladium claimed that Major Oesterreich said it was an “exact duplicate of the ones in use on the battlefields of Europe.”  In appearance, no doubt, and not in armament.  The Item quipped that perhaps the piano company was trying to get orders for real tanks.

The Starr Piano Company never produced tanks in its factory, but having a staff of skilled woodworkers, it did produce wooden propellers for Army airplanes.  One of these can be seen today in the Wayne County Historical Museum.

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