[This blog post comes from Sarah Downing, archivist at the Western Regional Archives]
Between 1917 and 1919 Asheville hosted a number of parades to raise money for the war effort and to bolster public sentiment and patriotism. Record-breaking crowds assembled to watch the processions. The Western Regional Archives recently received a donation of photographs documenting at least two of these events.
Four days after President Wilson declared war on Germany, 25,000 people lined city streets on April 10, 1917 to watch a succession 5000-strong that was followed by a mass meeting featuring patriotic songs sung by Metropolitan opera star William Wade Hinshaw.
On May 20, 1918, approximately 7,000 people participated in a parade held in conjunction with the Red Cross’s Second War Drive. It was reported that the marchers moved at a quick pace and the entire procession took less than an hour. With a national goal of $100 million, Buncombe County’s portion to collect was $32,000, nearly 2/3 of which was raised at the rally that followed. According to the Asheville Citizen, “practically every organization in the city and county was represented in the procession, from two or three representatives to several hundreds, all entering into the spirit of the occasion with enthusiasm.”
The War Savings Parade, a “monster patriotic demonstration,” was held Saturday June 22, 1918. No motorized vehicles were allowed in order to save gas. In addition to military marchers were policemen, nurses, soldiers stationed at Kenilworth (some carried stretchers as a poignant reminder of those in the trenches in Europe), the Asheville Reserve Infantry, the Rotary Club and groups of the Central Labor Union. Industries of the Biltmore Estate were represented by marchers carrying pitch forks, hoes and rakes. Dairy workers carried bottles of milk. At the conclusion, a concert was given at Pack Square by the 31-piece Camp Wadsworth band from Spartanburg, South Carolina.
September 27, 1918 was the day of the Liberty Loan Parade. The Asheville Chapter of the American Red Cross had a large representation since local organizations had been so supportive of the Red Cross. All participants were asked to display an American flag, no matter how small.
Asheville mayor J.F. Rankin declared a holiday on April 29, 1919 for the opening day of the drive for the Victory Liberty Loan. Medical detachments including nurses, bands, ambulances and mounted staff from both Azalea and Kenilworth hospitals marched with the Asheville Reserve Infantry, Red Cross Canteen workers and 350 tannery men from Hans Rees & Sons.
Patriotic parades were also held in Hendersonville, Waynesville, Hickory, and towns across North Carolina and America.