Jennings Bryan

William Jennings Bryan.

LOUDONVILLE -- On April 15, 1912 (the same day the RMS Titanic sank), Loudonville hosted famed orator -- and former three-time Democratic nominee for President -- William Jennings Bryan.

Bryan had spoken in Loudonville twice before, but always from his train car as it passed through the area. This time, however, he would stand on the stage of the newly built Opera House (now The Ohio Theatre) and address the citizens of Loudonville.

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Loudonville certainly intended to impress Bryan, who arrived at the rail depot at 2:45 p.m. and was greeted by Mayor Andrews, commissioner O.W. Crone, E.U. Shafer, and newspaper editor John P. Bowman. The welcoming committee and a news corps comprised of 15 reporters whisked Bryan into a motorcade of three automobiles (likely three of only a handful in town) driven by Arthur Losh, George W. Spreng, and C.A. Arnholt.

The motorcade promptly drove the two blocks south on Water Street and deposited the esteemed speaker at the door of the theatre.

The crowd was overwhelming -- a full house with throngs of hopeful listeners spilling into the streets and swarming every possible door or window for a hope to hear the famed speaker. The Loudonville Democrat described the turnout as, "MAMMOTH ... Greatest political meeting in many years held to hear the Great Commoner."

John P. Bowman had the good fortune of introducing Bryan to the crowd, but wasted no time in handing the floor over to the orator who, apparently, only had one topic on his agenda to discuss.

"Mr. Bryan plunged immediately into his subject and said that 'If there is anybody in doubt as to whether or not Mr. Harmon is a progressive candidate, I think I can enlighten him."

The Mr. Harmon that Bryan endlessly ridiculed in his speech was none other than Ohio's popular Governor Judson Harmon, who Bryan blamed for his failed presidential bid of 1896 (Bryan was defeated by Ohio's William McKinley).

In the end, Woodrow Wilson defeated Governor Harmon's bid for the 1912 nomination, and Bryan became Wilson's Secretary of State. Despite his political esteem, Bryan would later become best known for his prosecution of the Scopes Monkey Trial of 1925, where he argued for a complete ban on the teaching of evolution.

More information on the Cleo Redd Fisher Museum can be found at this link.

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