Latest news

THRONG OF 150,000

DATE OF EVENT: Thursday, Nov. 11, 1926

DATE PUBLISHED: Thursday, Nov. 11, 1926, in The Kansas City Star

Editor’s note: On Nov. 9, 1918, two days before the end of World War I, The Kansas City Journal began a push for a monument to honor area soldiers. The Kansas City Star soon picked up the banner. Before the first anniversary of the armistice, in November 1919, a 10-day fund-raising drive had surpassed the $2 million goal. Groundbreaking took place in November 1921 with a public ceremony that included Vice President Calvin Coolidge, Gen. John J. Pershing and French Marshal Ferdinand Foch.

Coolidge returned in 1926 to dedicate the completed monument. The memorial would be closed in 1994 and restored after the passage of the bistate sales tax in 1998. It remains the only monument dedicated solely to World War I in the United States.

The largest crowd in the history of Kansas City, officials called it, and secret service men set a figure at one hundred and fifty thousand. Larger than the crowd at the site dedication, in 1921, larger than any previous outpouring in the Southwest.

A secret service man with the presidential party said this was the largest crowd any president of the United States ever addressed.

There ceremony was amid the singing of wind, of voices; amid the drench of emotion the restraint of which is its power; amid the prayer of hearts made sober with memory, sincere in the common bond of human love, of human frailty.

An event such as today’s was the Liberty Memorial’s, even more than it was Calvin Coolidge’s or Kansas City’s. It was the crown which the core of the earth — stone piled upon stone in a story — claims for itself when shaped by a master for a godly purpose.

Today’s dedication was the demonstration of hearts, not minds; of poetry, not prose; of religion, not philosophy.

It was the prayer to life and death, to peace and war, to hope despite the night.

The throng of 150,000 persons settled to reverent attention as church call was blown to open the services at 10:30 o’clock.

The setting of the dedication ceremonies was a most colorful one.

A clear sky and bright sun brought out the vividness of the scene.

There were the streaks of light reflected from the helmets of the 379th field artillery men stationed on the cast. They were silver coated helmets that caught ever ray of the bright sun and flickered them over the throng.

Across the edge of the inner circle was a strip of blue, the headdress worn by the chorus. On those headdressings were small red crosses that brought out the vividness of the blue.

And within the fringe of blue sat the Red Cross nurses with their snow white headgear. Again the tiny red crosses brought out the whiteness of the white.

Band uniforms of gray, police uniforms of blue and army olive drab completed the kaleidoscopic mass of hues.

And off to the south was a mass of people as far as the eye could see, made more impressive by its orderliness, being kept clear of the roadways and thus seemingly formed into human columns.

There was an expectant hum over the great mall as the presidential party reached its south end. To the north the great shaft, sun-bathed, wind-swept, stood constant benediction. …

There were electric heaters in number on the stand, about one to each guest, and they were moved around to positions where they would do the most good, but the general impression still was that the weather man had ordered too much ice for the day. …

Mayor Beach presented R. A. Long, president of the Liberty Memorial Association.

“The people of Kansas City in small return have given with all their hearts that this monument might take form,” the mayor said. “As it lifts its shaft majestically into the sky from now on until eternity it will be a public expression by the people of Kansas City of their faith, their hope and their love.” …

Then came the President’s speech.

When President Coolidge arose to speak he took off his hat and overcoat. His hair had been slicked down, and he looked the personification of a very brave and very cold man. …

A 5-second period of silent reverence preceded the prayer of benediction by Rabbi H. H. Mayer. …

Taps resounded as the benediction ended with a solemn amen.

The pillar of cloud by day atop the shaft.

Eternal tribute in a cheer, in the hearts of a departing human sea.