I came across something recently that I though would make a good post. The bad news is that it came to my attention so recently that I really haven’t had time to do much research.
October 24, 1917 was Liberty Bond Day across the nation. Many Kansas communities planned to have rallies to support the cause, and from what I can tell, Kansas went over the top when it came to its target for Liberty bonds. But it got no mention in a reasonably reliable source often quoted on this blog, The Annals of Kansas.
One aspect was that several “bond fires” were planned across the country. One of these took place on the grounds of the State House in Topeka. The Topeka State Journal for October 23rd reported that at 8:00 p.m. the next day, there would be a “Bond Fire of Liberty” and people were encouraged to bring “anything that will burn and make the liberty fire leap higher.” At that hour all lights in the city would be turned off, leaving only the blaze and a floodlight on the Capitol.
Meanwhile, across the state line in Kansas City . . .
What prompted me to write about this event is a short passage in Steve Paul’s new book, Hemingway at Eighteen: The Pivotal Year That Launched an American Legend. Paul refers to the events of the evening of October 23rd, when ” . . . a throng watched a ‘liberty beacon’ blaze on the hillside south of Union Station, a celebration to highlight Liberty Bond Day throughout the region and a prelude to a huge parade planned the next day in Kansas City.” Patriotic speeches and a blaring band whipped up the crowd. A mound of boxes and barrels, carted to the site by the wagonload, stood ready to go up in flames at 7:30 PM, awaiting the match applied by the city’s acting mayor, Albert I. Beach.”
Those of you who know Kansas City know that today the hillside south of Union Station is occupied by the Liberty Memorial, the home of the National World War I Museum and Memorial. The tower of the memorial has it’s own “liberty beacon,” steam with a colored light to give the impression of an eternal flame, which perhaps unwittingly gives tribute not only to those lost in World War I, but to those Kansas Citians and others who rallied with their support one hundred years ago.