Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, 24 Aug 1911, Thu, Page 1
In keeping with our Presidential Visits series, on August 23rd, 1911, President William Howard Taft (27), starting what became a two month tour, attended the 45th annual Grand Army of the Republic encampment in Rochester. (Taft’s address at Convention Hall)
Taft would later visit Rochester as an ex-President in 1915. In BIG BILL, BIG BELL AND SCHOOL BELLS: An ex-president, the Liberty Bell, and several thousand school teachers come to town. Michael Nighan provides a lavish and comprehensive look at that memorable day.
Taft also spoke at Convention Hall in his successful 1908 campaign against the Democrat William Jennings Bryan.
According to the Democrat and Chronicle headline, the visit drew Rochester’s biggest crowd. However, crowd estimation can vary widely. Personally, I doubt the event surpassed the 100,000 who watched as General Elwell Otis passed through the Otis Arch in 1900. (see Remembering General Elwell Otis on his Day, June 15th: Rochester’s imperial war hero )
Interesting, according to the headline, Taft mentioned extremism among reformers. During the 1912 election, Theodore Roosevelt felt Taft was weak on reform. Roosevelt split with the Republican party and ran as the Bull Moose candidate, effectively dooming Taft’s chances at re-election. (see 1860/1912 Redux? from Michael Nighan )
Taft also campaigned in Rochester before becoming president. On October 31st, 1908, he spoke at Convention Hall. In the Fall election, Taft handily defeated the Democrat William Jennings Bryan. Taft’s running mate, Roger S. Sherman, also spoke at Convention Hall five days earlier.