Whenever I come across a historic photo of Aberdeen, I scan it at a very high resolution so that I can zoom in and look at the people, the attire, the vehicles, and the activity. I have had this photo for many years not knowing what it was depicting. As you can see, there is a very large flagpole in front of the Milwaukee Depot on Main Street. A search of newspaper databases revealed information to me that I believe describe this event.
The day was Friday, June 14, 1918, in Aberdeen, South Dakota. It was flag day. This photo depicts a flag raising ceremony that took place at noon. The day before, The Aberdeen Daily News reported:
Aberdeen will unite tomorrow in the observation of Flag Day with the Milwaukee officials and employees of Aberdeen. A big ceremony and flag raising at the Milwaukee depot…with addresses and other features, will mark the day in the Hub. The flag pole, eighty feet in height, was set into the ground on the depot lawn by men this morning. The celebration tomorrow will be held at 12 o’clock and the city officials, recruiting officers, school children and others of Aberdeen will participate, as well as the Milwaukee force here.
The article goes on to say that the Milwaukee Railroad is holding pledge celebrations across the county to mark its commitment and cooperation to help the government win the war. World War One would end five months later. The flag being flown in the picture was sent over from the trenches and had been waving over US troops in France.
Songs were sung, the pledge of allegiance was said, and according to the Aberdeen Daily American, H.C. Jewett delivered a “stirring four minute talk in which he spoke of the principles for which the flag stood. He said the crowd assembled was paying tribute to the greatest flag of the greatest country on earth…Washington and his men gave to us liberty; Lincoln preserved it, and Wilson, with God’s help was going to preserve and give it to all the world.” This division of the Milwaukee Railroad had bought $170,000 worth of war bonds and the men were commended for transporting troops across the country. Even before the Pheasant Canteen, Aberdeen was playing a significant part in a global war. The day ended with an appeal that everyone would be loyal in every word and deed.
So, what’s in a photo? The community of Aberdeen coming together to help win a world war. //