When war broke out in Europe in 1914, Americans began debating the idea of preparedness. Some, like Theodore Roosevelt, advocated expanding the military in anticipation of the spreading conflict. President Woodrow Wilson was determined that America’s position would be “armed neutrality.”
Parades for and against military involvement were held around the nation, including in San Francisco, a stronghold of the anti-war movement and labor unions. One union pamphlet declared they would “show that militarism can’t be forced on us and our children without a violent protest.”
During a preparedness parade in San Francisco on July 22, 1916, a suitcase bomb was detonated in the crowd, killing 10 and wounding 40. Two union leaders were tried and sentenced to be hanged. Over the decades that followed, their guilt was called into question and their sentences commuted to life in prison.
Just two months earlier in Spokane, men marched down Riverside Avenue in a combination Memorial Day and preparedness parade, each holding a small flag.
The National Defense Act of 1916 authorized increasing the size of the military. The act led to the establishment of Fort Lewis near Tacoma. The movement slowly faded as America was drawn into war.
– Jesse Tinsley
May 30, 1916: More than 3,150 local businessmen and professional men march through downtown Spokane in the Memorial Day Preparedness Parade. The parade was held to show enthusiasm for national defense preparedness.
Present day: Looking southeast from the corner of Washington Street and Riverside Avenue.