Almost Yesterday: Cape Girardeau Celebrates "Taft Day"
It seems like almost yesterday that President William Howard Taft visited Cape Girardeau. His purpose was to promote the deepening and stabilization of the Mississippi River channel.
President Taft was the first sitting President to ever visit the city and Cape Girardeau and the whole region prepared for his visit accordingly. A welcome arch was constructed over the entrance to the city at Themis Street, a commemorative badge was commissioned, a grand parade planned, and special excursion trains were arranged to bring people to Cape Girardeau from all over Southeast Missouri and Southern Illinois.
Taft came to Cape Girardeau as part of a 16 boat flotilla that included cabinet members, senators, congressmen, and governors. Cape Girardeau was alerted early on the morning on October 26, 1909 when the flotilla reached Neely's Landing. In the time it took to travel south from Neely's to Cape, a crowd estimated as close to 20,000 gathered on the riverfront to welcome the President - an impressive showing for a town of only 8,000.
Following Taft's arrival a parade led the crowd to the new Academic Hall on the college campus. There, the president was introduced by Edward Riggenhardt, chairman of the President's Day committee, and President Taft commented he would never forget this visit because it was the first time the over 300 pound president had ever shared the stage with someone larger than himself. He also told the crowd that he would always remember the beautiful sunrise over Cape Girardeau that morning.
The great day of celebration will always be remembered as Taft Day...and it seems like Almost Yesterday.