York Town Square

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To President Harding: ‘With Sympathy from the White Rose City, York, Pennsylvania’

The (York, Pa.) Gazette and Daily gave prime play to the stop of President Warren G. Harding’s funeral train in York. The president was popular then. After his death, the considerable shortcomings of his administration emerged. Background posts: Nixon’s 1960 visit to York, No. 2: Dick’s stop eventful, newsy and York historian on William Henry Harrison: a ‘great and good man’ and James A. Garfield: ‘York was the capital of the United States when congress was on wheels’.

E.A. Wise flagged the fact that a train bearing Warren G. Harding’s body passed through York in 1923.
“I was below the College Ave bridge to avoid the crowded train station,” he wrote.
Newspaper coverage indicates York came out in mass to witness the funeral train on Aug. 8, 1923… .

“To the mournful sound of tolling bells and chimes, the funeral train of President Harding rolled slowly through the city last evening on its sad journey to Marion, O.” The Gazette and Daily’s story led.
The slow-rolling train came to a halt with the cars containing floral tributes right in front of Boy Scout James Keefer Jr.
A railroad man asked the boy if he wanted to see the flowers.
He received a tour and the opportunity to pick three lilies from one of the tributes. He gave two away to friends and will press the third.
In a bit of a mixup, York’s floral tribute traveled to Harrisburg on an earlier train because it was not anticipated that the later funeral train would actually stop in York.
The tribute was a large chair bearing 600 white roses with a background of fern.
“In the center was a perfect white rose, grown on the soil of Farquhar park,” the newspaper reported.
A white card on the chair’s back stated: “With Sympathy from the White Rose City, York, Pennsylvania.”
Other floral tributes replaced York’s, including one from the City of Lancaster.
That must have pricked the pride of city leaders that the tribute from the arch rival Red Rose City made it on instead of theirs.
But before long, the ineptitude of the Harding Administration became apparent and that day passed from public memory.
Congrats to E.A. Wise for reviving it.
For a working list of presidential visits to York County, click here.