the Red Carnation


It was today in 1904 that the Ohio General Assembly adopted the scarlet carnation as Ohio’s official state flower in memory of former Ohio governor and U.S. president William McKinley, who was assassinated in 1901. McKinley had regularly worn a “lucky” red carnation in his lapel since he was given one to wear during one of his early successful political debates. The quilt seen here, from the Ohio History Connection museum collection, features several Ohio symbols including the carnation:

this post was shared from the Ohio History Connection’s Facebook page:

And here’s a little more about that from our archives:

McKinley and the Red Carnation from Dr. L.L. Lamborn, “The Carnation: History of Its Introduction and Culture in the United States,” Alliance, Ohio, November 30, 1904. Reprinted in J.L. Jarman, The Story of the Red Carnation Alliance, Ohio: Jarman Printing Company (Elvin J. Wilson, owner).

The sentimental association of the carnation with McKinley’s memory is due to Lewis G. Reynolds, of Dayton. In August 1893, Mr. H.M. Atick appeared before the annual convention of American Florists, in session at Milwaukee, and secured the adoption of a resolution, that on each recurring 29th day of January, being McKinley’s natal day, the members of that association should wear a scarlet carnation boutonniere out of respect for the martyred president, and the love he bore for the divine flower. The general assembly of Ohio, in 1905, passed a joint resolution selecting the scarlet carnation as the floral emblem of the state of Ohio. An incident might be tolerated if self-effacement were possible, of how McKinley was first introduced to the flower for which he became passionately fond.

In 1872 McKinley and the writer [Lamborn] were opposing candidates for congress in the Eighteenth district of Ohio. This was at an early and crucial moment in his illustrious career. “We differed politically but were personal friends. Fate decreed that we looked at political questions through different party prisms. We canvassed the district together, and jointly discussed the issues of that campaign. The contest was fervent but friendly. I was then raising the first carnations grown in the West. In our contests on the political forum, McKinley always wore carnation boutonnieres which were willingly furnished from my conservatory. I have distinct recollection of him expressing his admiration for the flower. It was doubtless at that time he formed a preferential love for the divine flower. That love increased with his years and honors of his famous life. Through it he offered his affections to the beautiful and the true.”


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