March 30 – May 5

Historic photograph of William Howard Taft and Henry Whitfield standing on the steps of Poindexter Music Hall
U.S. President William Howard Taft (center) stands with II&C president Henry Whitfield on the steps of the Music Hall. November 1909.

Just after being elected, President William Howard Taft launched a whirlwind two-year tour of the United States.  Invited by Columbus native Judge J. M. Dickinson, Taft’s Secretary of War, the president toured the city on November 2, 1909.

This historical exhibition tells the story of Taft’s visit to Columbus, starting with the elaborate preparations for the visit and the parade on the date that culminated with a barbecue on the lawn of the Industrial Institute and College (the original name of this university).  Related background information about the suffrage movement and race relations in the state are also examined.

Taft’s tour came at a time when the issue of women’s suffrage was heating up nationally.  As the first state-supported institution of higher learning for women in the United States, faculty and students here were engaged in this struggle.  Taft acknowledged, but side-stepped, women’s suffrage in his speech on our campus.

Black citizens of the city were excluded from all planning for the President’s visit.  This was no oversight but rather a deliberate tactic that was sanctioned by Taft himself.  The final panel contextualizes the visit exploring the changing Republican attitudes toward the White South.