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Loyalty Sunday, Bisbee

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This photograph, taken from near Castle Rock, shows the Bisbee Loyalty Sunday parade winding its way down Tombstone Canyon toward downtown. Each participant is carrying a small American flag and, according to the Bisbee Review, was “ready to do (his) share for Old Glory.”The United States of America declared war on Germany April 6, 1917.

In Arizona, Gov. Thomas E. Campbell designated Sunday, April 8, as Loyalty Day, and called upon “the people of Arizona to fittingly acknowledge in public manner their sentiments on that date.”

At Naco Road, another division of marchers from Warren, Lowell, and South Bisbee joined the group in this photograph and together they marched up Brewery Gulch. At City Park the crowd listened to patriotic speeches and sang patriotic songs including the Star Spangled Banner and America.

Prior to the declaration of war, Bisbee residents had mixed feelings on the European conflict. About one-third of the population held citizenship in foreign countries and perhaps as many as half were foreign born. People hailed from England, Ireland, Mexico, Finland, Austria, Serbia, Italy, Germany, Sweden and Switzerland.

Flags of foreign countries often flew in Bisbee. For instance, in 1912, the Bisbee Review, writing about the Pythian Castle, noted: “During the year probably as many as half a dozen flags of foreign countries are displayed from that flag pole in observance of some anniversary of an event in the history of the several countries represented in Bisbee’s cosmopolitan population, but an American flag equally large or larger is run up on the flag pole first so that it flies over the foreign flag.”

After the Loyalty Sunday parade, an editorial in the Bisbee Review focused critical attention on those who did not fly the Stars and Stripes, particularly businesses along Brewery Gulch. It concluded by saying: “. . . there is NO excuse for not flying the colors of the United States and the more so when the proprietors of businesses are natives of countries whose interests at the present time are inimical to those of the United States.”

The newspaper’s opinion brought results. An editorial the following day on the same subject noted: “Brewery Gulch has more (American) flags flying at the present time than for months . . . If yesterday morning’s editorial in the Review had no other effect, it certainly aroused the business residents of that thoroughfare to the fact that the people of the Warren district are extremely jealous of all things American and especially the flag.”

About that time, a series of flag incidents occurred in Bisbee. On several occasions, the newspaper reported neighbors fighting over flags, resulting in torn banners and, at least twice, arrests for desecrating American flags.

On Loyalty Sunday, an unidentified person on School Hill had the audacity to raise a very large foreign flag – either German or Austrian. Above it flew a very small American flag. Four members of the Arizona infantry rushed up the hill and tore down the offending flag.

Later that month, Scottish and British flags, symbols of U.S. allies in the war, fell victim to exuberant, albeit ignorant, high school boys.

A Mrs. McDougall of Bisbee flew three flags in her yard – the Union Jack, the Lion of Scotland and, in the center and by far the largest, the Stars and Stripes. The boys tore down the foreign flags and said they would pull them down every time they flew. Mrs. McDougall appealed to the British vice-consul at Douglas. He wrote to Chief of Police James Allison for redress in the matter.

Allison’s reply, published in the Review, allowed that while the incident was a “regrettable matter,” he didn’t believe the boys had broken the law. He suggested that to avert trouble in the future no foreign flags be flown in Bisbee.

With war fever high, foreign flags disappeared from Bisbee flagpoles, and a colorful era in Bisbee’s history was brought to an end.

Photo courtesy Bisbee Mining and Historical Museum; Pickerell Collection. ©Arizona Capitol Times.

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