Kalamazoo Celebrates 100 Years of Peace
A century of peace between the U.S. and Great Britain
Dr. Herbert Stetson, president of Kalamazoo College, announced on 14 December 1914, that he wanted to organize an event that honored the 100 years of peace that had existed between the U.S. and Great Britain since the end of the War of 1812. A great banquet followed the signing of the Treaty of Ghent in Belgium on 24 December 1814 where leading British and American political and military persons celebrated the new peace. However, it was not until February 1815 that the treaty arrived in Washington for the U.S. government to accept.
The dates of the ratification by the Senate on the 17th and the signing by President James Madison on the 18th were the events Stetson wished to commemorate. An international committee had hoped to recreate the December 24 banquet in Ghent at which the British government planned to give the family estate of George Washington in England to the United States. The war raging on in Belgium cancelled those plans, and encouraged Stetson to organize an event with international importance in Kalamazoo to honor the 100 years of peace.
Selling the idea to Kalamazoo
The 16 December 1914 Stetson met with twenty of the city’s leading citizens to describe his plan and to learn if there was sufficient local interest. Stetson wanted to organize his celebration for 17 and 18 February in 1915, exactly 100 years to the day since the U.S. accepted the treaty. Events held on the two days would present speakers of both national and international importance. Stetson wanted to invite both President Woodrow Wilson and Secretary of State William Jennings Bryan to represent the U.S. and the current and former premiers of Canada, R. L. Borden and Wilfrid Laurier to serve as representatives for the British Empire. During the War of 1812, the U.S. attempted to invade Canada many times to remove Great Britain from North America; all attempts were unsuccessful.
J.B. Balch, a professor of history at Kalamazoo College and supporter of Stetson’s plan, stressed the importance of the invisible border between the U.S. and Canada, with no military guard along it, as proof of the strength of the 100 years of peace. This also helped to support the desire for a Canadian presence at the event. Along with the speakers, musical features and a banquet would also take place. Stetson wanted the whole event to center on the longevity of the peace and the advantages gained by the two largest English speaking countries. He emphasized the importance and the amount of work this would require and wanted to know if Kalamazoo was up to the task.
The twenty civic leaders who attended the meeting all favored the idea for the “Peace Fete,” but there were some considerations. Reverend Frank Roudenbush of St. Luke’s parish was in favor, but concerned that events not coincide with the celebration of Ash Wednesday. Reverend Caroline Bartlett Crane of the People’s Church expressed concern for the German-American population of Kalamazoo who might view this as sympathy for Great Britain. Elton R. Eaton, managing editor of the Telegraph-Press, countered with his belief that the Germans would help to make the event a success. H.B. Colman, postmaster, stressed completion of the arrangements in time to attract sufficient public attention. Mrs. A. J. Mills, wife of a local attorney, commented on the Americans’ slowness to celebrate national historical events and did not want to see this one ignored. Professor Dwight B. Waldo of Western State Normal School suggested that Stetson chair a committee of five with the power to arrange all. Colman added that the City of Kalamazoo host the celebration so that all classes of citizens would have a chance to participate. All in attendance approved of Stetson’s idea and the proposals put forward by Waldo and Colman.
The committee and its plan
On 21 December Stetson announced his selection for the Peace Fete’s executive committee. Along with himself, it included Miss Alice McDuffee, a school teacher; Prof. Shattuck O. Hartwell, Superintendent of Kalamazoo schools; J.H. Ryan, Secretary, Treasurer and Manager of the Kalamazoo Laundry Co;, and F. F. Rowe, President and General Manager of the Kalamazoo Gazette. Stetson stated that invitations had gone out to prominent people and that preparations would continue after the Christmas holiday.
On 27 December the dates and first outline of the celebration appeared in the Gazette:
Sunday, February 14
Reverend William J. Campbell, pastor of the First Congregational Church, was to organize programs in the churches throughout the county.
Monday, February 15 – Education Day
Prof. Dwight Waldo, Prof. E. N. Worth, Prof. Mark Bailey, Sheridan F. Mapes, and Prof. P.H. Smith were to organize a program at the new State Armory on Water St. for students from Kalamazoo College, Western State Normal School, Nazareth Academy, high schools of the county, and Holland parochial schools.
J. H. Starkweather, Father Vizmara, George Bos, Mrs. W.E. Praeger, Miss Zoe C. Shaw, Miss Mary Mulholland and Arthur De Long were to organize a program for the grade schools throughout the county.
Tuesday, February 16 – Main Day
Dr. Herbert Stetson, as chair, with the help of Right Rev. Mgr. F.A. O’Brien, Prof. S.O. Hartwell, Dr. Frank Roudenbush, Miss Alice McDufee, H.B. Colman, and former United States Senator J.C. Burrows were to organize a program at the Armory that would include addresses from prominent men from both the U.S. and Canada.
Who will speak at the Peace Fete?
After the New Year holiday, Stetson reported that the committees were making progress. Invitations to “several men of note” had gone out. Stetson did not want to give out any names until he had a confirmation. When there was definite information to share, he would make an announcement. This was on 5 January. On 20 January, a frustrated Stetson stated “after using up a good portion of the postage stamp supply of the nation” he was unable to get a response from a person of the quality he desired. He added that suitable speakers were “either a very rare commodity, or else men in public life are afraid. They are well supplied with excuses at any rate.” At that time the only committee with a plan in place was the county grade school group.
A change in the program
Ten days later changes appeared to have taken place. Credit for the Peace Fete still went to Stetson, but credit for the educational program went to the local teachers. The dates of the Peace Fete were still 14-16 February. There was no description of the county church or school programs, but Tuesday, the main day, became the opening for the Kalamazoo County Teachers Association meeting. The program’s focus on the 100 years of peace and the advantages it gave to the U.S. and Great Britain shifted to represent a national peace movement that worked to urge President Wilson to restore peace among the warring nations in Europe. The speakers for Tuesday were Professor W.J. Hudson of the Massachusetts Peace Association and Professor A.E. Bestor of Chautauqua, New York. The former was an instructor at Harvard University, but neither Kalamazoo newspaper clearly defined Bestor. Stetson received high praise for his efforts, but it is doubtful the event that people attended on 16 February was anything like what he hoped to bring to Kalamazoo.
The Peace Fete program
The peace conference took place with great fanfare. Forgetting that Stetson had a grander plan, the Telegraph-Press and the Gazette wrote of the pride he must have felt when he saw the standing-room only crowd in the Armory. Hundreds of students and educators from Kalamazoo College, Western State Normal School, all the city high schools, many schools in the county villages and hundreds of the general public attended the event. Dr. Stetson opened the ceremonies and introduced newly elected mayor, A.B. Connable. Connable spoke “with grace and dignity” and with a bit of humor as he joked about the Armory’s use to promote peace during the afternoon, while in the evening it was to serve the military. Reverend William J. Campbell of the Congregational Church provided the invocation which led into the speeches from Professors Hudson and Bestor.
Professor Bestor did address the original theme of the event. He spoke of the Treaty of Ghent as the means by which not only war ended between the U.S. and Great Britain, but eventually throughout the world. If Europe had followed through with the plan of the treaty as laid out in 1814, they too would be celebrating peace instead of fighting a horrific war. Professor Hudson, on the other hand, spoke on the selfishness of war. He emphasized how the economies of individual countries are now interconnected and that war between two countries impacts all. Hudson stated that wars were fought for selfish desires for power through secret alliances that ignore treaties as though they were scraps of paper. In closing, he talked about his design for an international program to preserve peace when the current war ends.
The speakers said little that honored the peace the Treaty of Ghent created between the U.S. and Great Britain. At least Prof. Bestor mentioned the treaty, but Prof. Hudson spoke of the causes and results of war that reflected the teachers’ desire to be a part of a national peace rally. Stetson’s original goal for Kalamazoo to celebrate a great historical event was lost. Maybe Mrs. A.J. Mills was correct and Americans were slow to celebrate events of national importance.
Written by Brent Coates, Kalamazoo Public Library Staff, August 2010.
“Plan big peace conference here”
Kalamazoo Telegraph-Press, 8 December 1914, page 8, column 5
“Kalamazoo to observe 100 years’ peace”
Kalamazoo Gazette, 8 December 1914, page 1, column 1
“Peace Fete plans will be discussed”
Kalamazoo Gazette, 11 December 1914, page 9, column 3
“Peace Fete leaders to meet Wednesday”
Kalamazoo Gazette, 13 December 1914, page 14, column 3
“Peace Fete plans will be discussed at meeting scheduled for tonight”
Kalamazoo Gazette, 16 December 1914, page 10, column 6
“Peace Fete is to be observed February 1915”
Kalamazoo Gazette, 17 December 1914, page 1, column 3
“Kalamazoo will have Peace Fete”
Telegraph-Press, 17 December 1914, page 1, column 5
“Dr. Stetson will speak at church club tomorrow”
Telegraph-Press, 19 December 1914, page 1, column 2
“Committee named to fix program”
Telegraph-Press, 22 December 1914, page 4, column 5
“Plans are made for Peace Fete February 14-16”
Kalamazoo Gazette, 27 December 1914, page 1, column 7
“Peace Fete plans being rushed along”
Kalamazoo Gazette, 5 January 1915, page 4, column 4
“Peace Fete speakers are not yet decided”
Kalamazoo Gazette, 20 January 1915, page 8, column 1
“Peace celebration to be a great success—teachers and pupils are coming”
Telegraph-Press, 30 January 1915, page 1, column 5
“Hundreds will attend the peace celebration here”
Telegraph-Press, 10 February 1915 page 3, column 4
“Fete at Armory will mark 100 years of peace”
Kalamazoo Gazette, 16 February 1915, page 1, column 1
“Appeals for world wide peace are made here today”
Telegraph-Press, 16 February 1915, page 3, column 1
“Hundreds pack new Armory at big Peace Fete”
Kalamazoo Gazette, 17 February 1915, page 1, column 6