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Feb. 3, 1917: ‘Klan’ parade kicks off Minneapolis auto show

Posted by: Ben Welter under Minnesota History, Transportation Updated: March 8, 2014 - 1:53 PM
 
The 2014 Twin Cities Auto Show, which opens this weekend, features food trucks, an off-road Jeep course, a complimentary child seat safety check, and appearances by Timberwolves guard Ricky Rubio and Wild defenseman Ryan Suter. The 1917 Minneapolis Auto Show featured a large cafe; 10 huge, brightly lit showrooms; and a parade by hundreds of men, women, girls and boys dressed in … Ku Klux Klan outfits? In all its breathless coverage of the show, the Minneapolis Tribune never clearly explains the reason behind the “spectacular” parade garb, other than give a nod to its promotional value. Each costume featured the name and location of the show in big block letters. Because nothing sells cars like the hooded costumes worn by a group dedicated to maintaining white supremacy.
 

Record Breaker
1917 Auto Show
to Start Today

Has Twice as Many Exhibits as Any Previous Event.

MAKES SPECIAL BID TO SIGHTSEER CLAN

Time Is All Week – Place, Mazda Building, Broadway Near Central.

The 1917 Auto show, the tenth, given annually under the auspices of the Minneapolis Automobile Trade association, will open this morning at the National Mazda Lamp building. Aside from probable delays in the arrival of some of the displays coming from the Chicago Auto show on account of extreme weather, 10 great show rooms, averaging each 12,000 square feet of floor space, will have their exhibits in place, classified so as to afford direct comparisons of models of more makes than will be shown at any other auto show this year.

Twice As Big This Year.

 
 
Emily Garfield and Winifred O'Malley modeled the Klan costumes for the Tribune a week before the big parade. Some of the lettering on the back -- "AUTO SHOW" -- is visible on the capes. The accompanying story reported that the $1.15 suits were being made "in all sizes and shapes so they will fit boys, girls, men and women of various proportions," and that 5,000 orders were expected.

The show will be double the size and have double the number of exhibits and floor space of any previous show, equalling the great auto shows held at New York and Chicago in all essentials and surpassing them in some.

As an advance spectacle 300 automobiles decorated in white and black, many with white plumes and flags and each bearing white robed and white hooded “night riders,” took part in a Ku Klux Klan auto parade which toured the downtown district yesterday afternoon and then paid a visit to the St. Paul outdoor sports carnival.

About 800 persons braved the below-zero weather to take part in the demonstration. As the autos progressed though the principal business streets, small guns, resembling in miniature those used in the European war to bring down aeroplanes, and mounted on the back seats of many of the cars, kept up a continual cannonading.

A Sea of Automobiles.

The Mazda building yesterday afternoon and last evening looked like an island entirely surrounded by automobiles. In addition to the many cars that were waiting in line to be hoisted by elevators to upper floors, there were trucks loaded with accessory displays and the exhibits of East Side manufacturers for the industrial section.

Manager Walter R. Wilmot had given positive orders, backed by the board of directors, that no exhibits are to be received this morning after 9 o’clock, in order that the final hour before the opening may be devoted to getting in readiness to receive the public.

Inside the building there were men at work on all four floors a good part of the night and by this morning the wonderful transformation of a great building, constructed for modern factory purposes, into a vast show house, ornately decorated and brilliantly lighted, will have been accomplished.

Atmospheric tings have been given to some of the rooms by colors, panel decorations and light effects. In others there are gay birds of plumage. There is a Domino room, a Red room, and a Mikado room with Japanese ornamentation and the entrance hallway has all the colors of the rainbow.

Concession to Sightseers.

A new feature is a large café with fully equipped restaurant service and space for dinner dancing, which is a concession to the sightseeing element that regards an automobile “show” as really a show, and not the display of new inventions, new designs, new conveniences and luxuries, which it really is.

People will see an auto show this year arranged not so much as a spectacle, as at the Armory shows, as for the purpose of giving dealers a chance to show goods to people who have come to make purchases or get information, instead of entertainment. …

Band Heads Klansmen.

Leading yesterday’s Ku Klux Klan parade was a decorated Willcox truck carrying a 20-piece band. Directing the band was a nine-foot-tall Klansmen.

The L.S. Donaldson company had an automobile massed with flowers. It was winner of the $75 prize offered for the best decorated car in the St. Paul carnival parade.

Harvey Mack, G. Roy Hill, V.J. Stromquist and John S. Johnson were parade marshals. Due to impeding traffic, sections of the parade became lost, and during part of the procession downtown, cars scurried from street to street seeking the main body.

Cars were parked in St. Paul after the parade and the Klansmen mingled with the carnival celebrators and many stayed over to attend the pageant at the Auditorium in the evening, their grotesque suits being conspicuous among the carnival costumes of many colors with the time and place of the holding of the 1917 Auto show conspicuously printed on their backs.

 
Built in 1914, the Mazda Lamp Building at Broadway and Jackson Streets NE. had the capacity to manufacture 25,000 Mazda light bulbs a day. But within a few years the technology was obsolete, and in 1917 the cavernous space was used for the 10th annual Minneapolis auto show. The Minneapolis School District bought the building in 1930, and it served as district headquarters for more than 60 years. A developer bought the property last year with plans to turn it into 170,000 square feet of "creative-use" office space. (Photo courtesy of Hennepin County Library's Minneapolis Collection)

 

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