Mrs. Benjamin Harrison, Mrs. English

This article originallly appeared in the March 25, 1910 Indianapolis Star. It concerns the nomination of the chair of that year's Indianapolis Auto Show's panel of judges for the associated floral parade, Mrs. William E. English. Note that joining her on the panel was the Mary Dimmick Harrison widow of former United States President Benjamin HarrisonMary was the president's second - and much younger - wife. She never served as the nation's First Lady and is not to be confused with Caroline Harrison who did.
Other members of the panel were Mrs. Thomas Marshall, Mrs. Meredith Nicholson and Mrs. John W. Kern. Mrs. Marshall was the wife of Thomas Marshall who was the sitting governor of Indiana at the time and Mrs. Kern's husband John would become a U.S. Senator from Indiana the following year. Nicholson's husband was a best-selling author. Curiously, the accomplishments of their husbands were not mentioned although it is safe to say most readers of the time were well aware of who they were.
The decision to staff the panel of judges was noteworthy in that it was a rare instance of decision-making responsibility granted women in the male dominated era. That's not to say this was exceptional recogniton and it could be argued that judging a floral parade fit within the realm of "women's work." Perhaps this item better serves as an example of how the automobile industry was becoming cognizant of the reality that women influenced the purchase decisions of a big ticket items like motor cars. As reported elsewhere on First Super Speedway the automobile was evolving in a way that demonstrated the tastes of females.
These women were also seen as entrenched members of Indianapolis "Society," a term of the time used in reference to the high net worth and leadership segment of a community's population. The women mentioned certainly set trends among the citizenry for all matters from fashion to politics to social mores.
The judges were to assess entrants to the floral parade, an estimated line of 75 flower-decorated automobiles purely on asthetics. The cars were a mix of entries from private owners and dealerships and the event was good business for local florists who were pressed into action. While some use of live flowers was expected most plans called for artifical flowers.
Like with events at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway that were also associated with the auto show the judges' selections were awarded trophies. In their case the awards were cut glass flower baskets that were probably a marvel to behold. Manufacturers got into the act with accessory prizes and Waverley Electric company is mentioned in the article for offering a $50 award for the most attractively decorated example of their product.
The article indicates that the pageant was to start from Fall Creek Boulevard at 2 PM on Wednesday, March 30. Some 50,000 people were expected to line the streets to view it. The judges were to be positioned in a flower-decorated automobile in front of University Park to form their opinions. All of this has to stimulate analogies to the "500" Festival Parade in any Indianapolis 500 fan's mind.

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