Little Rock Look Back: Little Rock Celebrates End of The Great War

Portion of a Pfeifer Brothers ad in November 11 1918 ARKANSAS DEMOCRAT

Portion of a Pfeifer Brothers ad in November 11 1918 ARKANSAS DEMOCRAT

When the residents of Little Rock awoke on Monday, November 11, 1918, they discovered that the Armistice had been signed.  A celebration of Peace broke out and continued on throughout the day.

The Arkansas Democrat (an afternoon paper) got the ball rolling when it issued a special edition at 2:27am that the treaty would be signed. In addition to being distributed around the City, copies were rushed to Arkansas Governor Charles Brough and Little Rock Mayor Charles Taylor.  Mayor Taylor declared he would issue a proclamation setting aside Saturday, November 16, as a day of celebration in the city.

Unwilling to wait that long, throngs of people filled the streets greeting each other with handshakes and hugs. From the wee hours of the morning through late at night, friends and strangers alike were treated as familiars as the celebratory love swept through the city.

Firecrackers, car horns, whistles, and church bells competed with each other and with the shouts of the citizenry in contributing to the din of celebration.  An impromptu parade formed at Third and Main around 9:00am and eventually stretched the length of Main Street’s business district.  Student forgot their studies and participated in the parade instead of going to the high school at Scott and 14th Street.  (While many businesses closed that day, the schools did not.  But one suspects that attendance was light.)

At 10am, there was five minutes of silence. Most men stopped and removed their hats while many women were seen offering silent prayers.  Then the Governor and Mayor addressed the crowds gathered at Capitol and Main Streets.

Two hundred recent arrivals from Puerto Rico who were in to Little Rock to work at a factory grabbed an American flag and joined in the parade once they were informed of the news. They joined a throng that cared not about race or ethnicity, class or status, faith background, gender, or occupation.

Three thousand employees of the Missouri Pacific Railroad marched in a parade led by a coffin with an effigy of Kaiser Wilhelm in it. Next came the railroad’s marching band, followed by row after row of railroad employees.  Interspersed were rail company trucks equipped with railroad bells which had been rung previously as part of war bond rallies. Now they were rung in tribute to peace and victory.

Around noon, the crowds moved back to sidewalks and side streets, turning Main Street and Capitol Street over to an automobile parade. Cars, trucks, and other vehicles were festooned with red, white, and blue bunting and packed with people.  Overhead throughout the day, airplanes performed acrobatic feats to the delight of crowds below.

Government offices closed early as did factories and most businesses.  About the only people working that day seemed to be the Little Rock police.  They reported no major incidents, although one officer did have to rescue his hat from being nearly trampled by a group of dancing women.  The only quibble seems to have come from various groups claiming to have been the first to start the celebration.