At the end of August 1936, as New Castle sweated through the hottest weekend of the summer—temperatures in the mid-nineties, with no breeze to stir the air—Alf Landon, the governor of Kansas, arrived in town to launch his presidential election campaign.
Landon, the Republican nominee for President, had been born in the nearby village of West Middlesex. On Saturday afternoon, he gave a speech at the Tam o’ Shanter golf club there, which was heard by more than a hundred thousand people who had travelled to see him from across Lawrence county and the rest of western Pennsylvania. Landon spoke of the problems of uneasy and restless labour, of the strange forces that were loose in the world and of the dangers of fascism in Europe and told his audience that the world as they knew it was about to be changed forever. The New Castle News wrote, “It was a half hour of Americanism that rang true. A half hour of speaking interspersed with applause and cheers, and the boy from West Middlesex was through. Back to the hills that gave him birth he had come, honored and respected, the product of a village, who is the hope of a nation.”
Landon’s supporters crowded the streets of New Castle that weekend; his entourage, the gentlemen of the press and every Pennsylvanian Republican with any ambition or standing filled the hotels. The downtown area was decorated with bunting, and a sunflower—the state flower of Kansas—was painted on a huge sheet of heavy muslin that was draped from the Johnson building overlooking the East Washington street bridge. Local industrialists and businessmen held a banquet in Landon’s honour, celebrating him as “the man who will rid us of the four horsemen of the new deal.”
For just under forty-eight hours, New Castle was the political centre of the nation; a makeshift convention town that ably accommodated its illustrious visitors. Crime was unusually low, and Alice Steel was among only a few people who were arrested; all, like her, for drunkenness and disorderly conduct.
The thunder storm that had threatened all weekend broke late on Sunday night, just before Alice’s arrest. The following morning, as Alice waited in court to be discharged by the mayor, Landon left New Castle by train. The decorations were removed from the city streets by nightfall.
Three months later, Franklin Delano Roosevelt won the election in a landslide. Alf Landon served out the rest of his term as governor, but did not seek elected office again.Sources: New Castle News (22 August 1936, “Lobby Lounging At GOP Headquarters”; “Governor Landon Opens Presidential Campaign”; 24 August 1936, “Pa Newc Observes”; “Governor Landon Enjoys Week-End Stay In District”; “News Briefs From City Hall”; 15 Oct 1936, “What Kind Of A Man Is Alf M Landon?”).