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The property that now is the intramural fields of Mount Union College was once the site of greenhouses owned by the Lamborn family and the place where Ohio's state flower--the scarlet carnation--was cultivated. In 1866, an Alliance doctor, Levi L. Lamborn, purchased six potted carnation plants. At that time there were very few of the flowers being cultivated in the United States. Lamborn, who loved flowers, intended to grow the rare carnations in the greenhouse that adjoined his house.
In addition to his medical practice and his flower raising, the doctor had an interest in politics. In 1872 he ran against William McKinley for the Congressional seat from this district. Although the two men differed politically, they were personal friends. Since McKinley had expressed his admiration for the lovely flowers, Dr. Lamborn always presented him with a carnation for his lapel before their political debates. McKinley won the election to Congress and associated the carnation with his success. As he went on to become Governor of Ohio and then President of the United States, he wore the flower during his political campaigns. McKinley also served on the Mount Union College Board of Trustees.
In 1905, four years after President McKinley's assassination and 20 years after Lamborn had first made the suggestion that the flower be made a state emblem, the Ohio General Assembly voted to make the scarlet carnation the official state flower as a "token of love and reverence to the memory of William McKinley." Every year on President McKinley's birthday, January 29, a bouquet of red carnations is put into the carved hands of his lifelike statue in front of the Capitol in Columbus.
In 1959, the General Assembly named Alliance the "Carnation City." Since 1960 the annual Carnation Festival has been held in Alliance for one week in August.
Osborne, Newell Yost. A Select School: The History of Mount Union College and an Account of a Unique Educational Experiment, Scio College. Alliance, OH: Mount Union College, 1967.
Saffell, John E. Wake the Echoes: An Updated History of Mount Union College. Alliance, OH: Mount Union College, 1996.