Pessimism was buried in Canton a century ago.

Community leaders laid the "spirit of pessimism" to rest in Canton a century ago.

"Here Lies It Can't Be Done."

Those were the words on the "grave marker" placed near Public Square at 9:30 a.m. on July 4, 1919. "As thousands thronged" downtown, representatives of Canton Liberty Loan committee held a burial ceremony for "It Can't Be Done," according to a story in The Canton Repository.

"'It Can't Be Done' was laid to rest at the southeast corner of the courthouse and his place was marked by a metal slab which was lowered by the former bond salesmen."

People gathered for the funeral service for 'It Can't Be Done', the name given to the "spirit of pessimism" exhibited by any people who thought the city couldn't sell its quota of war bonds and make other sacrifices during war, were "preached to" by local attorney George H. Clark. A funeral dirge was played at the ceremony by the Grand Army band.

"There was no respect paid to the departed and the crowding spectators neither removed their hats nor displayed the slightest emotion as the heavy slab was lowered in place," the Repository reported.

July 4th celebrated

Other Fourth of July activities preceded the burial service. Held on the first Independence Day following the end of World War I, many of Canton's residents turned out for the holiday celebration.

"City's Gratitude To Soldier Sons Is Displayed By Massed Thousands," a headline in the Repository on July 5, 1919, said over photographs of the July 4 events. "Thousands On Curbs Cheer Veterans Who March In Review," said another headline, while a third reported that "Fireworks, Aerial Flights And Awarding Of Medals By Red Cross Women Feature Day's Big Celebration."

The newspaper lauded the quality of the Fourth of July Independence Day observances.

"Surpassing expectations in nearly all respects, Canton's Fourth of July celebration in honor of the returned soldiers of the city was declared to be one of the most successful and by far the biggest municipal affair ever held in the history of the county," reported the Repository. "The celebration was featured by a parade in the morning in which practically every industry and organization in the city was represented, and it entertained thousands at the fairgrounds in the afternoon but the biggest crowd of the day and what is acclaimed to be the greatest assemblage ever seen in Canton turned out in the evening to see the fireworks display. The throng, in addition to filling the grand stand, even to the stairs and aisles, overflowed into the grounds and lined the race track, three or four people deep and then overflowed into the track enclosure, where many thousands sat on the ground during the pyrotechnical exhibition."

Large flag

Veterans, bands and floats all played parts in the parade.

One of the most dramatic moments in the procession, however, was the passing of city's large American flag, carried by children from Canton playgrounds.

"The children called upon every man in the crowds lining the sidewalks to remove his hat as they carried the flag by," the Repository reported. "The big banner was supported by scores of children who carried throughout the entire time of the parade. This division was composed entirely of the playgrounds organizations and it was under the command of Miss Vera Ogden."

According to the newspaper, the parade disbanded when it came to the fairgrounds and there ensued "a rush on soft drink parlors, which lined the race track."

"The six bands, after a rest took up positions at various points on the grounds where they remained during the afternoon. ... In addition to the other entertainments, the dance hall, which was made from the dining room, was well patronized."

Burial of pessimism

Laying to rest "It Can't Be Done" was a most significant element of the celebration. It was hardly a somber event, and "smiles instead of tears" were on the faces of participants.

"The ceremony was participated in only by the former Liberty Loan workers," the Repository reported. "It was their our of triumph and the burial ceremony was a public declaration of the success of their efforts. The slab which was placed over 'It Can't Be Done,' is a product of the Timken-Detroit Axle company, and it was donated to the cause."

Attorney Clark spoke briefly of the demise of "It Can't Be Done." He noted that "It Can't Be Done" seemed healthy a little more than two years before, in April 1917.

"With the declaration of war 'It Can't Be Done' saw the opportunity to justify for all time the existence of the doctrine of failure," said Clark. "We had to raise an army. 'It Can't Be Done' sprang at our throats. We had to save food. 'It Can't Be Done snarled at our heels. We had to raise money for national defense. 'It Can't Be Done' yelped discord and growled failure.

"But, the people grew in thought, in spirit, in resolve, in spirituality. ... They joined shoulder to shoulder in mighty effort. ... And so undeterred, unafraid, and determined, they marched forward to glorious victory.

"'It Can't Be Done' in this community died and we are met to bury it deep and for all time."

The Repository noted that the burial marker for "It Can't Be Done" would "remain in its place in the courthouse pavement, as a testimonial of the day." For decades, it did serve as a reminder of the Canton area's war effort.

Some number of years ago the plaque was moved from downtown Canton. It was removed but still is remembered. That's because it was put in a place where the death of the spirit of pessimism can be recalled easily by those who are most interested in local history.

"It Can't Be Done" now is buried just outside the front door of the Wm. McKinley Presidential Library & Museum in Canton.

"Buried July 4, 1919," the metal grave marker tells those who see it, surrounded by greenery and sitting in the shadow of McKinley museum.

"May He Long Be Dead."