The black and white images of Franklin D. Roosevelt cutting the ribbon to officially open the original Mark Twain Memorial Bridge are etched in Hannibal’s historical memory. As many as 75,000 people gathered to watch the ceremony on Sept. 4, 1936, which included a six-mile presidential parade through Hanniba, a military fly-over and boat races on the river. Pictures show throngs of people gathered at the bridge approach, stretching shoulder to shoulder for blocks, along streets, upon rooftops and on every hillside. Makeshift parking lots sprang up all over town to accommodate the crowds. All eyes were on the festivities, as the community celebrated the opening of Hannibal’s first bridge dedicated to vehicular traffic reaching out across the Mississippi River.
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Just four years prior to the bridge dedication, Kodak introduced the first 8 mm amateur motion picture film, cameras and projectors. This technology, combined with the ingenuity of four young Hannibal-area men, contributed to the making of a movie of the dedication and associated events. The amateur movie, which is hosted on the FDR presidential library site, was created under auspicious of the Hannibal Chamber of Commerce.
Cameramen were George W. Farrell, 37; Don Sosey, 39; John Kretzer, 33; and Branham Rendlen, 31.
• Sosey, born in 1897, was grandson of Jacob Sosey, who established the Palmyra Spectator in 1840. Donald Sosey was named Postmaster at Palmyra on April 27, 1934.
• Rendlen, the son of prominent Hannibal attorney Charles E. Rendlen and his wife, Lida Branham Rendlen, was born in 1905. Rendlen followed in his father’s footsteps, serving as a respected Hannibal attorney. He died in 1985.
• Farrell was born in 1899, and worked as a civil engineer.
• Kretzer was born in 1903, and was employed as an accountant for a construction company in Hannibal. He died in 1979.
The silent film features images of David Griffith, president of the Hannibal Chamber of Commerce, Sinclair Mainland, Hannibal Mayor, Guy B. Park, governor of Missouri, and Henry Horner, governor of Illinois.
The film shows the actual ribbon cutting; the president was seated in the back seat of a convertible, and the ribbon was draped in front of him. Visible behind the president was the tollbooth, which was in operation until the local expenses occurred in bridge construction were recovered.
When all were ready, President Roosevelt cut the ribbon with a small pair of scissors. His vehicle led a procession across the bridge.
Sen. Harry S Truman of Missouri was part of the official ceremony. Roosevelt was the only U.S. President to be elected to three terms in office. Truman was Roosevelt’s final running mate, and became vice president after Roosevelt’s victory in 1944. On April 12, 1945, Truman would succeed to the presidency following Roosevelt’s death, which came after months of declining health.
The Hannibal Pirates met their Quincy rivals on Thanksgiving Day, 1936, and film clippings from that game trail at the end of the aforementioned video. Team members with who would go on to serve important roles in Hannibal’s development took part in this game, including Branham Rendlen’s younger brother, Charles Rendlen Jr. Hannibal defeated Rival Quincy for the first time in a decade.
The landscape surrounding what is now Porter Stadium has changed dramatically, but the field is unmistakenly the Hannibal Pirates’ home turf.