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Dr. Levi LambornDr. Levi L. Lamborn

You probably already know that the Ohio's official state flower is a red carnation. But did you known, that it is NOT really a red carnation, but a scarlet carnation? And the reason for the state choosing this particular color of carnation was because of the assassination of the President of the United States.

Back in 1866 an Alliance Ohio doctor was also an avid horticulturist (meaning: he liked plants). So much so that he had his own greenhouse. In 1886 Dr. Lamborn purchased 6 potted carnation plants. From these plants he propagated them. The results were a new variety of carnation. He named the new carnation the "Lamborn Red." At the time there were very few carnations being grown in the United States, so this was special.

Besides being a doctor for Alliance and being an avid horticulturist, Dr. Lamborn was also interested in politics. In 1876, Lamborn decided to run against his friend, William McKinley, for the 18th Congressional District. Politics in a small town were somewhat different than they are today. As the election neared, a series of debates between McKinley and Lamborn were held. Before each debate, Dr. Lamborn gave McKinley one of his Lamborn Red carnations. Perhaps Lamborn was hoping to put a jinx on McKinley by giving him one of his own creations. Or perhaps Lamborn was just being a good friend. The result was that McKinley won the election. McKinley thought the Lamborn Red carnation may have been a good luck charm.


After winning that election, he won several more terms in Congress, and then later became governor of Ohio for 2 terms. He then ran and won the Presidency in 1893. As his political fortunes grew, McKinley often spoke of his Lamborn Carnation he wore in his lapel as being his good luck charm. When he first took office, Dr. Lamborn sent him a large bouquet of Lamborn Reds for the Oval Office.

Alliance Historical MarkerNow, on September 14, 1901, President McKinley was at the Buffalo Pan-American Expo. McKinley stood in a receiving line shaking hands with visitors. A 12 year old girl named Myrtle Ledger along with her mother, asked McKinley a favor: “Could I have something to show my friends? They’ll never believe I spoke to you.” At hearing this, he removed the flower from his lapel, and handed it over to the little girl. A few seconds later Leon F. Czolgosz, an unhappy anarchist with a 32 caliber pistol wrapped in a bandage around his hand shot President McKinley twice and the President died of this wound 8 days later, even though doctors at the time thought he would make a full recovery.

Three years after President McKinley's assassination, the Ohio General Assembly voted to make the Lamborn Carnation, or more commonly called the "scarlet carnation" the official state flower as a "token of love and reverence to the memory of William McKinley".

McKinley Statue at Ohio Statehouse

Every year on President McKinley's birthday, January 29th, a bouquet of scarlet carnations is put into the carved hands of his lifelike statue in front of the Statehouse in Columbus.


Carnation City

In 1959, the General Assembly named Alliance the "Carnation City". Since 1960 the annual Carnation Festival has been held in Alliance during the month of August. It is a busy and exciting 10 days during which Alliance is remembered as the birthplace of Ohio's scarlet carnation.