by Barbara Machado

Social Media Alive in 1915?

Living in today’s world of the internet and the rapid pace in which news spreads the globe, can you even imagine the “when and if” involved in getting hoteliers (or anyone else for that matter) across North America to read about a failed convention in Texas in 1915?

Well, it happened and here is the story:

A joint meeting of the country’s Hotel Associations was scheduled to hold joint meetings in Houston and Galveston in May 1915. Hoteliers of great prominence also planned a stopover in San Antonio on their way to the convention. However, for reasons unknown, everything was canceled at the very last minute.

Not to be deterred by these unfortunate cancelations, the President of the San Antonio Hotel Men’s Association and also the General Manager of the St. Anthony Hotel decided his local group would hold their own gathering – a “Wake”, so to speak to mourn the loss of the fellowship and the business.

Held in the Tapestry Room of the St. Anthony Hotel, Association members arrived wearing tall chef hats and traditional white jackets with the addition of a crepe armband in black.

The table in the center of the room was draped in black and adorned with black framed “post-mortem” menu cards. Placed around the edge of the room where fifty chairs covered in black and sporting large placards bearing the names of prominent (but missing) hoteliers. At the end of the room stood a coffin resting on beer kegs to represent the deceased convention. Somber mournful music added to the total feel of this sad night of feasting.

But, there is more. The final touch came unexpectedly from an Atlantic City General Manager who arrived at the St. Anthony not knowing about the mass cancelations. To the delight of the host, the gentleman was invited as a special guest to the Wake, presented with the keys to the city of San Antonio by the Mayor and included in the photo shots by the press.

The local media wasted little time in getting the story and the photos on the wire. The results were astounding.

The “night of mourning” event spread across North America. Hotel magazines and newsletters were not alone in their coverage of the story; it made all the major newspaper outlets.

The final surprise came in the form of hundreds of letters and telegrams congratulating and praising this creative move on the part of San Antonio’s hotel community. Later news coverage would indicate 1915 turned out to be a banner year for tourism and conventions in San Antonio!

Sometimes even bad news is worth spreading!

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