It was 1916, and things were changing fast. World War I raged in Europe. Dadaism, ripe with comic derision and irrationality, took hold in artistic circles. Freeform jazz took hold of the American music scene. Margaret Sanger opened the first birth-control clinic. It was a good year for scapegoats. It was a good year to hang an elephant.
Erwin, Tennessee seems to be a polite and patriotic town, where campaign signs ask voters to "Please Elect...," then thank them in advance. It's a place where many of the Main Street businesses mark the Fourth of July by closing down for four days, and nobody seems to mind the inconvenience.
In 1916, Erwin was a railroad boom town, home to the Cincinnati, Clinchfield, and Ohio Railroad's repair facilities, "sprouting like a boy growing too fast for his own britches," according to longtime resident Hank S. Johnson
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