President William McKinley was known for wearing a red carnation. He referred to it as his “lucky flower,” and he began the practice of placing a fresh carnation in his lapel after winning his first Congressional campaign in 1876. His opponent in that race was Levi Lamborn, an amateur horticulturist, who gave McKinley a carnation to wear for their debates. After the successful election, McKinley viewed the red carnation as a good luck charm and routinely kept a supply on hand to wear and to give away.
On September 6, 1901 the President was sporting a fresh flower in his lapel as he opened the World’s Fair in Buffalo, New York. As he stood in a receiving line, shaking hands with guests, McKinley’s face lit up at the sight of little girl named Myrtle Ledger. He removed his flower from his jacket and presented it to her, saying, “I must give this flower to another little flower.”
Standing in line a short distance behind young Myrtle was Leon Czolgosz, a self-proclaimed anarchist. When he reached the President, he fired two bullets at him, one of which proved fatal.
In honor of the late President’s fondness for the flower, the Ohio legislature proclaimed the scarlet red carnation to be the official state flower of Ohio. The man who was instrumental in making this happen was none other than Levi Lamborn, the man who presented McKinley with his first red carnation.