In April of 1919, the Helena City Council designated the Golden Glow (Rudbeckia laciniata ‘Hortensia’) as Helena's official flower. This followed a newspaper referendum by the Rotary club of Helena, in which 65% of respondents voted for the Golden Glow. A big promotion followed.
The Golden Glow, an attractive, tall-growing heirloom coneflower with yellow blossoms, is also known as the "outhouse plant" and "shithouse daisy", since it was a popular choice (along with hollyhocks) for planting around privies as screens. It enjoyed great popularity in the U. S. following World War I, but eventually fell out of favor due in part to its allergy-causing and aphid-attracting properties.
In May of 1919, many Golden Glow bulbs were planted along Helena Avenue by High School boys as part of the local promotion.
In early 1920, a contest was held by the Commercial Club of Helena to choose a verse about the Golden Glow and Helena to be printed on promotional postcards. The winner, Ida Stone Mead of 10 Washington Place, received a $5 gold piece. One of those postcards is pictured above.
In May of 1920, the Commercial Club distributed, free of charge, 1,000 Golden Glow bulbs to various Helena institutions. The following received 100 bulbs each: Wesleyan University; Mount St. Charles (later Carroll) College; St. John's Hospital; St. Peter's Hospital; St. Vincent's Academy; House of the Good Shepherd; Montana Children's Home; Vocational School; St. Josephs' Home (orphanage). The Florence Crittenden Home and the Deaconess Home each received 50 bulbs. Thousands of bulbs were sold in Helena as people and businesses were caught up in the hoopla.
The campaign continued in September of 1920 with the mounting of the Golden Glow Pageant, complete with a ball, the selection of a queen (Miss Marie Mosher) by popular vote, and a big parade. Between 18,000 and 19,000 votes were cast in the Golden Glow Queen contest.
Alas, enthusiasm for the flower proved to be rather short-lived as the problematic nature of the plant became evident. In 1926, the Helena Woman's Club prevailed in their efforts to eradicate the "weed" from Helena public spaces. They did so with the blessing of the Commercial Club, who acknowledged that the aphid and allergy problems brought on by the aggressive plant were indeed a nuisance.