Election Day History - by Kate Kelly
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Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper
Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper
"Election Scenes and Incidents In City and Country" - Nov. 8, 1884

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Women Voting in Wyoming

"Woman Suffrage in Wyoming Territory. Scene at the Polls in Cheyenne"
- Nov. 24, 1888

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Election Day Firsts

Who was the first “packaged” candidate?

William Henry Harrison in 1840. Though Harrison’s military accomplishments were slight and his father was among the signers of the Declaration of Independence, the Whigs decided to portray him as a military hero and man of the people. The “log cabin and cider” images that were associated with him were originally inspired by the opposition, intending to make fun of him. Instead the Whigs plastered the log cabin on everything. This marked the beginning of political campaigning as we know it, and the campaign became one of the first to feature huge parades and other popular festivities.

Who was the first presidential candidate to travel during his campaign?

Before 1860 it was considered unseemly for the candidate to travel to campaign. When Stephen Douglas broke with this tradition, the press considered it vote-begging and he was highly criticized. Douglas’ mother lived in Clifton Springs, New York, so when Douglas planned a northern swing for votes he told reporters he was going to visit his mother. The Republicans observed as Douglas traveled from Washington to Providence and other points north, and they created a handbill:

“A Boy Lost! Left Washington, D.C. some time in July to go home to his mother. He has not yet reached his mother, who is very anxious about him. He has been seen in Philadelphia, New York City, Hartford, and at a clambake in Rhode Island. …He is about five feet nothing in height and about the same in diameter the other way. He has a red face, short legs, and a large belly. Answer to the name of Little Giant, talks a great deal, very loud, always about himself…”

The Pony Express carried the results of the presidential election in only one campaign year. What year was it?

In 1860 the news of Abraham Lincoln’s victory was carried by Pony Express. The rider traveled from Fort Kearney, Nebraska to Fort Churchill, Nevada in only 6 days. It was the fastest ride ever for the Pony Express.

When did women first vote?

In colonial times, New Jersey permitted women to vote but that right was subsequently taken away. In 1869 Wyoming gave women the right to vote. By 1914, all states west of the Rockies, except New Mexico, had adopted full suffrage. Finally in 1920, the 19th Amendment gave all women the right to vote.

When did 18-year-olds first get the right to vote?

In 1971 during the Vietnam War. Young people had campaigned long and hard for it: “old enough to fight, old enough to vote.”

In what year were voting machines first used?

1892. They were used for one election in New Jersey, but no one trusted them so they were put back into storage and paper ballots were used until the early 1900s.

Who was the first candidate to have had an extra-marital romance that became a political issue?

Grover Cleveland, elected in 1884, was accused by Republicans of having an illegitimate child. It was a charge he never denied. When his advisors asked what to do about newspaper reporters who were on to the story, Cleveland replied: “Above all, tell the truth.” The Republican cry that followed him on campaign stops was, “Ma Ma, where’s my Pa?”

One president was the first to be a golfer, first to keep an automobile at the White House, and the last to keep a cow. Who was it?

William Howard Taft who was president from 1909-13.

In 1908 the Democratic Convention was held in Denver in July. What did they bring in and guard so that the conventioneers could see it?

They brought in mounds and mounds of snow for the conventioneers to play in.

In 1948, The Chicago Tribune went to press with the wrong results. Who did they announce was the new president?

Thomas E. Dewey (“Dewey Defeats Truman” read the headline.)

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