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County swings to GOP in 1900 election

Sun Advocate publisher

Editors note: The articles in Sun Advocate Archives will be concentrating on general elections throughout the years since 1900 during the rest of this election year.

Every two years elections are at the forefront of the fall news in newspapers across the country. And every four years, during the presidential races, the emphasis even becomes greater. Front pages of major newspapers are filled with stories about voting, candidates and issues.

However, small town papers such as the Sun Advocate have changed over the years. Since the early 1940s the emphasis given to national elections in these papers has subsided, and they have turned more to reporting the local elections.

Before 1940 local newspapers (those that are called community papers today) were usually the only link to the news, both national, state and local for outlying communities. There were few other news sources, other than word of mouth and a weak radio presence in many areas. Therefore during an election cycle they become the voice for the town, reporting everything from world events to the local knitting clubs meetings.

Such was the reporting of the elections in the local papers shortly after Utah became a state in 1896. With the new century looming the papers in the area (that included the Eastern Utah Advocate up until 1914 and then the Carbon County News, The News-Advocate, The Sun and The Helper Journal) became the source what people knew about the national elections basically came from these sources. The delivery of the Salt Lake papers at the time (of which there were six at one point) was often long delayed beyond the publication of the local newspapers.

The front page of the papers often reflected a national tone with local results being printed inside. Today the emphasis on reporting elections in community newspapers comes with mostly a local flavor because of the vast number of media sources and types available.

So when the election of 1900 came about, with a new century starting and prosperity around the United States booming, it was a time of great pride to print information about national races.

The presidential race that year came down to a fight between the Republican William McKinley and Democrat William Jennings Bryan. It was a basic rematch of the 1896 election, but what had transpired in the four years since included an American victory in the Spanish-American War and growing prosperity in the country.

Interestingly enough, unlike today where the presidential candidates are in six cities and five different states in one day, transportation at the time did not allow for this kind of campaigning. McKinley, feeling very good about how the country was fairing basically campaigned from the "front porch" of his house in Canton, Ohio. At one point he actually attracted a crowd of 30,000 people to his neighborhood to hear him speak. Because of the good times the Republicans used the campaign slogan "Four more years of a full dinner pail."

Bryan, on the other hand, went on the rails in a whistle stop campaign putting over 18,000 miles behind him touring the east and the midwest.

However the Republicans were not sitting on their laurels when it came to counting on votes. Teddy Roosevelt, who was McKinley's running mate as vice president, traveled even more, putting in 24,000 miles.

Bryan was known as one of the greatest orators in American history. It has been said that he could speak to a crowd of thousands with his powerful voice and smooth delivery and not one person in the gathering would miss what he said.

Before Bryan was selected as the Democratic nominee however, there was a pretty big fight about possibly having Admiral George Dewey, a huge hero from the Spanish-American War be the nominee. Dewey whose Navy units had beaten the Spanish fleet in the Battle of Manila Bay during the war was thought to be a good counter to the man who had rushed up San Juan Hill in Cuba with the "Roughriders," Roosevelt.

However Dewey's campaign and supporters fell short, largely because, just as with what happens today, gaffes in the campaign hurt him. At one point he intimated that the job of being President would be easy compared to leading men into battle and many in the media said his thinking was too simplistic. He also said some things that got him into trouble including admitting that he had never voted and that he thought the next war the United States would enter would be with Germany (in retrospect that was prophetic with the advent of World War I).

Religion also became an issue for Dewey, because he married a the Catholic daughter of the owner of the Washington Post, and this made a lot of Protestants upset.

The Eastern Utah Advocate reported many of these proceedings leading up to the election. Those running for local offices at the time got little play within the paper. Usually their campaigns and election efforts were rewarded with little one-sided snippets in what was called the "local news" column hidden on the inside of the paper.

On Nov. 8, 1900, the day after the election, the front page of The Advocate was loaded with news about McKinley and Roosevelt's victory. One sub-head read "Republican Vote Increased in All Western States."

"In the west, Utah, Wyoming and Washington were added to the Republican column, while the majorities in all the silver producing states were greatly reduced," stated the paper.

What the result showed was that having a good economy and a war hero on the ticket usually helps a President of the United States get re-elected.

That "Local News" column mentioned earlier was different from what modern readers of this paper might expect. What it really was was comments about the community, people and events. It was often highly one sided. In the election issue of the paper there were a number of statements about that the Republicans and Democrats could now go eat their Thanksgiving turkey with the election over. One comment at the bottom of the piece however was spun concerning local politicians. It stated, "There are men in every community, and Price is not without them, who are Democrats or Republicans just so long as they can hold office, dictate nominations, or hold an appointment. If disappointed in any of their schemes, then they at one hop over to the other side and howl fraud and all manner of things. Such creatures are to be pitied rather than condemned. It is gratifying to know, however, that their days are numbered."

In those times the paper was often less than six page in total. On that particular day it was only four pages and local election results were printed on page two, along with editorial comments concerning the offices. It was not unusual for opinion to mixed quite blatantly with the news. It was noted that the county commissioners elected in that election were W.D. McLean, J. Harkness and E.C. Lee. Their party affiliations were not specifically noted but the paper, however, did note that all the local politicians, except the sheriff (Hyrum Wilcox), were Republicans with the editor writing that "Carbon County was not excepted from the Republican rush..." within the state and the country.

The paper also recorded that a bond to build a new county courthouse was approved by the voters, but that there were voter discrepancies in some districts that put the actual vote in question.

In another column the editor also stated that "...while The Advocate supported the defeated ticket, it is not one of those who believe that because democracy has not triumphed, the country has gone to the devil." He also stated that ",,,the editor of this 'great moral and religious' journal has spent all his life under Republican administrations with the exception of Grover (Cleveland), and has fared pretty well."

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