The Van Wert County Courthouse

Wednesday, Jan. 26, 2022

Presidential campaigns in Paulding County

Editor’s note: This article is one of a series of articles written in conjunction with Paulding County’s Bicentennial celebration in 2020.

JANE NICE/Paulding County Bicentennial Committee

President Howard Taft was one of a handful of presidential candidates that have campaigned in Paulding County. The President is visible standing at right in the bandstand in Paulding in 1912. The detail is from a photograph included in Paulding County, Ohio: A Pictorial History Volume III, set for publication by the John Paulding Historical Society later this year. photo provided

PAULDING — Americans are currently inundated with information about U.S. presidential candidates from many forms of media, but more than a hundred years ago those running for office had almost exclusively two means of bringing their platforms and their presence to the public: through newspaper coverage and by personal campaign.

Paulding County hosted candidates for the highest office in the land at least twice in its history. First, William Jennings Bryan — who was gearing up for a repeat challenge against sitting president William McKinley in the 1900 election — came to Paulding to stump for Ohio gubernatorial candidate John R. McLean in the fall of 1899.

Then more than 10 years later, in 1912, President William Howard Taft and former President Theodore Roosevelt, both Republicans, came to town to duke it out before the May primary election.

In those days, the candidates travelled with their entourages by railroad and usually made many campaign stops on their tours, sometimes giving several speeches at different destinations in a single day.

Office seekers counted on their local party-affiliated newspapers to spread their message to the wider public after their visits. ThePaulding Democrat did not disappoint when it reported on the 1899 Bryan-McLean visit.

“Three Days of Ovations!” was the front-page headline in the Paulding Democrat followed by, “The Bryan-McLean Tour of Northwestern Ohio Eclipses Everything of its Kind on Record.” Then under that, “The Democracy of the Great Northwest Fired with Enthusiasm by the Eloquent and Patriotic Words of their Next Year’s Candidate for President.”

The Paulding Democrat reported the candidates began their three-day tour in Greenville and concluded it in Sandusky. Paulding was the last stop of the day on Thursday, October 19. Bryan and McLean were met at the train by the city band and three carriages “all drawn by snow white horses.”

Prominent Paulding Democrats of the day, including the Honorable John S. Snook, escorted the candidates to the speaker’s stand on the courthouse lawn, “which was already surrounded by an anxious and expectant audience numbering thousands,” according to the article.

In the meantime, Mrs. Bryan, who was traveling with her husband, was presented at the train station with an “armful of beautiful roses” by a delegation of Paulding women who escorted her to County Treasurer Saurwein’s office in the courthouse, where she could comfortably listen to her husband’s speech through the open window and out of the elements.

From the stand on the lawn, Snook introduced candidate McLean, who was owner and publisher of The Cincinnati Enquirer, as “one of the most eminent business men in all the country.”

McLean “came forward and said that he would demonstrate that he was a business man by presenting without delay the speaker who everyone desired to hear,” candidate for president of the United States, William Jennings Bryan.

In his nearly hour-long speech, his fifth of the day, Bryan spoke about coinage, trusts, the acquisition of the Philippine Islands, and the size of the U.S. Army.

Despite Bryan’s efforts, McLean was defeated a month later by Republican George K. Nash.

The following year, Bryan was also defeated, and incumbent William McKinley was set to serve for another four years. However, McKinley died just shy of a year into that term after being shot in an assassination attempt and succumbing to gangrene from his wound. Vice President Theodore Roosevelt took over the office of president.

Three years later, Roosevelt ran for president outright and won, but a promise he made in that campaign — to not seek another term in office — would later come back to haunt him. Although presidents were not then limited to two terms, that had been the precedent set, and Roosevelt wanted to show good faith in following it.

In the1908 election, Roosevelt backed William Howard Taft as the Republican candidate for president. Taft won, and Roosevelt left the United States to travel abroad for a year. Enthusiastic crowds greeted Roosevelt upon his return, and believing that he still had much to accomplish, Roosevelt went back on his election promise of 1904 and threw his hat in the ring to challenge Taft for the Republican nomination in 1912.

The feverish primary campaigns for the Republican presidential nomination took Taft and Roosevelt out on the rails in the spring of 1912, and included stops for both in Paulding, within days of the deciding primary election.

The Paulding County Republican newspaper excitedly announced on May 16 that former President Roosevelt was to speak on that date at 12:30 p.m., and that President Taft was coming two days later, on Saturday, May 18, at 10:30 a.m.

“It is not often a town the size of Paulding is honored by the presence of the two most prominent citizens of the nation, a President and ex-President. Mr. Taft’s visit here will be the first time a President ever visited this town and, so far as we know, Roosevelt is the only ex-President that ever came here,” the paper announced on page one under the headline “Paulding surely on the Map.”

Sadly, a detailed account of their visits was not given in the next week’s paper. If a supplement covered the visits, it has been lost to time. The Paulding County Republican simply reported the election results of May 21, 1912: “Roosevelt Gets Majority of Ohio Delegates.” Taft, however, prevailed in the national ballot and was the Republican candidate on the November ticket. Roosevelt ran outside of the party, splitting the Republican vote, and Democrat Woodrow Wilson became the next president of the United States. 

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POSTED: 10/31/20 at 12:27 am. FILED UNDER: News