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Lack of good campaign songs lamented during 1900 election

In 1900, the general election took place Nov. 6, and in the final two weeks, the presidential campaign dominated the press.

Pleas for support from veterans and working men, reports on parades and speeches, condemnations and criticisms, and support and praise were not in short supply.

Something that was in short supply, according to The New York Times, were campaign songs. The Times reported 1900 as “the poorest year for campaign songs since the Civil War.”

On Oct. 21, 1900, a Special to The New York Times reported on campaign songs for the 1900 presidential election, including songs in support of the Republican, Democratic and Prohibition parties:

“Campaign songs contain short statements of the cruder arguments used in each political battle, and a study of them shows what sort of appeals were most popular in each campaign. Looking over the songs of 1900 to find out the nature of popular appeals, the future political student will get some interesting insights on the present campaign. One is that there have been few campaigns in which there have been so many appeals on both sides to the great men of the past, such as Lincoln and Jefferson. Here is a Republican song titled ‘The Voter’s Dream’:

I had a dream the other night,

I cannot tell you why, Sir;

I dreamed I saw Abe Lincoln’s ghost

A’shining through the sky, Sir.

Our starry flag was in his hand,

A crown was on his head, Sir,

A smile was on his haloed face,

And this is what he said, Sir:

McKinley, McKinley,

Loyal votes shall win thee,

Four more years on the White House floor,

Hurrah for Bill McKinley!

“It is a curious fact that while the Democratic songs do not show the same wild enthusiasm for free silver that the songs of 1896 show, free coinage is still the predominate note in all of them.

“‘Farmer’s Campaign Song’ gives an interesting clue to the feeling among Western farmers who have stood so staunchly by the free-silver cause, and affords a glimpse of their reasons for believing in it. The farmer is supposed to be addressing his wife and telling of the good time coming when Bryan is elected:

I’ll build a little cottage soon to make your heart rejoice,

And I’ll buy a new piano to go with Bessie’s voice;

You shall not make your butter on that up-and-down machine,

For the Free Silver Party works straight and does not lean.

I have riz up many a morning hour before the sun,

And night has o’ertaken me before the task was done;

When weary with my labor, ’twas this that nerved my arm:

The Free Silver Party will pay the mortgage on the farm.

“Here is the latest Prohibition song, which is entitled ‘Twin Ballots,’ and is by the Rev. J. G. Steiner:

Along in November, when chill was the weather,

Two ballots were cast in a box together;

They nestled up close, like brother to brother,

You couldn’t tell one of the votes from the other.

They were both rum votes

And sanctioned the license plan;

But one was cast by a jolly old brewer

And one by a Sunday school man.

“In the wild waste of trash which the campaign poets are inspired to produce every four years, it is refreshing to come across a song or two which has real wit and melody and decent rhythm. The proper place to look for such songs is in the campaign output of the Prohibition Party. For some reason, this party monopolizes all the cleverness which makes itself manifest in campaign songs. It is so in every campaign, and 1900 is no exception.”

Even though The Times credited the Prohibition Party with the most clever campaign songs, the party was not able to parlay this skill at the ballot box on Election Day. As we read in last week’s column, the Prohibition Party has not had a successful candidate to date.

On Oct. 22, 1900, President and Mrs. McKinley traveled to Canton and stayed in their hometown until after the president had casted his vote, returning to Washington early on Nov. 7.

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