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Friday, October 29, 2010

The election of Nov. 2, 2010 vs. the election of Nov. 2, 1920

Frank Conrad and his crew reporting the election returns on November 2, 1920.
You can tell we are getting down to business relating to the upcoming elections. Just watch the campaign ads on television and you will think that everyone you support and their opponents are a bunch of crooks that should be on their way to Palookaville, the state penitentiary, or some other dastardly place.

Locally in Arizona, the House seat pitting incumbent Harry Mitchell against Republican David Schweikert is a good example of mudslinging on both sides. I love the one with ‘ol Harry dancing around to the tune of Pelosi and Reid.

Nationally, the Delaware race is interesting. The Republicans dropped the ball on this one. Although Castle was a RINO he would have given the R’s a continuing seat in the Senate and with him running against a twerp like Democrat Coons, he would have won easily. Now, that seat is gone and a guy who once referred to himself as a “bearded Marxist” will get the nod.

Close Senate races: West Virginia, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Washington, Colorado, and maybe California. Republicans need the majority of those seats to take the Senate. As far as the House, Republicans should win it.

Election Day this year is on November 2 and the broadcast media crush is quite a contrast to the November 2, 1920 Election Day, exactly 90 years ago. Unlike this year, that was a presidential election and unlike now there was no television flowing into the nation’s homes to influence voters. Radio was even in its infancy so the main form of campaigning was through the “whistle stop” which took candidates across country campaigning in every significant town via trains.

James Cox and Franklin Roosevelt were the ticket for the Dems. Their opposition for the Republicans was Warren Harding and Calvin Coolidge. Cox and FDR did whistle stops from August until Election Day but it didn’t help as the Republicans won.

That election was the beginning of media coverage for election returns. A guy named Frank Conrad, who worked for Westinghouse, was desperately, along with his crew, completing a radio transmitting station on the roof of the tallest building on the Westinghouse campus in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Their goal was to be ready on election night to broadcast the returns to the few folks who had radios.

On October 27, the facility was complete and given the call letters KDKA. On November 2, four men recorded the election numbers that were received from the Pittsburgh Post via telephone and a gentleman named Leo Rosenberg read them over the air through a clumsy array of wires used as a microphone.

On that night broadcasting was born. The next day, the Westinghouse switchboard was flooded with calls from people wanting to know how they could get a radio. Today, we have several TV networks on election night feverishly reporting every trend and vote throughout the night and into the early morning.

Frank Conrad died in 1941 at 67 but he got to see radio flourish from the humble beginnings at KDKA to the number one form of entertainment at the time of his death.

To leave a comment or to reply to the 22 other comments, click "Jim's azcentral blog" in the right column under links. You will not get a virus. Jim McAllister writes for the Arizona Republic Newspaper.

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