BEN FRANKLIN

Premieres Sunday, December 5 at 9 pm ET/PT on The History Channel®

In the previous issue of the HistoryBuff.com newsletter, I related the story behind the "Dewey Defeats Truman" error edition of the Chicago Daily Tribune dated November 3, 1948. In my article about this famous error edition I related that the primary reason for the error was that the editor and most of the staff of the newspaper were staunch Republicans and refused to believe that a Democrat, Truman, could win the election. Subscriber Taylor Rosenberg submitted the following information to add to the reasons behind the error edition:
One matter that also contributed to the "Dewey Defeats Truman" was the fact that back in 1948 not every home had a phone. Back then phones were still pretty expensive to install and so only the better off-and Republican-tended to have the phones. The Chicago Daily Tribune made calls asking potential voters who they were voting for. The majority of the respondents-well-off Republicans who owned phones-said Dewey. The Tribune did not take into account the demographics of the group they were polling. So they had their numbers and then all the other factors you mentioned fell into place.

Tilden-Hayes "Error" Editions

The presidential election of 2000 wasn't the only time in American history that was hotly contested and weeks of uncertainty before the final winner was declared. The election of 1876 spawned numerous "error" editions across the country. Samuel Tilden ran on the Democratic party platform. Rutherford B. Hayes was running on the Republican ticket. When all the votes were counted, Tilden was the winner. Hayes had a total of 4,034,311 votes. Tilden won the popular vote by having 4,288,546 votes. Previous to this election, the winner of the popular vote always ended up being the winner of the election. If all had ended there, Tilden would have had 204 electoral votes to Hayes’ 165.

Several newspapers across the United States declared in blaring headlines that Tilden won the election. The Republican party quickly contested the vote count. Florida, Louisiana and South Carolina were in question. Charges of fraud were claimed by both sides. The matter even ended up going to Congress to settle the issue. An electoral commission was established to investigate the charges.

The Senate was controlled by the Republicans, and the House of Representatives was controlled by the Democrats. To get both to vote for the decision would be almost impossible, but a compromise was reached. Southern Democrats in Congress were persuaded to vote for the Electoral Commission decision in exchange for a promise of an end to Reconstruction by the removal of all federal troops from the south. When the southern Democrats voted in favor of the Commission decision, that gave a majority in the House to the Republicans. The matter wasn’t settled until two days prior to Inauguration Day. Thus, newspapers across the country dated March 3 and 4, 1876, now ran banner headlines announcing that Hayes won the election and would be inaugurated.

Up until that point in time, the newspapers with "Tilden Wins" headlines were not actually error editions. In every previous presidential election, the Electoral College always followed the popular vote. I am not totally sure, but I think this presidential election was the ONLY case where the candidate that received the most popular votes did not win the election. Is anyone able to confirm or challenge this statement?


Web site of Interest to HistoryBuffs
    The Newseum has a Web site that would be of interest to history buffs. A special section of their Web site is devoted to displaying the current front pages of newspapers around the country and world. Newspapers from all fifty states and some foreign countries are displayed. There are over 300 different newspaper front pages displayed in this section and it is updated daily. Somewhat like the HistoryBuff's Online Newspaper Archives, their site also enables the visitors to see the front page at full size so that they can actually read them. The downside is that only the current date's newspapers can be viewed. No archives are kept online. The URL for this site is http://www.newseum.org/todaysfrontpages/.

POLL RESULTS -- 4016 VOTES CAST
Do you plan on voting in the 2004 presidential election?
Yes 46.6%
I am not yet of voting age 39.2%
I am not a U.S. citizen 10.1%
No 4.1%

October Contest

QUESTION:The slang "OK," meaning yes or everything is all right, came out of an 1800's presidential campaign.

1) What did "OK" originally stand for?

2) Which president's campaign did it originate from?

ANSWER: In my research I was under the impression that the answer to the first part of the question was "Old Kinderhook." The answer to the second part of the question was "Martin Van Buren." However, several subscribers sent alternate answers. Subscriber James Avoli showed me that there was more than one possible answer. James emailed me the following:

OK derives from the Democratic supporters' OK Club, which supported Martin "Old Kinderhook" Van Buren in 1840, a native of Kinderhook, New York. The etymology of OK was explained by Columbia University professor Allen Walker Read in a series of articles in the journal American Speech in 1963 and 1964. The letters stand for "oll korrect." They're the result of a fad for comical abbreviations that flourished in the late 1830s and 1840s. As time went on, people forgot about Old Kinderhook, and began manufacturing their own etymologies, a sampling of which follows:

(1) It's a derivative of the Choctaw Indian affirmative "okeh." Andrew Jackson, who figures in many stories about OK, is said to have introduced the word to the white man.

(2) Another Jackson story has it that he used to mark OK for "oll korrect" on court documents. In the one example of this that was actually unearthed, however, the OK was found actually to be OR, for "order recorded," a common courthouse abbreviation.

(3) It was a telegraphic signal meaning "open key," that is, ready to receive. Others say OK was used for "all right" because A and R had already been appropriated for other purposes. Big problem with this theory: the first telegraph message was transmitted in 1844, five years after OK appeared.

(4) It stands for O. Kendall & Sons, a supplier of army biscuits that stamped its initials on its product.

(5) It comes from Aux Cayes, already discussed. A variant is that it comes from the French au quai, "to the dock," said of cotton that had been approved for loading on a ship.

(6) It stands for Obediah Kelly, a railroad freight agent, who used to mark his initials on documents to indicate all was in order.

(7) It comes from the Greek Olla Kalla, "all good."

(8) A German general who fought on the side of the Americans in the Revolutionary War used to sign documents OK for Ober-Kommando.

To be fair, ANY of the above answers were placed in the "Correct" directory and winners were selected from those.

Eighty people entered the September contest. Seven were disqualified because they did not have the correct subject heading in their email entry. Four were disqualified because their entry was sent after the deadline. (One was sent three weeks after the deadline.) Six people had incomplete answers, e.g. "Martin Van Buren." Two people entered twice and were disqualified. All three of the historic newspapers were awarded. Winners were:

  • James Avoli - Pennsylvania
  • Imad Khachan - New York
  • Mark S. Pannill - Texas

This Month's Question:

QUESTIONS:

1) Who was elected President of the United States at the first national election in which women were legally able to vote?

2) Indicate which one of the computer games from the list below you want if you win.


Contest Rules

  • Contest entry deadline is Tuesday, November 16, 2004. Later entries will be disqualified.

  • Only one entry per subscriber.

  • To enter, email your answer to help@historybuff.com with the subject heading "Contest Entry." From subscribers submitting the correct answer and correct subject heading, SIX will be selected to win the computer game of their choice from the list below. Not everyone that has the correct answer wins! Winners are selected from the winning entries. Winners will be notified by email within 24 hours after the contest deadline.

  • Subscribers to this newsletter that won a prize in 2004 are ineligible to win.

The Prizes


Select one of the computer games from the list below you would like to win. NOTE: The computer games are only compatable with PC's with Windows. They WILL NOT WORK on PlayStation 1 or 2, Nintendo, XBox, GameCube, etc. Not compatable with Macintosh/Apple computers.

Ultimate Civil War Battles
Robert E. Lee vs Ulysses S. Grant


Command your troops through the bloodiest battle ever fought on American soil in this historically accurate portrayal of "The War That Divided a Nation and Split Families." Choose to play as Union or Confederate soldiers. Four great Civil War battles to choose from:
  • Seven Days' Battles
  • Battle of Chancellorsville
  • Battle of Gettysburg
  • Battle of Chattanooga
Two available
Air Raid
This Is Not A Drill

Air Raid thrusts you into the adrenaline-pumping action-packed world of a World War II battleship under enemy fire. You have been stationed behind the awesome firepower of a 40mm Bofor Anti-Aircraft fixed deck gun on the bow of a battleship reminiscent of the famed U.S.S. Missouri. Your mission is to blast away at the endless onslaught of enemy attackers hell-bent on sinking your battleship. Honor, glory and pride are on the line, but your primary goal is to simply survive.

One available
War and Peace
1786 - 1815

Be in charge of the entire strategy of your empire, politics, economy, diplomacy, army, tactics and more. Take full command of your nation in a true historical contest and become a major statesman at the dawn of the fascinating nineteenth century.

One available
G. I. Combat
Episode I: Battle of Normandy

G. I. Combat is a real-time strategy at its best, testing your mind and body every step of the way. Launch yourself into this dynamic 3D environment. Grab hold of the most renowned weapons in history, including the MP-40 and the Thompson, and command some of World War II's most powerful tanks and artillery such as the Jumbo Sherman, the Mark V Panther, and the dreaded German 88.

One available
Crusades
Quest for Power

The West must march to the defense of the East. All should go, rich and poor alike, and recapture the Holy Lands from the Infidels. Every move you make has life and death consequences for your troops, so set your strategy with caution as you forge into battle.

One available



That's it for this issue.

Rick Brown

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