Vote Early, Vote Often! Election Day Records in the National Register of Historic Places

Today’s post is by John LeGloahec, Archivist in the Electronic Records Division at the National Archives in College Park, MD.

Voters greeted by election workers on a primary election day, Birmingham, AL, 1972
PRIMARY ELECTION DAY (National Archives Identifier 545384)

Election Day is the annual day set by law for the election of public officials. It is statutorily set by the Federal Government as “the Tuesday after the first Monday in the month of November.” In the records of the National Register of Historic Places, there are about 100 properties that reference “election day” within their descriptions.

Washington Post Building, Washington DC, 1948
Sign, “Welcome Home From the Crow-Eaters,” on the front of the Washington Post Building in Washington, DC. President Harry S. Truman and Vice President Alben W. Barkley had just returned to Washington after their victory in the 1948 election–a victory not predicted by the Washington Post. (National Archives Identifier 199955)

In Washington, DC, the seat of American democracy, there have been circumstances where the paper of record in our nation’s capital has not been prepared for a particular presidential election, as seen in the photo above.  Also published in Washington DC for about 30 years during the middle part of the 20th Century was The Bulletin, a one-sheet daily of the United Publishing Company, which had its offices in the Bulletin Building on 6th Street NW (National Archives Identifier 117691993), “a modest, three-story, three-bay limestone-clad printing office constructed in 1928 . . . Although the building is constructed principally of brick and concrete, its front elevation facing 6th Street is finished with a smooth limestone veneer that incorporates four bas-relief panels at the attic level illustrating the history of printing.”

Bulletin Publisher Henry Tait “Rodier’s other major scoop was declaring Woodrow Wilson’s re-election when other papers were giving the victory of the tight race to opponent Charles Evans Hughes. When The Bulletin ceased publication in 1956, cartoonist Dick Mansfield reminded Washingtonians of this triumphant 1916 scoop by depicting a valedictory portrait of Henry Tait Rodier in the Sunday magazine section of the Washington Star . . . The Bulletin remained in print until 1956. By then it had become a minor portion of the United Publishing Company’s work, a victim of “radio, television, night baseball, and multiple editions of the big dailies.” Henry Rodier resigned as president but remained as chairman and treasurer but shut down the company and sold the property in 1963 or 1964. Even with United Publishing gone, the building remained a print shop until 1970, and, after several years’ tenancy by the D.C. Department of Human Resources, it was functioning again as a printing facility in the late 1980s, used for in-house publications of the organizations that teach transcendental meditation throughout the United States.”

Eleanor Roosevelt voting, Hyde Park, NY
Eleanor Roosevelt votes in Hyde Park, New York (National Archives Identifier 196125)

In Hyde Park, New York, at the home of Franklin Delano Roosevelt (National Archives Identifier 75317366), “overlooks the Hudson River at Hyde Park, New York, 80 miles north of Manhattan. Roosevelt gave the 33.23-acre estate and the 12-acre Library properties to the United States and oversaw passage of the enabling legislation, the Historic Sites Act of 1935 . . . The home of Franklin Roosevelt is intimately connected with events great and small that provide an insight into the man. The site was the locale of Roosevelt’s battle from 1921 to 1928 to overcome polio and return to politics. Until 1941 the two ice houses were filled with ice from ponds each winter, and FDR claimed the ice had a special taste that made drinks a little better. Each election eve, beginning in 1910, Roosevelt’s neighbors came in a torchlight parade to wish him well, and during his Presidency, he and his advisors kept running totals of election returns in the dining room. Christmas at Hyde Park was very much a part of the Presidential years. From the small study, Franklin Roosevelt delivered some of his famous “fireside chats” and made decisions that determined the world’s destiny.”

Dwight Eisenhower celebrates election results
Dwight D. Eisenhower on Election Night (National Archives Identifier 175739151)

When Dwight Eisenhower served as President, he did so as a resident of the state of Kansas.  The Eisenhower Home (National Archives Identifier 123863662) was President Eisenhower’s home from 1898, “Ike grew up in this house, living here until he left Abilene in “1911 to enter the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York . . . He resigned from the army in July 1952, to campaign for the Republican nomination for the Presidency. Successful in this effort, he handily won the 1952 election and won re-election in 1956 by an even greater margin. By his vote-getting powers Dwight Eisenhower proved himself one of the most popular political figures in American history.”

Jerry Abramson watches election results on TV

In the state of Kentucky, where Jerry Abramson (above) served as Lieutenant Governor, one can find the Kentucky SP Hatfield-McCoy Feud Historic District (National Archives Identifier 123851683), which “consists of three structures, three sites, and four graveyards in Pike County, Kentucky.”  One of the most well-known episodes of the infamous feud between the Hatfield and McCoy families took place on Election Day in 1880, and “involved Anse’s [Hatfield] eldest son, Johnson (Johnse), and Randall’s [McCoy] daughter Roseanna . . . It was on an election day in August 1880 that Johnse met Randall’s dark-haired daughter. The polling station in that area was the grounds in front of Jerry Hatfield’s house where the “hog trial” had been held. People came from miles around, including families such as the Hatfields from across the Tug on the West Virginia side, to join in the drinking and socializing that always accompanied the mountain elections. Johnse and Roseanna became lovers, and the young girl, fearing her father’s wrath, went to live with Johnse at his parents’ house on Peter Creek. Anse did not object to her living there but would not permit his son to marry a McCoy. Roseanna soon became pregnant, but by this time Johnse’s interest in her had begun to wane, and she decided to live with her Aunt Betty “Al” McCoy who had a house at Burnwell. Johnse continued to see her, however, and during one visit to Betty McCoy’s house was captured by Roseanna’s brothers. Roseanna, who disclaimed any part in their action, rode to the Hatfields to tell them of Johnse’s capture. Because of her warning, the Hatfields were able to find the McCoy brothers and force Johnse’s release. Her courage and show of faith did not result in a reconciliation, and in 1881 Johnse married Nancy McCoy, a cousin of Roseanna’s, the same year Roseanna gave birth to Johnse’s child . . . Later Roseanna moved in with relatives in Pikeville where she died about 1889, the tragic figure of a hopeless romance. She is buried beside her parents in the Dils Cemetery in Pikeville.”

Voters on bus headed to polling place

With the passing of the Civil Rights Act in the 1960s and increased opportunities for African Americans to vote, Baptist churches across the South sought to help African Americans get to the polls.  In Alabama, the Birmingham Civil Rights Historic District (National Archives Identifier 77835231), features prominently in that history. On April 6, 1963, the “first march of the Birmingham campaign toward City Hall [took place].  Prior to the march, participants gathered in the courtyard of the Gaston Motel where press and police photographers documented their presence. SCLC leaders photographed included: Rev. [Martin Luther] King, Rev. Abernathy, Rev. Walker, and Dorothy Cotton . . . The next day, on April 7, 1963, Palm Sunday, a large crowd gathered at St. Paul United Methodist Church. When the preaching was over, three Birmingham ministers – the Reverends A. D. King, Martin Luther King Jr.’s brother and the pastor of First Baptist Church, Ensley; John T. Porter, pastor of Sixth Avenue Baptist Church on the Southside; and Nelson Smith Jr., Secretary of the ACMHR and pastor of New Pilgrim Baptist Church — led a group along Sixth Avenue North towards City Hall.”

Jimmy Carter returns to White House after voting in 1980 election
Jimmy Carter and Rosalynn Carter – Arriving at the White House on election day after having voted in Plains, GA (National Archives Identifier 848401)

Presidential Elections are held every four years in the United States, with the next presidential election to take place in 2024.  In 1976, the only president not to have been elected by the people exercised his constitutional right (below), however, President Ford was defeated that year by Jimmy Carter (seen above).  Ford grew up in Grand Rapids, Michigan and his boyhood home is listed on the National Register (National Archives Identifier 25339746). Ford “lived in the house at 649 Union Avenue, SE, from 1921 to 1930, with his mother, adoptive father, and three step-brothers . . . from the time he was eight until he was seventeen . . .  While living here, Ford attracted notice for his participation in sports, and grew into an adolescent, who became captain of the football team and ran for president of his high school senior class. It can be argued that here he first began to build his public reputation, principally through his sports activities . . . The former President recalled the house on Union Avenue in this way: “the house was large and clean and we boys all had chores to do. Between six and six-thirty every morning, I had to remove the ashes from the furnace and put in the day’s supply of coal. Every night, I banked the furnace before going to bed. During the summer I cut the lawn and often had to clean out the garage””

Gerald and Betty Ford vote in the 1976 election
President Gerald R. Ford and First Lady Betty Ford Voting in the 1976 Election at Wealthy Elementary School in East Grand Rapids, Michigan (National Archives Identifier 45644327)

This post is part of an ongoing series featuring records from the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP) and National Historic Landmarks Program Records, 2013 – 2017 (National Archives ID 20812721), a series within Record Group 79: Records of the National Park Service.