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Election Excitement in 1884

In November of 1884, Grover Cleveland narrowly defeated Republican James G. Blaine to become the first Democrat to be elected President since 1856. The tumultuous national contest, as well as state and local races, were watched with intense interest in Nebraska, where crowds scanned newspaper bulletin boards for the latest election news. The Daily State Journal (Lincoln), on Thursday, November 6, 1884, published election results for Lancaster County amid great excitement as national returns trickled in.

The Journal, a Republican paper, reported: "The large number of doubtful states and the slowness with which the returns came in, made it impossible to gather any definite idea as to the result Tuesday night, so there was no abatement in the public interest in the returns yesterday. Besides the large number of people in the city, who thronged every place where any news was to be secured, every precinct in the county was represented by men who came in with returns from their precinct, or came simply to get the returns from the national contest. There were also many in from neighboring towns in quest of the latest news.

"THE JOURNAL kept its bulletin board ornamented all day with the latest returns, which were eagerly scanned by anxious crowds, who broke into enthusiastic cheers as the figures showed more and more favorable indications for the republicans. An occasional report of democratic gains elicited a feeble show of enthusiasm from the democratic members of the crowd, but it was doomed to a short life.

"At 4:30 p.m. THE JOURNAL issued an extra with the returns up to that hour. It had been announced beforehand and an immense crowd gathered around the doors as the hour approached. They rushed into the office as soon as the papers began to come up from the press room, and not less than 2,000 people probably passed in at one door and out the other as they secured their papers. Newsboys were sent out to distribute these and they were scattered broadcast over the city. The rush to get the latest news was ludicrous, and when the boys first appeared they were nearly pulled to pieces by the crowds that broke for them pell-mell as soon as they came in sight.

"The [State] Democrat's bulletin board attracted a crowd that showed considerable enthusiasm and rent the air with bourbon yells as the early reports of democratic gains came in. But when the knight of the chalk and eraser came out and bulletined the probability that Blaine had carried New York [which proved false], the hungry horde lost its appetite for news and silently dropped to pieces and disappeared." The Democrats' disappointment was premature. Blaine carried Lancaster County, but his narrow loss to Cleveland in New York cost him the election.

(November 2008)



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