A large drawing of the face of newly-elected President Woodrow Wilson dominated page 1 of the Lewiston Evening Journal 100 years ago today.
The headline announced a “landslide” victory for Wilson over Republican President William Howard Taft, who was seeking a second term, and Teddy Roosevelt, the “Bull Moose” candidate for the progressive party who was the nation’s 26th president from 1901 to 1909.
Communication was by telegraph, and the public was becoming accustomed to same-day news reports across the nation.
“Congratulations have been pouring in on the Lewiston Journal all day Wednesday for the promptness, fairness and fullness of its election night bulletin service,” a story said. “This service was in three parts — the printed bulletin on Journal block; the use of the six-horned pluraphone in the hands of an annunciator from the windows of H.L. Furbush’s dental rooms in Journal Block; and the great motion-picture and stereopticon bulletin show on Lisbon Street.”
The crowd on Lisbon Street “was one of the greatest ever gathered there,” according to the newspaper’s election day reporting. “Three ways at once the news was coming and there was something doing. Windows in offices of the east side of Lisbon Street were filled with spectators. Special squads of officers were required to keep the car-lines (trolleys) open to traffic.”
This wasn’t the first time Lewiston-Auburn residents were treated to then-state-of-the-art communication capabilities for a major news event. Just a few weeks earlier, crowds of sports fans jammed Park Street near the newspaper’s offices as play-by-play action from the 1912 World Series between the Boston Red Sox and New York Giants was telegraphed and immediately chalked on a large board a dozen or more feet above street level.
The reporting of vote tallies on the evening of Tuesday, Nov. 5, 1912, made use of a novel method of conveying the national results. Bertram M. Corbett of Orange, N.J., representative of Thomas A. Edison (Inc.), was in town and he agreed, with the assistance of Manager Gray of the Mystic Theatre in Lewiston, to set up his own projection equipment. The election progress was to be shown as it was received throughout the evening on a screen visible from the street.
For a while, it seemed that the innovative endeavor would not take place. At nearly the last moment, organizers of the newspaper’s efforts were unexpectedly informed that the trustees of the nearby Masonic building had voted not to permit hanging a screen on the front of the Coe Block.
The story said, “Reasons were not given — simply that they had so voted. Appeal made to certain members thereof that the mere throwing of motion pictures on the front of the building could do no harm, were of no avail. The fact that the Lewiston Journal was doing this at its own expense; that it was only twice in a lifetime; that it tended to make Lewiston a busier and bigger town, were all mentioned. Nothing doing.
“So we went elsewhere,” the newspaper reported, "and tho it was a snug rub, we got there.” The show went on from a projector placed in a window of the Odlin and Odlin real estate firm to a screen across the street on the front of Union Block.
That election’s results showed Wilson capturing 11 of Androscoggin County’s 14 towns. The Democratic majorities in Lewiston, Lisbon and Minot put Wilson at the top, but Roosevelt and the Progressive party which had been formed only a few months earlier, won the other 11 towns in the county. Incumbent President Taft was a distant third in Androscoggin County.
Dave Sargent is a freelance writer and a native of Auburn. He can be reached by sending email to firstname.lastname@example.org.