Tag Archives: politics

votingmachine

From the Collection: 1914 Voting Machine

 

By Olivia Schiffman, HHM Collections Intern

This ballot box, last used in Minnesota’s gubernatorial election of 1914, still holds the place cards that name the men running for office on the state and local level. On November 3, 1914, Minnesotans elected their 18th governor from among six candidates. They also cast votes in equally crowded races for offices ranging from State Treasurer to Supreme Court Clerk.

The majority winner was Democratic candidate Winfield S. Hammond. Unfortunately Hammond would only govern Minnesota for little under a year, dying in office on December 30th, 1915.

Half the population of Minnesota, however, would have no say in the election of Governor Hammond. Women were not able to vote in statewide or national elections, but they were not completely cut out from the election process. They did have the right to vote in school board elections—a constitutional amendment that came in 1875. With such limited voting rights, ballots cast by women posed a problem for election officials. How would they be able to safeguard against the possibility of a woman voting for offices restricted to male votes only?

While many districts had separate voting booths for men and women, this ballot box was used by both. A sign on the back of the machine in the bottom left reads, “BEFORE A WOMAN ENTERS THE BOOTH…” – and follows up with instructions on how to move the adjacent lever. This essentially blocked the possibility of an “illegally cast” ballot.

before-a-woman-enters

The election of 1914 would prove to be the twilight years for machines like this one. In 1920 women received their constitutional right to vote, rendering a separate system for men and woman obsolete.

Sources

MNHS Gale Family Library’s Guide to Suffrage

Politics of the Past by Zac Farber

Woman Suffrage Memorabilia

fiske-dress

Mahala Fisk Pillsbury’s Inauguration Gown

On a cold day in January 1876, Mahala Fisk Pillsbury of Minneapolis, a prominent community member and philanthropist, took on a new title: Minnesota’s First Lady. Her husband of twenty years, businessman John Sargent Pillsbury, had just been elected for his first of three terms as Minnesota’s governor.

This gown, worn by Mrs. Pillsbury at one of her husband’s inaugurations, most likely that first one, came to Hennepin History Museum many decades later after being carefully packed away and preserved by family members as a memento of the occasion.

mahalafisk

Mrs. Pillsbury. Hennepin History Museum collection. Chalk on paper.

A founding member and president of the Stevens Square home for elderly women and children, Mahala Fisk Pillsbury was a formidable force in the world of Minneapolis social services and public welfare. She was equally at home wearing a ballgown in her role as the governor’s wife or with her shirt sleeves rolled up as an active participant in the activities of the social services organizations that she founded.

You can see the gown now at Hennepin History Museum, where it is a centerpiece of Behind the Ballot Box, an exhibit exploring election on the 1st floor. The exhibit is open now through February 5.

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Humphrey for Mayor

If you’ve lived in the Twin Cities for long – or even if you’ve just passed through the MSP airport frequently – you’re likely aware of our local Humphrey connections. Those not originally from here are more likely to associate Hubert H. Humphrey with his position as Vice President of the United States under Lyndon B. Johnson, or with his 1968 presidential run, but here in Hennepin County he also left his mark as, among other things, mayor of Minneapolis.

Humphrey’s first run at mayor, in 1943, proved unsuccessful,  but he regrouped and won the office in 1945. He served as mayor until 1948, at which point he launched his political career into national politics when he successfully ran for a U.S. Senate seat.

This piece of political ephemera documents those Minneapolis mayor days. And what good is any campaign without a song? If you want to sing along but aren’t familiar with that Irish song, “Harrigan, That’s Me!” you can find an online version here.  Warning: it’s a catchy tune (ideal for any campaign, of course), so don’t blame us if you find yourself humming a little H-U-MPH-REY for the rest of the day.

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The Skinny Cats of Minnesota Politics

 

It’s an election year, and the collective eye has once again turned to politics. Hennepin History Museum’s collection is filled with campaign materials, including this pin once belonging to a Rudy Boschwitz supporter.

Rudy Boschwitz was born in Germany, moving as a young child to New Rochelle, New York, after Hitler’s rise to power. After law school, a stint in the Army, and six years working in Wisconsin, Boschwitz moved to Minnesota with his wife, Ellen, in 1963. He founded Plywood Minnesota, a home improvement company based in Fridley, and soon had 70 stores located across the Upper Midwest. As his business grew, so, too, did his activity in the Minnesota Republican party. In 1978, he successfully mounted a Senate campaign against Wendell Anderson. He served two terms in the United States Senate, losing his seat to Paul Wellstone in the 1990 election.

What was the “Skinny Cat” referenced on this pin? The DFL argued that Boschwitz’s supporters were wealthy “fat cats;” in response, the Boschwitz campaign created the “Skinny Cat Club,” consisting of individual donors who contributed less than $100. Members of the club received individually numbered pins along with invitations to special events.