Ohio History Journal

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The importance of the immigrant in the political life of Cleve-

land was recognized at an early date, both by their own leaders

and by native born politicians. The foreigner realizes the value of

team  play and may organize for spoils, but he has frequently

shown independence and has voted a split ticket. With the in-

crease in naturalization which has taken place since the war, the

foreign vote has become increasingly important. The party in

control at the time of arrival usually has had the greatest in-

fluence. In general most of the immigrants have been Democrats.

In 1924 Robert M. LaFollette carried the city, in 1928 Alfred E

Smith, and in 1932 and 1936 Franklin D. Roosevelt. In the first

two elections the county was carried by the Republicans, due to

the vote in the suburbs which was largely native born.1

In the period 1870-1913 the immigrant reaching Cleveland

from eastern seaports had the same political importance that the

Irish immigrant of an earlier day had in the elections of seaboard

cities. That early Irish immigrant frequently voted several times

the day he landed. While no evidence exists that this happened

in Cleveland, many of the political abuses which were character-

istic of American cities in the last fifty years were to be found

in the control of the immigrant voter in Cleveland. Until 1913

the immigrant arriving in Cleveland was entirely dependent upon

being met by relatives, friends, or a representative of a local

political boss. The latter was usually an opportunist, and this sit-

uation gave him the advantage of placing the new arrival under

obligation to him. Uncertainty of the time of arrival of special


1 Principal sources for the material in this article were newspapers and personal

interviews. The writer is especially indebted to Mr. Clark E. Miller for valuable

introductions and suggestions, and to Mr. Louis J. Simon for assistance in obtaining

figures from the records of the Board of Elections.