Ohio History Journal

Summer-Autumn 2001
pp. 121-135
Copyright 2001 by the Ohio Historical Society. All rights reserved.
This article is presented page by page with footnotes according to the original print version. If a sentence seems to end abruptly, scroll down to continue with the next page.

Roosevelt and Taft: How the Republican Vote Split in Ohio in 1912

By Michael Haverkamp


"We stand at Armageddon, and we battle for the Lord," Teddy Roosevelt told supporters outside the Republican convention, and again as nominee of the Progressive Party, in 1912. But dramatic statements and a strong secondplace showing in 1912 aside, Roosevelt failed to return to the White House or build a lasting new party. Indeed, not all of those who considered themselves "progressives" voted for Roosevelt in 1912. Progressives in the Democratic Party remained united behind their candidate, Woodrow Wilson. Wilson won 41 percent of the vote nationally (nearly the same percentage as William Jennings Bryan in 1908), placing him well ahead of Roosevelt at 27 percent and Taft at 23 percent.1 Thus the split between progressives and conservatives remained confined to the progressive and conservative factions within that part of the electorate that had typically voted Republican. How those factions divided is an open question, largely untouched by historical inquiry. This study, relying on voting records in Ohio's counties and in the cities of Cleveland, Cincinnati, and Columbus, will examine who voted for Roosevelt and who for Taft in 1912; that is to say, who were the progressive Republicans and who the conservative Republicans.

* * * * *

The traditional interpretation of progressive politics comes from Richard Hofstadter's The Age of Reform. To Hofstadter, progressivism was a political reaction among middle-class professionals to what they perceived as their loss of elite status in the Industrial Age. By Hofstadter's theory,

Michael F. Haverkamp graduated from The Ohio State University in 1999 with a B.A. in History. He is currently producing and directing an independent feature-length movie. He wishes to thank Professors Richard Hamilton and K. Austin Kerr of the Ohio State University for their guidance in both his research and writing.

1. National and Ohio Presidential Election results from 1912 are found in The History of Presidential Elections, 1789-1968, Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., Ed. (New York, 1971), 2242. Percentages for all tables do not necessarily add up to 100.0 percent due to rounding.

How the Republican Vote Split in Ohio in 1912
Page 122

"progressives" were primarily city-dwellers, of old stock, and of the growing middle-class. Hofstadter based his theory on studies of the Progressive Party leadership.2 More recent scholarship has challenged the uniformity of Hofstadter's thesis. These scholars argue that progressive politics were defined by "shifting coalitions" in support of a diverse series of reforms, rather than by a unitary political movement with a solid and homogeneous base of support.3

And indeed, a review of local and national politics shows progressivism to be a number of movements crossing party lines and loosely connected to each other. In many cities it was typified by the efforts of Samuel Jones and Tom Johnson. Jones and Johnson introduced progressive politics to Ohio with their elections as mayor, Jones in Toledo in 1897, Johnson in Cleveland in 1901. Their successes and popularity encouraged reformers in other Ohio cities. The urban reformers sought to end boss control and eliminate municipal corruption. But along with these reforms came efforts to place railways and utilities under municipal control, create better working conditions for city workers, extend municipal services, and close tax loopholes for corporations.4 The efforts of city (or even state-level) reformers did not have great bearing on the national parties per se. They did, however, arouse public sentiment for reform that carried over to national politics while creating particular regions (like Toledo and Cleveland) that were particularly receptive to reform.

At the national level, progressive Republicans, especially those who looked to Teddy Roosevelt for leadership, took a sanguine view of the new age. Roosevelt and his supporters recognized the advantages of industrialization and urbanization while seeking to blunt their harsher edges. Roosevelt's views. evolved from the Square Deal of his presidency-the idea that government should act as an impartial arbiter between business and labor—to the New Nationalism of 1910—that government should take an active role in providing for social welfare. Nor was Roosevelt alone in the GOP in calling for reforms. While Roosevelt vied with Wisconsin Senator


2. Richard Hofstadter, The Age of Reform: From Bryan to FDR (New York, 1955), 143-47. Hofstadter cites two sources in deriving his theory of the "status revolution": Alfred D. Chandler, "The Origins of Progressive Leadership," in The Letters of Theodore Roosevelt, Vol. VIII, Elting B. Morison, Ed. (Cambridge, Mass., 1954); and George Mowry, The California Progressives (Berkeley, 1941). See Hofstadter, 145, note 8.

3. The work of John D. Buenker and John C. Burnham is the most prominent of this new interpretation. See John D. Buenker, Urban Liberalism and Progressive Reform (New York, 1973), 216-17; and Progressivism, John D. Buenker, John C. Burnham, and Robert M. Crunden Eds., (Cambridge, Mass., 1977) 5, 31, 49-52.

4. Hoyt Landon Warner, Progressivism in Ohio, 1897-1917 (Columbus, Ohio, 1964), 23, 33, 39-41, 56; Steven J. Diner, A Very Different Age: Americans of the Progressive Era (New York, 1998), 208.

How the Republican Vote Split in Ohio in 1912
Page 123

Robert La Follette for head of the party's progressive wing, President Taft, the head of the conservative faction by default, was prosecuting corporations under the Sherman Anti-Trust Act at a pace far beyond that of Roosevelt's Administration. Taft would nonetheless lead the conservative cause in the 1912 election once Roosevelt declared himself a candidate.

The fight for the Republican nomination was vigorous and mean-spirited. The mud-slinging culminated in Ohio, where Roosevelt defeated Taft soundly in the May primary, 55 percent to 40 percent. The Ohio primary, though an embarrassing defeat for Taft, was in line with other states that held primaries.5 And while Roosevelt's primary victories did not net him the nomination (only thirteen states had primaries in 1912), they did prove his popularity with the Republican rank-and-file and provide the basis for the breach. Roosevelt's advantage over Taft, however, faded in November. Nationally TR won 27 percent of the vote to Taft's 23 percent, and in Ohio Taft rebounded to win 27 percent of the vote to TR's 22 percent. Before examining the November results in more detail, let us consider why Taft recovered ground on Roosevelt from the primaries to the general election.

It should be noted that primaries have always attracted a subset of the November electorate. Ohio in 1912 was a case in point: the total votes cast in the Republican primary came to just 59 percent of the total votes cast for Roosevelt and Taft in November. It seems Roosevelt's supporters were more likely to vote in the primary, a key factor in Roosevelt's May triumph.

Three other factors aided Taft in November. First, the popular Roosevelt made no campaign appearances in Ohio in the fall. A swing through the Buckeye state, planned for October 21 and 22, was canceled after an assassination attempt on TR in Milwaukee. Second, conservatives commanded the party organization in Ohio, as they did in nearly every state.6 The leaders of the Progressive Party lacked the time (just a few months) to put together an effective party organization that could get out the vote. Third, and most important, many Republican voters were willing to back Roosevelt for the Republican nomination but would not take the next step and support a new party. For many the appeal of Roosevelt the man outweighed the appeal of progressivism as a movement, but in November of 1912 one could not vote for Roosevelt without voting Progressive. Voters do not change parties lightly.

When it came to November, the choice facing Republican voters in 1912,


5. Ohio primary results are from William Manners, TR and Will: A Friendship that Split the Republican Party, (New York, 1969) 232-33. Overall primary results are from G. Scott Thomas, The Pursuit of the White House: A Handbook of Presidential Election Statistics and History, (New York, 1987), 104-05.

6. Two exceptions were California, where Governor Hiram Johnson put the Golden State in the Progressive column, and Wisconsin, where Robert La Follette's "silent endorsement" of Wilson helped the Democrats win that state.

How the Republican Vote Split in Ohio in 1912
Page 124

the choice between Taft and Roosevelt, was one between representative government and direct democracy, between breaking up the trusts through the Sherman Act or regulating them by a federal commission, and between a minimal or substantial role for the federal government in providing for the social welfare. Of course such dichotomies oversimplify things, but they capture the basic differences between Taft and Roosevelt as they tried to present themselves and as newspapers portrayed them over the course of the campaign.7 What began as a fierce fight between the president and his mentor devolved into the "stolen convention" in June. From there Roosevelt ran a spirited campaign that in the main took aim at the Democratic candidate. Taft, who in his own words had "no part to play but that of the conservative," was content to watch things unfold in Washington.8 For Wilson the task was simply to hold on to Bryan's vote, which he did to capture the presidency.

Now to the main point: who liked Roosevelt and who liked Taft in November?

* * * * *

First, we will turn to the Ohio county results and examine them by urbanization and region. Nineteen ten census data does not allow for a precise definition of urbanization.9 The census divided areas between those with more than 2,500 people and those with less. Such a dichotomy is employed in Table 1 to define rural and urban areas. As the table shows, Roosevelt fared better in urban areas, and Taft in rural areas.10 Taft ran eleven points ahead of Roosevelt in the entirely rural counties, but only one point ahead in the primarily urban counties. This lends credence to the thesis that Progressive support was stronger in urban areas, but the difference is slight, with Roosevelt's support increasing only 5 percent from the most rural to the most urban counties. Meanwhile, the two largest groups of counties, with anywhere from 10 percent to 60 percent of their populace

7. My interpretation of the issues of the 1912 campaign is based primarily on my review of The Cleveland Leader and The Cleveland Plain-Dealer. I reviewed campaign coverage in these two papers during the Republican convention (June 17-24, 1912) and from the Progressive convention through to the election (August 6-November 4, 1912). Among secondary sources, Francis L. Broderick, Progressivism at Risk: Electing a President in 1912 (New York, 1989) provides the best look at the key issues of 1912 campaign.

8. Broderick, 164.

9. These classifications are derived from 1910 census data. See The Thirteenth Census of the United States, Supplement for Ohio, Bureau of the Census (Washington, DC, 1913), 608-23,632-34.

10. All county totals are found in Annual Report of the Secretary of State, Compiled by Chas. H. Graves (Springfield, Ohio, 1913).

How the Republican Vote Split in Ohio in 1912
Page 125


( 29%)
Over 60%:
( 39%)
Source: Tabulations are based on Annual Report of the Secretary of State, Compiled by Chas. H. Graves, Springfield, Ohio, 1913, and The Thirteenth Census of the United States, Supplement for Ohio, Bureau of the Census, Washington, D.C., 1913. Back to page 124.

living in urban areas, and containing about 500,000 voters, placed Taft ahead of Roosevelt by a comfortable margin. But the county results by urbanization were not entirely consistent. In Geauga County, for instance, Roosevelt won 51 percent of the vote (to Taft's 18 percent), even though the county was entirely rural. In fact, the twenty-eight counties where Roosevelt ran ahead of Taft were fairly evenly divided among the four different levels of urbanization used in Table 1. In short, urbanization had little impact on the vote for TR and Taft.

Ohio voters varied more definitely by region. As Table 2 indicates, Roosevelt ran much better than Taft in the northeast and held a slight advantage in the northwest. Taft outpaced Roosevelt in the central, southeast, and southwest regions of Ohio, with his margins over Roosevelt increasing through those three regions. Each region showed a high degree of consistency in its results. The southwest region stood out in particular. Roosevelt captured between 10 percent and 19 percent of the vote in all eighteen southwest counties, while Taft won at least 30 percent in all but

How the Republican Vote Split in Ohio in 1912
Page 126



Source: Tabulations are based on Annual Report of the Secretary of State, Compiled by Chas. H. Graves, Springfield, Ohio, 1913, and The Thirteenth Census of the United States, Supplement for Ohio, Bureau of the Census, Washington, D.C., 1913. Back to page 125.

three. In the northeast, by contrast, Roosevelt won at least 25 percent of the vote in all but two counties, while Taft won less than 25 percent of the vote in all but two. The southeast and central regions also showed consistent results, with Taft ahead of TR in all but two counties in each of those regions. The northwest showed the most heterogeneous results, with Taft ahead of Roosevelt in twelve of twenty-one counties but trailing Roosevelt in aggregate terms by three percentage points. Regional differences, in short, were much stronger and more consistent than differences in community size. While TR's support varied just five percentage points between the least and most urban counties, it varied seventeen points between counties in the southwest and northeast regions.

Let us take a closer look at the eight Ohio counties with the largest cities in the state. As Table 3 shows, the disparities between those counties are striking. Roosevelt ran well ahead of Taft in three cities (Cleveland, Toledo, and Akron), Taft ran well ahead of Roosevelt in two cities (Cincinnati and Dayton), and Taft and Roosevelt were close to even in three others

How the Republican Vote Split in Ohio in 1912
Page 127

Source: Tabulations are based on Annual Report of the Secretary of State, Compiled by Chas. H. Graves, Springfield, Ohio, 1913, and The Thirteenth Census of the United States, Supplement for Ohio, Bureau of the Census, Washington, D.C., 1913. Back to page 126.

(Columbus, Canton, and Youngstown.)11 Taft's overall strength in Ohio urban areas is surprising, given that Roosevelt won a plurality in eight of the ten largest cities in the nation.12 Results from the Ohio cities show that support for the Progressive Party varied considerably from city to city, and that


11. Note that Wilson's support varies much less from city to city than either Taft's or Roosevelt's.

12. It seems that the bigger the city, the better TR did. He won a plurality in the top three

How the Republican Vote Split in Ohio in 1912
Page 128

urban support, therefore, is an insufficient explanation of the Progressive phenomenon.

Several factors could have impacted the vote within each city. Party organizations, local elites and the press all influenced how voters understood the election. The influence of all three was likely stronger in rural areas and in poor sections of the cities. In the countryside the partisan press still thrived; in the slums political machines still held powerful sway. Political influence often extended down to the local pastor (or, in some cases, the local saloonkeeper). These are no easy factors for a historian to gage. Socioeconomic conditions and local politics will be examined here to take a closer look at the three largest cities, Cleveland, Cincinnati, and Columbus. We will briefly examine the local press as well.

The transformations that rocked American society between 1861 and 1914 were felt as keenly in Cleveland as in any city in the nation. The city's population grew at a tremendous pace, quadrupling in the thirty years from 1870 to 1900, and nearly doubling again over the next ten. By 1910, 560,663 people resided in Cleveland, making it the sixth-largest city in the nation and the largest in the state. Like other industrial centers such as New York or Chicago, but unlike any other Ohio city, Cleveland was inundated with immigrants. By 1910, 35 percent of Cleveland's residents were foreignborn, with another 40 percent having at least one foreign-born parent. The nature of that immigration was changing. Germans and Austrians still comprised the largest numbers of immigrants, but Hungarians, Poles, and Russians ranked right behind them.13 Whereas in 1 890 only 19 percent of Cleveland's foreign-born were from southeast Europe, by 1910 57 percent were. Cleveland's growing industrial economy was the main source of attraction for new arrivals to America. While the population of Cleveland grew four-fold between 1880 and 1920, growth in manufacturing employment grew eight-fold.14


New York, Chicago, and Philadelphia-as well as in eight of the top ten. Rounding out the top ten in population were St. Louis, Boston, Cleveland, Baltimore, Pittsburgh, Detroit and Buffalo. See George Mowry, "Election of 1912," in The History of American Presidential Elections, 1789-1968 (New York, 1968), 2165. Mowry does not report in which two of the top ten cities Roosevelt failed to win a plurality, although one of them must have been Cleveland. In another work, Mowry reports that TR won 35 percent of the vote in the 1 8 largest cities, trailing Wilson at 41 percent, with Taft at 23 percent. See Mowry, Theodore Roosevelt and the Progressive Movement, (Madison, Wisc., 1947), 280.

13. Justin B. Galford, "The Foreign-Born and Urban Growth in the Great Lakes, 1850-1950" (unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, New York University, 1958), 23.

14. Naphtali Hoffman, "The Process of Economic Development in Cleveland, 1825-1920,"

How the Republican Vote Split in Ohio in 1912
Page 129

The heart of Cleveland's industry lay in the "Flats," the area at the mouth of the Cuyahoga River. Factories extended from there south along the Cuyahoga and east on the lakeshore. In sharp contrast to these working-class areas was Euclid Avenue on the city's east side. Euclid in its prime was home to Cleveland's wealthiest residents, and in 1912 it remained the axis around which the majority of Cleveland's old stock residents lived.15 The immigrants were everywhere. In only one ward did the foreign-born comprise less than 20 percent of the population (Ward 25, on the eastern fringes of the city). The largest concentrations of immigrants lived in the industrial sectors along the Cuyahoga or on the city's south side. The former consisted mainly of recent arrivals, Slavic immigrants, many of whom sought only to make some money and return to their homelands. The southside immigrants lived alongside more established, working-class communities of Scotch, Welsh, Germans, and Austrians. The west side, mainly working-class as well, had a strong German and fish character. Meanwhile, the rise of the street car led many middle-class residents to flee the central city for the east-side suburbs that had long been home to wealthy, old-stock Clevelanders.16 Others fled the city limits entirely, moving to burgeoning outlying communities like Lakewood and Cleveland Heights.17

Cleveland politics were dominated by Democratic Mayor Tom Johnson from 1901 until 1909. Johnson drew on a working-class/middle-class coalition for his strong political support. His main constituency lay in the working-class areas of the city's west side, particularly among the German and Irish communities. Workers liked Johnson both for his policies and his sympathetic rhetoric.18 At the same time, Johnson was able to hold his own on the east side, otherwise a "Republican Gibraltar."19 Johnson's prior success in business made him respectable, and his talk of civic responsibility and a more efficient municipal government added appeal. In fact, the Cleveland Chamber of Commerce often supported Johnson's policies. Johnson had less success among south-side voters, where union support ran high and independent political action was preferred.

Johnson's strength helped progressives come to power within the


(unpublished Masters thesis, Case Western Reserve University, 1980), 140-42.

15. Michael Wesley Suman, "The Radical Urban Politics of the Progressive Era: An Analysis of the Political Transformation in Cleveland, Ohio, 1875-1909," (unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, UCLA, 1992), 277, 280; Carol A. Beal and Ronald R. Weiner, "The Sixth City: Cleveland in Three Stages of Urbanization," in The Birth of Modern Cleveland, Thomas F. Campbell and Edward M. Miggins, eds. (Cleveland, 1988), 47.

16. Suman, 614, 777-79.

17. Carol Poh Miller and Robert Wheeler, Cleveland: A Concise History, 1796-1990 (Bloomington, Ind., 1990), 103.

18. Suman, 551-611.

19. Ibid., 778.

How the Republican Vote Split in Ohio in 1912
Page 130

Cleveland Republican Party. Locally the GOP broke Johnson's coalition only in 1909, after Johnson failed to mediate a lengthy street car workers' strike. German voters on the west side defected, and a Republican was elected mayor.20 However, Newton Baker, a committed protégé of Johnson, recaptured the mayor's office for the Democrats in 1911.

Roosevelt's strong showing in Cleveland in 1912 was testimony to the strong support for progressivism in Cleveland. The Republican Party was forced to adapt to Johnson's reform politics. The GOP's return to power in Cleveland in 1909 was due in large measure to the party's ability to cast itself as progressive and steal some of Johnson's thunder. The "stand-pat element" held very little sway in Cleveland. Indeed, Taft won only 13 percent of the vote—to Roosevelt's 31 percent—in Cleveland, and in only two wards did Taft finish within five percentage points of his political mentor. Conservatives were hard-pressed to find support in Cleveland during the Progressive Era.

Analysis of the Cleveland wards reveals a sharp regional cleavage in the voting results.21 While Taft fared poorly throughout Cleveland, Roosevelt ran better in some areas, worse in others. He ran best in the affluent east side, stretching from Ward 12 on the Cuyahoga to Ward 26 in the northeast corner of the city. Euclid Avenue sits in the center of this region. Here lay all seven wards that Roosevelt carried, and here Roosevelt won 38 percent of the vote, ahead of Wilson at 35 percent. The contrast between this section of the city and other areas is striking. On the west side of Cleveland and the lakeshore area, Roosevelt ran well behind Wilson, 27 percent to 49 percent. Roosevelt fared even worse in the southeast section of the city, where immigration levels ran highest. Wilson took 50 percent of the vote here, to TR's 24 percent. Thus the 1912 presidential results adhered to the dynamics of Cleveland politics, with the more affluent, more native and more Republican east side giving stronger support to Roosevelt, and the more working-class, more immigrant and more Democratic west side, lakeshore, and south side giving stronger support to Wilson.

In contrast with Cleveland, the Industrial Age did not transform Cincinnati so dramatically. Cincinnati's population did triple between 1880 and 1910, reaching 363,591 by the latter date. And Cincinnati did industrialize—in fact, Cincinnati was the nation's third-leading manufacturer in 1867, trailing New York and Philadelphia. But Cincinnati was surpassed by Cleveland and other cities situated closer to raw materials


20. Ibid., 612-26, 779, 788.

21. Voting results for Cleveland's wards come from Board of Cuyahoga County Commissioners, Abstracts of Votes: November 5, 1912, The Cuyahoga County Archives.

How the Republican Vote Split in Ohio in 1912
Page 131

in the coming decades.22 As in other cities, the streetcar allowed the population to spread out. The old "walking city," lying in a basin of the Ohio River and flanked by three hillsides, was transformed. Two new sectors emerged, extending out from the original city. Using Zane Miller's terminology, we will call the old city the Circle, and the two new sectors the Zone and the Hilltops. Economic status differentiated each.

The Circle was the poorest section of Cincinnati. Though still home of the city's business and financial districts, poverty was the "common denominator" of the Circle's residents. Otherwise the Circle's population was quite diverse, consisting mainly of "recent arrivals": blacks and whites from the South, many German and Irish immigrants (though their numbers were declining), and a new complement of immigrants from southern and eastern Europe.23 Residents of the Zone were better-off than those of the Circle. Much of the city's industrial development occurred here, especially in the Mill Creek Valley on the city's west side. Zone residents were "largely skilled or semi-skilled laborers with little formal education," with a modest number of businessmen and professionals.24 Of the three sections of the city, the Zone was undergoing the most significant population growth. Again, the population was diverse, but less so than in the Circle. The Hilltops was home to Cincinnati's wealthiest residents and was comprised almost entirely of businessmen and professionals. Though the Hilltops' populace was by no means homogeneous, it was less diverse than the other two areas.25

Politics in turn-of-the-century Cincinnati were dominated by Republican "boss" George Cox. However, Cox's grip on power would weaken during the Progressive Era. While many Zone and Hilltop residents were willing to accept Cox in the 1890s, they gradually grew alienated by his control of the Circle through ward bosses and graft, along with his general aversion to progressive reform. Anti-Cox Republicans joined with reform-minded Democrats to unite the Zone and Hilltops and produce a Democratic victory in 1905.26

Charles Taft, publisher of the Cincinnati Times-Star and William Howard's brother, would lead the Cincinnati GOP thereafter. Cox remained a prominent player in Cincinnati politics until 1911 , when he was indicted for perjury. Even then one of his lieutenants, Rudolph Hynicka, emerged to replace him, keeping Circle voters wedded to the Republican Party. At the same time, Democrat Henry Hunt, elected mayor in 1911 after four years of Republicans,


22. Cincinnati Federal Writers' Project of the Works Progress Administration in Ohio, They Built a City: 150 Years of lndustrial Cincinnati, published by the Cincinnati Post, 1938, 6-7.

23. Zane Miller, Boss Cox's Cincinnati: Urban Politics in the Progressive Era (New York,

1968), 13, 15.

24. Ibid., 32.

25. Ibid., 9-55. This includes Miller's full description of each sector.

26. Ibid., 179-82, 187-88.

How the Republican Vote Split in Ohio in 1912
Page 132

was unable to engender popular support for progressive reform.27

Thus, support for a native son, combined with a local Republican organization steadfastly opposed to the Bull Moose insurgency, helped Taft carry Cincinnati by fewer than 200 votes over Wilson. The Progressive Party found little support in the Queen City, and Taft (with 40 percent of the Cincinnati vote) received better than three votes for every one for Roosevelt (13 percent). Simply put, a progressive wing had yet to take hold in the Cincinnati GOP.

Taft's base of support was in the Circle, where he picked up 48 percent of the vote.28 Though not as strong as in its heyday, the Cox machine still turned out nearly half the inner-city vote for Taft, testament to the machine's power. His support dropped substantially in the Zone and Hilltops, to 38 percent. In fact, only Taft's strong support in the Circle allowed him to carry Cincinnati over Wilson. By the same token, Taft did run a close second to Wilson in the Zone and Hilltops, indicating considerable support for conservatism among Cincinnati's upper and middle classes. Roosevelt's share of the vote dropped from 16 percent in the Hilltops, to 12 percent in the Zone, to 9 percent in the Circle. To be sure, Roosevelt's percentages were low throughout the city, but there was a direct correlation between socioeconomic status and support for Roosevelt in Cincinnati, with those better-off more likely to support TR. Roosevelt's support correlated, too, with those areas of the city that had proved most receptive to reform.

While Cleveland Republicans welcomed the Bull Moose insurgency with open arms, and Cincinnati Republicans with a cold shoulder, Columbus Republicans had a decidedly mixed reaction. Though its population had tripled over the past thirty years, climbing to 181,511, Columbus in 1912 still clung to its "small-town ambience."29 Its population remained fairly homogeneous (native-born whites comprised 84 percent of the population in 1910), and while industry developed it did not hold the same place in Columbus' economy as it did in larger cities. The growth of industry was


27. lola Hessler Silberstein, Cincinnati Then and Now (Cincinnati, 1982) 149, 151, 167. Hunt made his name as city prosecutor by proving that Boss Cox had lied in 1906 before a state legislative committee when he said he never received kickbacks from city officials. Hunt was an unpopular mayor due to numerous strikes and a controversial proposal for a publicly-owned municipal railway.

28. Voting results for Cincinnati's wards come from Hamilton County Board of Elections, Abstracts of Votes: 1912. Zane Miller, using this same source, arrived at slightly different vote totals in the 1912 presidential vote. Miller says Wilson carried Cincinnati, with 31,221 votes to Taft's 30,588. Miller does not give totals for any other candidates, nor does he show the totals in each ward. It is entirely possible that my data is slightly inaccurate, as I had to add up the precinct totals to arrive at the ward totals for each candidate. The main point, that Taft ran well ahead of TR in Cincinnati, is the same regardless. See Miller, 229-30.

29. Betty Garrett with Edward R. Lentz, Columbus: America's Crossroads (Tulsa, Okla., 1980), 105.

How the Republican Vote Split in Ohio in 1912
Page 133

fueled less by foreign immigrants than by rural-to-urban migration from the surrounding countryside. As Columbus grew the population began to spread out and differentiate along class lines. Many of the rich, aided by the streetcar, moved to homes outside the city limits, while the middle class moved into areas (like the downtown residences along Main, Rich, and State streets) formerly available only to the wealthy. Middle and upper-class suburbs developed along the fringes of the city, in the east around Broad Street (Columbus's Euclid Avenue) and to the north in the University district. The working class, meanwhile, lived closer to the city's center, in places like the Milo-Grogan district (north of the rail yards near Cleveland Avenue) and the Flytown ghetto (near Goodale Park).30

With the rise of industry came a steady erosion of Columbus's smalltown environment. For years Washington Gladden, pastor of the First Congregational Church and a nationally recognized leader of the Social Gospel movement, preached the evils of business, the scourge of poverty, and the rights of labor in the city. Gladden was a consistent champion of progressive reform in Columbus. But Gladden's calls for social justice were given added urgency by the streetcar operators' strike of 1910. The strike of 600 workers began on July 24 and soon became violent. The strike did not end until October 18, after Governor Judson Harmon called in troops. The streetcar operators won no concessions from management. That November, a disenchanted electorate, angered by the strike, cast 12,000 votes for Socialist Party candidates in the city council election, nearly 30 percent of the total.31

Columbus voters, then, were not immune to the problems of urbanization and industrialization, nor were they unwilling to listen to political radicals. But the leader of the reform movement in Columbus was a pastor, not a skilled politician like Tom Johnson. Columbus was not dominated by a conservative machine, but it was not a center of reform either. So it is not surprising that Columbus voters divided between the "conservative" Taft and the "progressive" Roosevelt. Taft picked up 25 percent of the Columbus vote and Roosevelt 24 percent.

Along class lines, Taft ran best in the two wealthiest wards, centered around Broad Street, where he won 31 percent to Roosevelt's 24 percent.32


30. Ibid.

31. Osman C. Hooper, History of the City of Columbus: From the Founding of Franklinton in 1797, through the World War Period, to the Year 1920 (Columbus, Ohio, 1920), 61-62.

32. Voting results for Columbus' wards from The Franklin County Board of Elections, Abstracts of Votes, 1912-1915. It can be found at the Ohio Historical Society. Unlike Cleveland and Cincinnati, an economic study of Columbus' wards has been done, giving the researcher some quantitative date to proceed with. See Roderick Duncan McKenzie, The Neighborhood: A Study of the Local Life in the City of Columbus, Ohio (Chicago, 1923), 153. For qualitative information on Columbus neighborhoods see Garrett, 105.

How the Republican Vote Split in Ohio in 1912
Page 134

Roosevelt ran best in the University district, then emerging as a middle-class suburb. TR won 32 percent of the vote, ahead of Taft at 25 percent. Neither the working-class wards nor those in the middle of the economic spectrum strongly favored Taft or Roosevelt. And while the difference within the Broad Street and University district wards was not great, it shows that Taft was preferred among upper-class voters in Columbus, and Roosevelt among middle-class voters.

Looking at all three cities, Roosevelt fared better in more affluent areas. With the exception of Cincinnati (a special case), the same can be said of Taft. However, the variation in support for TR between upper-middle-class wards and working-lower-class wards was small. This fact undermines Hofstadter's contention that the Bull Moose insurgency was primarily an urban, professional phenomenon. Indeed, the real differences are found not within the cities but between the cities. Local politics, that is, the success of progressive candidates and causes at the polls in previous elections and the standing of the progressive and conservative factions within the Republican Party, was the primary factor affecting the 1912 presidential electoral results with regard to the Republican split in Cleveland, Cincinnati, and Columbus.

Another key factor, not to be overlooked, was the local press. While the press was not uniformly partisan as in the Gilded Age, some major dailies were clearly biased, and press endorsements still carried considerable weight. Of the three cities examined here in detail, each had a daily paper that was part of the Scripps-McRae chain: the Press in Cleveland, the Post in Cincinnati, and the Citizen in Columbus.33 These three papers, which featured similar, if not verbatim, editorial content, did not endorse anyone but leaned heavily toward the two "progressive" candidates, Wilson and Roosevelt. In Cleveland the Scripps-McRae Press dominated with a circulation of 160,000. Trailing it were the Plain-Dealer at 90,000 and the Leader at 55,500. The Plain-Dealer endorsed Wilson, while the Leader, strongly partisan, backed Roosevelt. Wilson and Roosevelt ran one-two in Cleveland. Charles Taft's Times-Star rivaled the Scripps-McRae Post in Cincinnati, each having a circulation of about 150,000. The Times-Star was unabashedly pro-Taft. Taft carried Cincinnati. In Columbus three papers boasted circulations around 45,000: the Ohio State Journal, the Dispatch,


33. Nine Ohio newspapers were reviewed for their editorial content: the eight papers mentioned above and the Cincinnati Enquirer, which, with a circulation around 60,000, endorsed no presidential candidate in 1912. Each paper's editorial page was reviewed for the period beginning October 1, 1912, and ending November 4, 1912. For circulation figures, see N.W. Ayer and Son's American Newspaper Annual and Directory (1912), 709-17. On the Progressive Era press, see Michael E. McGerr, The Decline of Popular Politics: The American North: 1865-1928 (Port Chester, N.Y., 1986), 134-35, 151-56, 171-75.

How the Republican Vote Split in Ohio in 1912
Page 135

and the Scripps-McRae Citizen. The Ohio State Journal gave lukewarm support to Taft, and the Dispatch endorsed no one. In Columbus TR and Taft ran nearly even. In short, press support and public support did correlate among Taft and Roosevelt in 1912.

In conclusion, the standard hypothesis of Progressive support, articulated by Richard Hofstadter, says that Roosevelt's supporters in 1912 were typically young, well-educated, urban, middle-class, native-born Protestants. My findings, however, show that regional differences and local factors were of most importance in dividing the vote between Roosevelt and Taft. These findings fit with the view of more recent scholars, that the Progressive movement meant different things to different people and had diverse bases of support that varied from city to city and state to state. Certainly responses to the Progressive movement were very different in Cleveland, Cincinnati, and Columbus. Indeed, the differences between these three cities show how local factors divided the vote far more than class, ethnicity, or any other factor.34

To my knowledge, this study is the first to examine the 1912 split at the ward level in individual cities. How representative my findings about Ohio are to other cities and states remains an open question. Given the importance of the local factor in dividing the 1912 vote in Ohio, future studies of the Taft-Roosevelt split should pay close attention to local politics. In Ohio this held the key to the Republican vote.


34. I did look at nativity as a variable both in my analysis of the county results and in the wards of Cleveland, Cincinnati and Columbus. Voting results revealed that native-born rural residents did not support Roosevelt. But older stock residents in more urban areas, and in large cities in particular, did tend to support Roosevelt. This makes sense by the traditional interpretation of the Progressive Era as a response to industrial, urban America. Those living in cities, who were intimately aware of the changes taking place, were more likely to support progressive reforms which they thought would alleviate some of the consequences of industrialization and urbanization: bosses, corruption, corporate arrogance, unjust treatment of labor and low standards of living. Those living in rural areas were less likely to be concerned about issues which did not so immediately affect them. It must be noted, though, that voting differences between areas with high and low proportions of first and second-generation Americans were small. The local factor remained the most decisive.