Presidential Candidates at Hampton Beach
"Our Town" By James W. Tucker
Thursday, August 21, 1952
[NOTE: Photos not included with original article]
[Autographed photo courtesy John & Connie Holman]
The fact that the Republican vice-presidential candidate, U. S. Senator Richard M. Nixon of California, visited Hampton on Wednesday, August 20, brings to mind the campaign visits of two other great Americans, one a Republican and the other a Democrat. Charles Evans Hughes came to Hampton Beach in 1916 and Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1932. They were candidates for the presidency. Hughes was defeated by Woodrow Wilson, running for a second term in a very close election, the result of which was not definitely known until the day following. The electoral vote was 277 to 254. Wilson's plurality of the popular vote was only 591,385 out of a total of some 18 million votes. Roosevelt won over Hoover who was seeking a second term. The electoral vote was 472 to 59 and the Democrat had a seven million plurality of a popular vote which aggregated over 39 million. Since Roosevelt came to Hampton Beach in 1932 we have not had a Republican president. Perhaps the visit of Nixon will be a happy augury for the Republican party. Maybe it works only in the case of the top candidate. In that case, "Sherm" had better bring "Ike" to the Fire Station for lobsters and clams before the election.
[Photo courtesy Louis DuBois]
The Hughes Visit in 1916
Charles Evans Hughes came to Hampton Beach on Thursday, September 7, 1916. He, with Mrs. Hughes, enjoyed the hospitality of the Rockingham County Republican Club during their brief sojourn in our town. It was "Governor's Day" of the second annual Carnival Week and among the assorted celebrities on hand to greet candidate Hughes were Governor Rolland H. Spaulding and Secretary of State Edwin C. Bean of New Hampshire and Governor Samuel W. McCall of Massachusetts. Present also to greet the Republican candidate was "The Tall Pine of the Merrimack," Congressman Cyrus Sulloway.
Dignitaries Meet Hughes at Depot
Hughes' campaign special arrived at the railroad station in Hampton at about 9:45 o'clock on Thursday morning. It was a dark day with a threat of rain. Once the formal welcoming ceremony was over, the Hughes party, which included Gov. McCall, was ushered to waiting autos by representatives of the Republican club and Board of Trade and the motorcade started for the Casino. There, Mr. and Mrs. Hughes were hurried through the welcoming crowds to the second floor Convention Hall where an opportunity was proved for the candidate to meet Governor Spaulding. When he made his way to the veranda, where seats had been reserved for hundreds of guests and for the Higgins Concert Band, the Boulevard was filled with a crowd of five or six thousand people.
An Unusual Epoch in History
The presiding officer was Attorney W. Scott Peters, a summer resident from Haverhill. He introduced Gov. Spaulding who, in turn introduced the guest of honor. Mr. Hughes took his place at the upper veranda railing. The tide was near high. The wind blew a damp ;mist into the speaker's bearded face and it was only with difficulty that he could make himself heard over the noise of the surf pounding on the nearby sandy beach. Remember, this was 1916. Public address systems were unheard of. Radio was in its infancy. The First World War was raging in Europe. The Lusitania had been sunk on May 7 of the previous year. Wilson was campaigning for reelection on the slogan, "He had kept us out of war!" What would Candidate Hughes have to say to the expectant crowd which jammed the street between the Casino and the trolley tracks?
What the Candidate Said
[Photo courtesy Tuck Memorial Museum]
Well, he found fault with the eight-hour law, so called, which Congress had recently passed, calling it "unfair legislation" and stating further that "it was not an eight-hour law but a wage-law without anybody knowing whether it is right or not." He proposed a tariff so adjusted "that we can successfully compete with the places where the average wage-scale is higher." Concerning foreign affairs Hughes said, "We desire to antagonize no people, but on the other hand we have the same spirit that upwards of fifty years ago preserved our country and if we have lost that spirit we are in danger of disaster and we might as well end the forms of American government." Subsequent events proved to Mr. Hughes and to all of us that we had not lost "that spirit." The speech was hailed by New England Republicans as a masterpiece. It took no longer than twenty minutes. At its conclusion the candidate was escorted back to the depot where he boarded his campaign special and continued on his way to Maine.
How It All Happened
Hughes appearance at our beach came about through a bit of unintentional eavesdropping on the part of the writer who, at the time was secretary of the old Board of Trade. In those days, production managers and advertising agencies were unknown. The secretary looked after all details in connection with the Labor Day Week Carnival, including the publicity and the program. So, it happened that one day in August, we were distributing window posters and hand bills in Wells, Maine, advertising the Hampton Beach annual Carnival Week. It became necessary to go into the back of a store which contained the post office to ask the proprietor's permission to place a poster in his display window. He was just finishing a telephone conversation with Washington. As chairman of a Maine Republican committee he had been informed of the date of Hughes' visit to that state and along with permission to place the advertising poster he shared with us his important political knowledge. Hughes' planned arrival in Maine coincided with Governor's Day at the coming Carnival. With the help of Senator George H. Moses and with an assist from the Rockingham Republican Club, the Hampton Beach stop-over was easily arranged.
The Roosevelt Visit -- 1932
The visit of Franklin Delano Roosevelt for his first public appearance following the Chicago convention in 1932, was also arranged with a big assist from Lady Luck. However, this is a long story which will have to be saved for some future column. Roosevelt's visit occurred on Sunday, July 17, 1932. It was the opening of his campaign for the presidency.
Because of the country's economic situation and by reason of the manifold political implications, press and radio alike were greatly interested in the candidate's visit to Hampton Beach. The Chamber of Commerce had complete charge of all arrangements for the visit, subject to the approval of his oldest son, James, who was occupying a summer home at Little Boar's Head. Plans were made for Mr. Roosevelt to speak from a platform which had been built on the north side of the Chamber of Commerce office. The organization had become the proud possessor of an Orthophonic Victrola by means of which radio and record music and the human voice could be amplified and projected in any direction from a tower on the office roof. It was planned to use this new equipment to amplify the speech of the Democratic presidential nominee.
Made Special Arrangements
Everything was ready when young James Roosevelt called to inspect the arrangements at ten o'clock on the night before his father's scheduled appearance. A speaker's desk, equipped with a carbon microphone, had been constructed and placed front and center on the dais. Comfortable stairs had been built which led to it. Bleachers had been erected and thousands of chairs placed on the concrete plaza north of the Chamber office. The whole area had been securely roped off in order to handle with safety the great crowds which were expected. Young Roosevelt noted that pains had been taken to make everything as comfortable as possible for his crippled father. But even at that late hour, it became necessary to substitute gradual-incline ramps for stairs and to build of them of pipes, in back of the speaking desk, sturdy metal railings which the candidate could grasp to pull himself erect and upon which he might support himself while speaking.
Contrast in Appearance
After an appearance in Portsmouth, Mr. Roosevelt arrived in an open touring car with Mayor Fernando Hartford of the Port City. Mayor Hartford, in frock coat and shiny silk hat was a figure of sartorial elegance compared with the guest of honor who wore an unpressed business suit and a batted gray fedora. We stood by the gate while a personal body guard literally, but unobtrusively, lifted Mr. Roosevelt out of the car and onto the ramp. And then, with his hand on his son's arm and with the help of a cane, this man of indomitable personal bravery, slowly and laboriously ascended the long ramp.
Roosevelt's Personal Courage
Only one man in a million as physically handicapped as Roosevelt could have made the trip except in a wheel chair. And from that day on, although he never had our personal vote, he always has had our respect and admiration for no man ever lived with greater personal courage and fortitude. He succeeded in hiding his physical handicap from the world at large, but we shall never forget how he used his powerful arms and shoulders to pull himself erect by the use of handrails hidden behind the Hampton Beach speaking desk. And once erect, his smiling face and cheerful voice completely concealed from the cheering crowds out front, the bodily discomfort he must have been obliged to endure as he held himself erect by leaning first with one hand and then with the other on the sturdy railings which extended back from each side of the desk which held his manuscript.
The Real Drama
Planes bearing news photographers circled overhead. A hundred representatives of the world's press sat at long tables in front of the dais. Flags waved, bands played and great crowds roared a tribute to the Democratic presidential candidate, but of the many thousands present, not more than a dozen people appreciated the real drama connected with the Hampton Beach visit of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who became the thirty-first President of the United States. We have forgotten what he said, but we shall never forget the way he acted.