By Sherri Goudy
As we near closer to midterm elections in the United States, our news and social media feeds are bombarded with political ads about candidates and issues. 100 years ago, Americans relied most heavily on newspapers to provide the latest in community and world events, especially when it came to elections. Today, local newspapers offer a way to understand how political advertising in the past was viewed from local, national, and international perspectives. They can also provide insights into how communities were using the war to politicize their own social issues.
November 5th, 1918 was election day, and though the war was not yet over, its influence weighed heavy on the upcoming vote. One of the major issues on the ballot was the issue of temperance and prohibiting the manufacturing and sale of alcohol. The Springfield Daily News published several ads in the days before the election, and many of them were about this issue.
Many supporters of prohibition argued that the production of alcohol used valuable resources such as coal and food, which were extremely scare during the war. This advertisement from November 1, 1918 declares “The liquor traffic helps the Kaiser by hindering America.”
Another ad was published by the Ohio Dry Federation on November 3, 1918. In it were several little anecdotes about why the voter should “vote dry.”
This ad from the day before the election pulls at the patriot’s heartstrings as the soldier pointing out from the page asks, “Will you back me – or back booze?”
While many ads wanted to argue the dangers of alcohol and squandering of valuable resources needed to fight the war, other ads contained information about how these arguments were not true. This ad from October 20, 1918 states “Prohibition will not win the war.”
This ad, which stated voters should vote “no” on prohibition, used soldiers not being able to vote because they were away at war as its plea. One line of the ad reads “he left Ohio a state which had three times voted against Prohibition.”
The day after the election the newspaper served another purpose. On November 6th, 1918, the Springfield Daily News published the voting results per city ward and precinct. Though difficult to read, the latter photo shows a zoomed image of the result: 7,547 yes; 6,142 no. Prohibition in Clark County had passed.
We hope you have enjoyed our posts over the past 2 years. I personally have enjoyed writing them. Please join us on November 11th, Armistice Day, as we celebrate the official end of the war with our final blog post.