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Election  of  1908


The Election of 1908 found the old veteran, William Jennings Bryan, making his third and final attempt to reach the White House. There was also a number of "third party" nominees in 1908.

Roosevelt Backs Taft in the Republican Race
William Jennings Bryan gained the nomination at the Democratic convention in Denver with very little opposition. The stalwarts of the Republican Party were hoping Teddy Roosevelt would seek another term, but Roosevelt endorsed William Howard Taft instead. With Teddy's backing, Taft faced no opposition at the convention.

taft-sherman-postcard Taft-Sherman Postcard
From the collection of Ernie Wentrcek

Third Party Candidates Try for the White House
Eugene Debs was also nominated for a third time by the Socialist Party. The Prohibition Party turned to Eugene Chafin as its candidate, and the Populist Party nominated the "racist," Thomas E. Watson of Georgia. The publisher, William Randolph Hearst, in an attempt to gain revenge against his old enemy, William Jennings Bryan, backed Thomas Hisgen as the Independence Party candidate.

bryan-kern-postcard Bryan-Kern Postcard
From the collection of Ernie Wentrcek

Bryan's Platform
Bryan stated he would not accept contributions from corporations. As the campaign unfolded, he pushed for the following ideas.

  • There should be a direct election of senators.
  • The powers for the Speaker of the House should be weakened.
  • Contributions received by a presidential candidate should be reported prior to election day.

Roosevelt Pulls Republican Strings
From the start, Taft appeared to be controlled by Roosevelt, who even edited Taft's acceptance speech. It was as though Roosevelt was running for re-election, but with Taft as his stand-in. Taft seemed to agree with Bryan on many of the issues, but he was willing to accept contributions from the corporations.

bryan08cartoon 1908 Political Cartoon from Judge Magazine
From the collection of Ernie Wentrcek

Whereas Bryan was an energetic, experienced campaigner, Taft was much the opposite.

  • He really did not desire to be president.
  • He was being pushed by his wife, who was eager to enjoy life as the "First Lady."
  • Taft dreamed of being a member of the Supreme Court.

Taft did not become active in the campaign until prodded by Roosevelt, and he then commenced to destroy Bryan's public image and promised to maintain Roosevelt's public policies.

Debs' Aggressive Campaign vs. Hisgen's Limited Effort
The Socialist Party created organizations in 39 states, and Debs crisscrossed the country using his 'Red Special' railroad train. On the other hand, Thomas Hisgen only campaigned in the state of New York.

Election Results
By election day, the Republicans had raised and outspent the Democrats by almost 3 to 1. It seemed the nation had finally grown tiresome of Bryan, and on election night, Teddy Roosevelt announced, "We've beaten them to a frazzle."

Taft won 321 electoral votes to Bryan's 162. Once again, the Third Party candidates failed to gain a single electoral vote. Bryan was stunned and questioned why he had done so poorly at the polls. Some would later say it was a vote more against Bryan than for Taft.

1908 Campaign Items From the collection of Ernie Wentrcek - Click on the images to see a larger photo and description.
William Howard Taft and James S. Sherman - Republican Party
taft-cello
taft-sherman-postcard
1908/William Taft 1.25 inch cello button
1908/William Taft ~ cardboard tab
taft-sherman-postcard
1908/Taft-Sherman Metal Plate
1908/William H. Taft vs. William Jennings Bryan Race for the Whitehouse Postcard
1908/taft-toby-1-Taft toby mug
1908/Taft ~ Sherman Jugate Cigar Box Label Salesman Sample

William Jennings Bryan and John W. Kern - Democratic Party
William Jennings Bryan ~ Campaign Postcard
bryan-cello
1908 Bryan and Taft Boxing Postcard
bryan-kern-cello
William Jennings Bryan Postcard
bryan-cello
William Jennings Bryan Postcard
bryan-kern-postcard
bryan postcard
Bryan 1.75 inch cello
bryan-postcard
1908/William Jennings Bryan Folkart Wooden Plate
Bryan and Kern 7/8 inch jugate cello
Bryan and Kern ~ Jugate Campaign Postcard

Eugene V. Debs and Benjamin Hanford - Socialist Party
Labor ~ Texas Postcard
Eugene V. Debs ~ Benjamin Hansford - 1.25 inch jugate cello button
debs-socialist-postcard
Labor Day 1908 cello with chain
debs-socialist-postcard

Eugene W. Chaflin and Aaron S. Watkins - Prohibition Party
Chafin- 7/8 inch cello button
chafin-watkins-postcard-1
chafin-watkins-postcard-1
prohibition-postcard

Thomas E. Watson and Samuel Williams - Peoples' Party
Thomas E. Watson ~ Newspaper Clipping

August Gillhaus and Donald Munro - Socialist Labor Party
Gillhaus and Munro 1.25 inch cello button

Presidential Candidate Vice Presidential Candidate Party Popular Vote Electoral Vote
William Howard Taft James S. Sherman Republican 7,678,908 321
William Jennings Bryan John W. Kern Democratic 6,409,104 162
Eugene V. Debs Benjamin Hanford Socialist 420,793 0
Eugene W. Chaflin Aaron S. Watkins Prohibition 253,840 0
Thomas L. Hisgen John T. Graves Independence 82,872 0
Thomas E. Watson Samuel Williams People's 29,100 0
August Gillhaus Donald Munro Socialist-Labor 14,021 0
Daniel B. Turney Lorenzo Coffin United Christian 500 0

Source:  Historical Statistics of the United States, 1789-1945, By United States. Bureau Of The Census, p. 289.


TEXAS POLITICAL ITEMS From the collection of Ernie Wentrcek - Click on the images to see a larger photo and description.
Tom Campbell - Democratic Party

Served as the 24th Governor of Texas (1907-1911).

Tom Campbell for Governor of Texas ~ Campaign Card
Tom Campbell for Governor of Texas ~ Postcard
Tom Campbell for Governor of Texas ~ 1.25 inch cello button
Tom Campbell for Governor of Texas ~ Newspaper Ad
Tom Campbell ~ Governor of Texas ~ Broadside

John N. Simpson - Republican Party

Lost his 1908 race for Governor of Texas

John N. Simpson for Governor of Texas ~ Watch Fob with Strap
John N. Simpson for Governor of Texas ~ 1.25 inch cello button
John N. Simpson for Governor of Texas ~ 3/4 inch Good Roads cello button
John N. Simpson for Governor of Texas ~ 1.25 inch Good Roads cello button

R. R. Williams - Democratic Party

Lost to O. B. Colquitt in the 1910 Democratic gubernatorial primary. He was an old Confederate who served three terms in the Texas Legislature (1900 - 06). By profession he was a lawyer, woodworker, and blacksmith. He died in 1941 at age 101.

R. R. Williams for Governor of Texas ~ Campaign Postcard
R. R. Williams for Governor of Texas ~ Campaign Postcard Front Side
R. R. Williams for Governor of Texas ~ Campaign Postcard Back Side

Cone Johnson - Democrat-Prohibition Party

Lost to O. B. Colquitt in the 1910 Democratic gubernatorial primary

Cone Johnson for Governor of Texas ~ 1 inch cello button

William Poindexter - Democrat-Prohibition Party

Finished second in the 1910 gubernatorial primary

William Poindexter for Governor of Texas ~ 7/8 inch cello button

R. V. Davidson - Democratic Party

Served in the Texas Senate (1901-04) and as Texas Attorney General (1904-09). Finished 4th in the 1910 gubernatorial primary.

R. V. Davidson for Governor of Texas ~ 1.25 inch cello button
R. V. Davidson for Texas Attorney General ~ Paper Card
R. V. Davidson for Governor of Texas ~ Campaign Postcard