Since all eyes are on politics this year in the U. S., I began thinking about the political involvement of members of my family. Political involvement runs deep in several of my ancestral lines, starting with the protesting Puritan William Bassett who left England through the tavern keeper Samuel Howe, an agitator for Revolution against the British, and into more modern political campaigners and office holders.
In honor of all those caring citizens and their involvement in politics, I will feature some stories each month leading up to the Presidential elections in November 2016. This first post allows me to share some precious artifacts.
Paul Kaser and Harriette Anderson Kaser in politics
Harriette Anderson (right) attending a tea for politician John Bricker’s wife. June 1936
My parents were such fervent Republicans, that I always smile when I think about the fact that when my father died in October, 1996, he had already cast his absentee ballot, voting for Robert Dole against Bill Clinton for President, and probably for every Republican on the ticket for local races. He got his two cents worth in to an election that happened after he died.
Mother, while usually loyal to the Republican party, followed the lead of her grandmother Hattie Stout who impatiently waited for the opportunity for women to vote. Mother was prejudiced in favor of women candidates, regardless of party. I’ll never forget when we discussed an upcoming election in Arizona when she was in her 90s and living in a nursing home. I described the two candidates, assuming she would vote for the male Republican. But instead she said, “I think we should support the woman, don’t you?” Soon to be Governor Janet Napolitano was a Democrat.
But that was later. I found clues about Harriette and Paul’s political involvement in stories they told, but also in newspaper articles and in the letters they exchanged during their lengthy courtship.
1930’s Republican Politics in Ohio
The first hint of political activism I discovered was a letter that had been printed by a duplicator (those old fashioned copy machines that used a purple gel surface, predating mimeograph). It was mailed from Killbuck, Ohio on April 11, 1935. It was in my father’s files, so obviously he was involved in some way in party politics in 1935. (He and mother had started dating in November of 1934.)
I was able to transcribe the words in this almost totally faded form letter. The letter talks about reorganizing the Holmes County Republican Club. “In order to have a part in the certain victory now in our grasp…” [My italics]
The “certain victory” expressed unwarranted optimism about the 1936 Presidential election and the Republicans ability to defeat first term President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. The Democratic Party had swept elections in 1930, 1932, and 1934, but the Republicans were confident that 1936 was their year. President Roosevelt, first elected in 1932, was a polarizing figure. Those who believed he was amassing too much power were blind to the loyalty he had engendered by those whose programs had helped them.
Note: If you’re a political junkie, and would like to know about the political situation in Ohio around that time, read the beginning of this web article.
Harriette and Paul plunged into the revitalization of the Republican party, “young Turks” intent on reform. According to stories they told, they spent a great deal of time visiting Democratic farmers in rural Holmes County and persuading them to switch to Republican. They were very successful, and Paul and Harriette became big fish in the little pond of county politics in 1935 and 1936.
Note: At the same time, Paul’s brother Keith Kaser was running as a Democrat for Holmes County Clerk. Keith won.
1936 Politics – Bricker
While Harriette was on one of her summer road trips with fellow teachers in the summer of 1936, Paul became aware of an opportunity to advance their contacts in the Republican party, and possibly even help him find a permanent government job.
The key part of this letter reads, “There is a banquet in honor of Bricker in Columbus the night of June 30th and on the afternoon of June 30th there is to be a tea for Mrs. Bricker. The bigwigs ask me to give them the names of two women to be invited. I gave your name and Sarah [Sarah Anderson, wife of Harriette’s brother Bill]. Only two are to be invited from this county and I want to be sure to be represented.” He closes with a paragraph that sounds more like what you expect in a love letter.
In a later letter, he makes it even clearer that he wants to go to the dinner because of the opportunities it presents to make himself known.
Although the tea took place soon after she returned from her road trip, Harriette did attend, as reported in the newspaper article at the top of the page.
In September, 1936, Bricker was invited to the Holmes County Fair. The Holmes County Women’s Republican Club and the Republican Executive Committee sponsored a dinner for Bricker at the Fisher Restaurant in Millersburg, Ohio. The newspaper article announcing the event says says “Reservations can be made with….Miss Harriette Anderson, Paul Kaser, or B. W. Lawson.”
1936 Politics Alf Landon
Paul and Harriette, still courting, continued to fight for Republican candidates, including John Bricker and the Presidential candidate, Alf Landon, a moderate. They thought Landon, a reasonable and intelligent man had a great chance because Republicans were so angry about what they saw as FDR’s power grabs.
Paul and Harriette’s reward for registering so many new Republicans was a ride on the Alf Landon campaign train across Ohio.
An article in the Coshocton (Ohio) Tribune in 1936. Since it is Killbuck news, it does not list Paul Kaser, who at this time was living in Canton, Ohio, still looking for a career, but as the guest card shows, he was also on the train.
That Landon rode a campaign train across Ohio is somewhat ironic because Landon was known as the “disappearing” or “invisible” candidate. His devastating loss was blamed mostly on his failure to campaign.
The young couple must have been devastated when the votes came in. That November Franklin Delano Roosevelt piled up the largest margin that any Presidential candidate has ever amassed. Landon won only two states, Maine and Vermont, for a total of 8 electoral votes. P.S. He lost Ohio, too.
A Job and Marriage
Presumably the couple continued their political involvement in 1937 between elections. In early 1938 Paul finally landed a job with the U. S. Weather Bureau and relocated to New Philadelphia Ohio area. Ironically, his job was part of the federal work programs that had been instituted by the President he so disdained.
In June 1938 they were married and spent one night at the Neil House hotel in Columbus, near the State Capitol, a hangout for politicians. I doubt politics was on their mind.
At one point we had a receipt for their $4.00 room, but it is lost. That may not seem like an expensive room, but given Paul’s complaints just a year earlier in one of his letters to Harriette about paying the exhorbitant fee of $1.00 for a hotel room, I’m guessing they were splurging on a very fine room.
1938 Ohio Republican Convention
Then I find this pass for Paul Kaser for the Ohio State Convention in 1938. You will note that it is for an “advisory delegate” pass, so the bearer of the pass was not a voting delegate. I only have the one pass. Although it does not have a name on it, it was in my father’s files. Since it did not have a name, they might have shared it, each attending at different times. On the other hand, Harriette would have been three and a half months pregnant by mid September, 1938, probably too late for her to be traveling.
1938 was a come-back year for Republicans in Congress, where they gained, but still did not hold a majority. Harriette and Paul could finally feel accomplishment when John Bricker won the Governorship and Republican Robert Taft was elected to the U. S. Senate.
My parents unique courtship lasted over three years, and most of that time, they were deeply involved in politics in all their spare time. Harriette was teaching school and Paul was trying hard to find a job so he would be deemed worthy of marriage. Politics was not only an interest, but also an important tool for networking and cultivating the possibility of patronage employment.
From then on my father worked either for the federal government or the state government, although the jobs were not patronage related. 1938 was no doubt his last active involvement in politics other than never missing a vote, and, after his retirement, stuffing some envelopes in campaigns I was involved in. He never lost interest however, railing against Democrats, and laughing about the “flower fund” in Ohio state offices that employees were expected to contribute to in his day. The fund went to support whoever was the current governor, to be sure to protect their department. That practice died out with Civil Service reforms and state ethics laws before my father retired from his Ohio job in 1969.
NOTES ON SOURCES
All photographs and souvenirs of political events, the love letter and the unidentified newspaper article at the Bricker Tea are my own, passed down by my father and mother.
The snipped of a newspaper articles is a screen captures of an article from The Coshocton Tribune, found at ancestry.com.
The Coshocton Tribune, 8 September 1936: “Bricker Invited to Holmes County Fair.”
Internet research on the politics and history of the period is linked in the article.
Jeanne Bryan Insalaco of Everyone Has A Story suggested doing posts on heirlooms in a discussion in the Genealogy Bloggers Facebook group and wrote Now Where Did I Put That? Several bloggers have taken her up on the challenge to write about their heirlooms and we hope more will follow our lead. This is one of my random posts generated by family artifacts and Heirlooms.
Other bloggers doing Family Heirloom stories:
- Amy Cohen at Brotmanblog: A Family Journey
- Schalene Jennings Dagutis at Tangled Roots and Trees
- Jeanne Bryan Insalaco at Everyone Has a Story
- Jacqui Kirkman at Leaves on my Family Tree
- True Lewis at Notes to Myself
- Kendra Schmidt at Trek Thru Time
- Linda Stufflebean at Empty Branches on the Family Tree
- Cathy Meder Dempsey at Opening Doors in Brick Walls
- Heather Lisa Dubnick at Little Oak Blog
- Mary Harrell-Sesniak at Genealogy Bank Heirlooms Blog
- Kathy Rice at Every Leaf Has a Story
You can discover more Heirlooms at Ancestors in Aprons, by entering “Heirloom” in the search box on the right.
What a great find you have in all that correspondence – and it fits so perfectly in our political moment in time. I would so love to know more on my grandparents political beliefs, but I missed the boat on that. I look forward to more of your posts.
Jeanne, I’m delighted to have these stories and mementos. Also, those county and city histories so popular around the end of the 19th century nearly always ended by giving Religious and political affiliation, so I have info on more people. Another good source has been small town newspaper personal columns.