September 25, 2013
NoMad History: Live Election Results
At the turn of the 19th/20th Centuries before people could get together virtually, they came together physically to share events. Then, Madison Square Park was the center of New York political and social life and it was natural for people to gravitate to the Park for rallies, parades and celebrations.
Madison Square Park became a real town square. It was where people came to protest or show their support for a cause. Here they met for big events such as the memorial for President McKinley, fund raising for the Statue of Liberty, and celebrations of Admiral Dewey’s victories, and it was here that the events of every day life were marked, such as the lighting of the annual public Christmas tree.
In the pre-television, pre-Internet days it was also where people came to get the latest news. In 1879 Amos Eno (the owner of the Fifth Avenue Hotel) built the Cumberland Apartments on 22nd Street where the Flatiron Building would eventually stand. The four stories of its back wall faced the Park and was perfect for projecting advertisements and news.
Eno installed a canvass screen on the back of the wall of the Cumberland and both the New York Times and the New York Tribune used it to project news bulletins and election results. Tens of thousands of people would gather in Madison Square to watch the latest election results and did so well into the new century. There were bands and fireworks and, on November 3, 1908, a giant searchlight, which when pointed north indicated that William Howard Taft had been elected president.
Getting election results might not have been as quick or as convenient back then, but it sounds like election nights were a lot more fun.