How Theodore Roosevelt helped deliver the White House to Woodrow Wilson

From election to collection: Split in Republican Party propels Democrat to victory
By , Coin World
Published : 10/27/16
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This is the fifth part of a multi-part series on Presidential campaign collectibles from the Nov. 7, 2016, monthly issue of Coin World:

Presidential campaign banners, badges, tokens, medals and more from America's 200-plus years of elections provide windows into the quadrennial campaigns and their eras. Depending upon the campaign and candidates, available items may be abundant and cost only a few dollars each, or scarce, some costing thousands of dollars regardless of condition.

The 1912 presidential race featured four veteran politicos — the Republican incumbent, William Howard Taft; former President Theodore Roosevelt, who had handpicked Taft, his secretary of war, as his successor for the 1908 campaign; the leading Democrat, New Jersey Gov. Thomas Woodrow Wilson; and the Socialist Party candidate, Eugene V. Debs.

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For each man, a vast array of campaign items — badges, buttons, ribbons and more, all of which fall under the broad category of numismatics — were issued during the election. Some items can be obtained for less than $100 each, but some of the rarest trinkets from the campaign can cost thousands of dollars, if you are lucky enough to even find an available example.

The 1912 election witnessed the establishment of a new political entity, Roosevelt’s Progressive Party, also dubbed the Bull Moose Party. Roosevelt’s decision to seek election (he had grown dissatisfied with Taft’s policies) under a new political party banner after losing the GOP nomination served to polarize the Republican Party, eventually split the popular vote and almost single-handedly contributed to the White House being won by Wilson.

The campaign also witnessed an Oct. 14, 1912, assassination attempt on Roosevelt in Milwaukee. Roosevelt was shot by John Schrank while en route to a campaign speech, which he delivered while still bleeding from his wound. After eight days of hospitalization, Roosevelt went back to campaigning.

During his hospital stay, the other presidential candidates suspended their campaigns, as called for by Wilson. During the campaign moratorium, Taft went on a short vacation before returning to the White House, delivering several short speeches along the way. Wilson continued to govern New Jersey.

The voters made the campaign outcome final for Wilson on Election Day, Nov. 5, 1912.

Wilson won the presidency with 41.84 percent of the popular vote. Roosevelt’s second place polling was, however, only 27.4 percent, while Taft, in third carried 23.17 percent. Debs pulled just 5.99 percent of the popular vote.

Wilson became the only elected president to represent the Democratic Party between 1892 and 1932, and only the second Democrat elected between 1860 and 1932.

The 1912 election was the last presidential contest in which anyone beyond the Republican or Democratic parties was a runner-up in either the popular vote or the Electoral College. It was the first election in which 48 states of the United States participated. New Mexico became the 47th state on Jan. 6, 1912; Arizona, the 48th, on Feb. 14, 1912.

The 1912 election provided the launch pad for woman suffrage and significant contributions by women in politics; and marked the first presidential primaries.

Read our entire series so far on collecting Presidential election materials:

1828 election collectiblesThe presidential election that might have been the nastiest on record : So nasty were the personal attacks between Jackson and the incumbent, John Quincy Adams, during the 1828 campaign that Jackson blamed the stress of the attacks for contributing to the death of his wife.


1828 election collectiblesThe election of 1800 saw a number of firsts among American presidential races : The presidential election of 1800 was a particularly uncomfortable one in political circles, pitting Vice President Thomas Jefferson against the president he was currently serving under, John Adams.


1860 presidential election collectiblesAbraham Lincoln faced more than one opponent in the 1860 presidential election : While it is not uncommon today for political candidates in state and national contents to stump in any small community that will host them, during the 1860 campaign the tactic was considered somewhat tacky.


1896 presidential election collectiblesSounds like jewelry, so why was a ‘cross of gold’ not considered a good thing in 1896? : The hotly contested presidential race of 1896 pitted former Ohio Gov. William McKinley, a Republican, against Democratic contender and perennial presidential wannabe William Jennings Bryan.


Teddy Roosevelt cigar cutterHow Theodore Roosevelt helped deliver the White House to Woodrow Wilson : The 1912 election witnessed the establishment of a new political entity, Roosevelt’s Progressive Party, also dubbed the Bull Moose Party. 


Franklin Roosevelt buttonFour-time winner Franklin Roosevelt generates opposition collectibles : The election of 1932 put Democrat and former New York governor Franklin Delano Roosevelt into the White House for the first of his unprecedented four terms. 


Donald Trump novelty noteThe 2016 presidential election hitting new heights, or depths, of nastiness : Campaign collectibles are trying to promote the 2016 presidential candidates amid all the mudslinging.

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