A century of presidential soundbites

–Lauren M. Ruhland, 2008 MCPP intern & Science Editor

The 1908 election was marked by a major technological change in the way candidates campaigned– both candidates (Republican William Howard Taft and Democrat William Jennings Bryan) were recorded on phonographs, allowing their speeches to be heard (not just read) by voters around the country.  From ScienceNews:

Whether for profit or prestige, the 1908 campaign was the first in which presidential candidates recorded their own voices for the mass market. “We now have Records by Mr. Bryan and Mr. Taft, so that no matter how the November election may result, we shall have Records by the next President,” an advertisement in the September 1908 Edison Phonograph Monthly exclaimed. “Now, for the first time, one can introduce the rival candidates for the Presidency in one’s own home, can listen to their political views, expressed in their real voices, and make comparisons.”

It sounds fun and exciting in retrospect, but it has me wondering what sorts of media will be used to bring candidates’ messages to their voters in the next century.  Obviously, we’ve already come a long way.


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