05 November 2015

J.B. Duke Works the Polls, 1908

Imagine going to your local polling place Tuesday and being greeted by Steve Forbes, or Steve Kalafer, or one of the several hedge fund millionaires and billionaires whose homes dot the Somerset Hills. Could you have been cajoled or intimidated into supporting their chosen candidate?

James B. Duke
On November 3, 1908, James B. Duke, Hillsborough resident and millionaire president of the American Tobacco Company set out to do just that - win votes for Colonel Nelson Y. Dungan in his bid to unseat state senator Joseph S. Frelinghuysen of Raritan.


Trenton Evening Times headline, November 5, 1908

Duke, irritated that the Republican (Republican!) Frelinghuysen had called out the wealthiest Somerset County residents for not paying their fair share in taxes, enlisted the help of Alexander W. Mack, manager of the Raritan Woolen Mills, in organizing the opposition to the first term legislator. Both men directed their hundreds of employees to "vote against Frelinghuysen". Duke personally visited several polling places in and around Raritan hoping that either the force of his personality, or his unflinching stare would win the day.

Senator Joseph S. Frelinghuysen
It wasn't enough. Frelinghuysen was swept up in a wave of Republican support, winning by 150 in Raritan and 725 across the district. He eventually became New Jersey's first directly elected US Senator in 1916 after the ratification of the 17th amendment, serving one term before returning to the insurance business and retiring to Arizona.

No comments:

Post a Comment