In the election of 1884, James G. Blaine was the favorite until he appeared beside a minister, Rev. Samuel D. Burchard, at an event in New York City. The minister assailed the Democratic Party, which in New York was the bastion of Tammany Hall and Irish immigrant voters, as the party of "Rum, Romanism, and Rebellion."
The obvious knock at Catholics, not to mention revered Irish rebels, was explosive. Blaine, the Republican nominee, did nothing to distance himself from the remarks, and news of the comment hummed across the telegraph wires. Offended voters were motivated to side with the Democrat in the race, Grover Cleveland.
This week in Newspaper Sunday we look at how that classic gaffe turned up in news coverage during that hectic election season 128 years ago.
- St. Paul Daily Globe, November 1, 1884: A headline referred to the "Destructive Alliteration" that was "Making Democratic Votes All Over the Country."
- The Sedalia Weekly Bazoo, November 4, 1884: A Missouri newspaper with a colorful name unleashed a riot of alliterative headlines to predict the demise of Blaine.
- The National Republican, November 4, 1884: A Washington paper, reporting on a Blaine rally in Boston which ended the campaign, claimed the famous gaffe would not cost the ticket more than 500 votes.
- New York Tribune, November 6, 1884: Two days after the the election, the newspapers were reporting a Blaine victory. However, not all the votes had been counted in New York.
- New York Tribune, November 17, 1884: Two weeks after the election, Blaine reflected on his loss and distanced himself from the "intolerant and utterly improper remark" by Rev. Burchard. It was, of course, far too late.
Note: After clicking on the links for excerpts from the newspapers, click on the "persistent link" to see the entire page of the paper. And try to take time to explore the Chronicling America site, which is endlessly fascinating.
Illustration: James G. Blaine, who nearly won the presidential election of 1884.
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