By JIM ZBICK
Although there was no 24/7 news coverage and no social media outlets for people to offer their personal commentary, the 1912 presidential election offered some cutting edge technology for its day.
The race featured a rare four-way race between Republican incumbent William Howard Taft, Democrat Woodrow Wilson, Progressive Theodore Roosevelt and Socialist Eugene Debs.
Weighing over 300 pounds, Taft was our heaviest president. On entering the White House as our 27th president he even had to have a special bathtub installed.
Many historians credit Taft for one of our cherished baseball traditions. While attending a baseball game, the president stood up to stretch his legs. Seeing that, others around him followed Taft's lead and thus, the seventh inning stretch was born.
With the 1912 race heading into the homestretch, Taft outlined his campaign issues during an October speech in Beverly, Mass. What's noteworthy is that there was only one other person in the room at the time. That's because Taft's voice was being recorded on a phonograph which was then sent across the country for rebroadcast.
"The president's arguments for his policies were emphatic," according to one news reporter. "At times his voice was raised to a pitch that could be heard in the next room."
This phonograph record marked the first time many Americans heard the president's actual voice.
Since television campaign advertising was still a half century in the future, the photograph remained the most effective visual advertisement for a candidate in 1912. Campaigns relied heavily on the photographic images of their candidates being distributed as handouts or posters, and for newspaper and magazine ads.
"You can judge something of a man by looking at his picture. There is no doubt that a good looking campaign picture wins votes," the Tamaqua Courier stated a month before the 1912 election. "You are much more apt to support a man after you have seen his picture than you are if you are not acquainted with his lineaments."
In the same way as today's airbrush and cropping techniques can influence a photo, a photographer in 1912 could do much to enhance or belittle his subject. The Courier writer said under the searching eye of the camera, a photographer's expertise could make the most "grotesque and ugly face" seem "agreeable and intelligent."
"A man may have a thin, hatchet-shaped countenance, or at the other extreme, a swollen, beefy jaw, when seen in full face. Placed at an angle it is quite likely that his profile may be well proportioned and forceful," the Courier said in 1912. "But the voter who is influenced by such considerations as this should reflect that either the artist with his pencil or the photographer with his lens, can somehow