Saturday, April 12, 2014

1928 Presidential Campaign Hanky

What does the 1928 Presidential election, Clark's O.N.T. sewing thread, and an elephant hanky in my collection have in common?

An August 10, 1966 article published in the Lewistown Sentinel column "We Notice That" featured my grandfather Lynne O. Ramer's memories of the Fennimore Hotel in Cooperstown, NY. At first I was revisiting the article as a lead-in to writing about sewing thread. Then I realized I had a back door into sharing an eBay purchase I made of a "circus elephant handkerchief".

First the 1966 article by columnist Ben Meyers:
A Fabulous Family
O.N.T. stands for “Our New Thread” and it isn’t so very new any more. It’s been used by the Clark Thread Company since 1862 when it developed a thread suitable for use in the newly-invented sewing machine.

As for the scarcity of plain white cotton thread, it isn’t used much any more. We learned at the fabric department in one of the stores we researched that the synthetics aren’t in good demand, but the trend continues to be for the mercerized.

However, the mercerized is simple cotton under another name. The word was coined after John Mercer, an English calico dealer [who] invented the process to treat cotton thread in fabric with a caustic alkali solution.

This gave the material more strength so it could be used on the sewing machines then coming on the market. Also the process gives cotton a silky luster and makes it more receptive to dyes than plain cotton.

Lynne Ramer tells of an amusing encounter he had with a member of the fabulous family of Clarks, founders of the thread company by that name.
It was back in the year 1927 when Lynne was teaching in a school in the Leather Stocking country of New York. He was standing in front of the now-long-gone Fenimore Hotel at Cooperstown, named in honor of the author of “Last of the Mochicans” and other novels which still have a fascinating appeal to boys. Cooper made the American Indian a lasting figure in fiction.

A very heavy set gentleman was sitting in his custom-built limousine when Lynne spied him. He was sweating it out in the hot sun as long as he could stand it. Then he tried to get out and walk up the steps to the hotel, but being an arthritic and short of breath he didn’t seem able to make it. So Lynne gave him a helping hand to alight and mount the steps.

About the time he got to the top, the chauffeur who had left the famous Ambrose Clark sitting in the sun came back. Ambrose was so busy hewing out the hired help he didn’t find time to thank his rescuer.

Lynne adds this final touch to the episode:

Along Lake Otsego, Aldolphus Buesch, heir to the Budweiser fortune, had a private zoo. He extended Lynne a standing invitation to take his students from near-by Hartwick Seminary on a tour of the wild and tame animal menagerie.

But Ambrose Clark never invited the public to see his rare horses and prize cattle. Yet nowadays for $1 you can see the “Americana of Agriculture” in the Clark stables that once housed the horses and cows, plus an old church of early New York architecture and other colonial-day houses that were moved there and restored.

Nowadays, too, visitors to Cooperstown who come to see the ‘Baseball Hall of Fame” may see the jointly-controlled tourist attraction known as the “Clark Estates”.

Oh, yes, Lynne has one more memory of Cooperstown to add. It was in 1928 When Lynne was waiting on the same steps of the Fennimore Hotel where he previously helped Ambrose Clark. This second time Lynne waited and sweated it out for three hours under the hot sun while waiting to hear a campaign speech by Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
“Because FDR didn’t excuse his delay among friends up at Lake Otsego and because I came from a Republican heritage, I didn’t vote for him. It was the very first time I ever voted,” says Lynne. “I could have voted for President in 1924, but I was a student at Suskie University [Susquehanna University] at that time—and absentee voting wasn’t yet common, as now.”
Looking up Ambrose Clark I discovered that he was the quintessential equestrian, perhaps of all time. Grandson to Edward Clark, who with Isaac Merritt Singer became rich from their newfangled sewing machine, he never attended school or had to work. He had a 5,000 acre farm, Iroquois, near Cooperstown, NY. He was buried next to his beloved horse Kellsboro, winner of the 1933 English Grand National steeplechase race.

The 1928 Republican Presidential candidate was Secretary of Commerce Herbert Hoover, who ran when Calvin Coolidge declined to run again. The Republicans were associated with the boom times of the 1920s. Other Republicans in the race included Senate Majority Leader Charles Curtis and former Illinois governor Frank Orren Lowden.

Al Smith campaign handkerchief

The Democratic candidates included Al Smith, who had tried for the presidency twice before. Al Smith was Catholic, a major concern for many, plus he had opposed Prohibition.

Hoover won the Republican Presidential nomination and Curtis the Vice-Presidential. 

And that is where the elephant hanky comes in.

I purchased it on eBay for a few dollars. I did not believe it was a child's circus elephant hanky for one second. It was silk for one thing. And the H and C initials were a real giveaway.

After I received the hanky I wrote to the Hoover Presiential Library and Museum. They agreed it was a campaign hanky, one they did not have in their collection.

But why did Gramps hear FDR speak?

After contracting polio, Franklin Roosevelt's first step back into politics came in 1924 when he attended the Democratic Presidential convention. Using two crutches and aided by his son, he walked to the podium to nominate Al Smith for the Democratic presidential candidate. "His fingers dug into my arm like pincers" his son later said. (from The Man He Became by James Tobin) In 1928 FDR again nominated Smith for presidential candidate.

Gramps did not hear FDR campaigning for himself, but for Al Smith. And Gramps voted for Herbert Hoover in the Presidential election. The Ramer family had been Lincoln Republicans.

Lots of pics in this history of sewing thread found at

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