Election Night, Madison Square - 1896


Election night in New York City, announcing the return of the late election at Twenty-third Street, Broadway, and Fifth Avenue. Drawn by Frank H. Schell. Copyright, 1896 by Leslie's Weekly. Source: New York Public Library.

Illustration shows the announcement of the result of the 1896 presidential election, won by William McKinley, the 25th president of the United States. The bulletins were flashed over the wall of the Cumberland House, probably using a stereopticon. The New York Times shows the result to the people gathered in Madison Square.

Text on print (Leslie's Weekly, 1896): «The illustration here given presents a marked contrast with that on the opposite page. In the 'forties election returns were not flashed over the wires, as now, and none of the improved methods of announcing them had come into vogue. Then, sometimes a week passed before the final result was known in the great cities of the country. Now, except in a very close contest, the result is announced by midnight of election day. The interest in the result of the recent election was perhaps more intense than in any contest since 1876. Our picture shows the immense throng which gathered about one of the places where the returns were received and announced.»

In 1885, Austin Corbin (1827-1896), president of the Long Island Railroad Company, leased the wall of the Cumberland, facing Madison Square. By 1890, this wall was first used for advertising. Corbin, with the help of the Edison Illuminating Company, perfected the electric light advertising on block letters and this system appeared for the first time in New York City, on June 10, 1892, built in this same wall. It was 80 feet tall and 60 feet wide and held 1,457 bulbs of different colors, with letters varying from three to six feet in length. It had a hand-operated flashing mechanism, operated from dusk until 11 o'clock each night. In 1896, the New York Times rented the wall, for the winter season, to place its own colored-light signs, calling it «the best "AD" in the City». The different lines were of different colors and were illuminated in succession. Later, the wall was taken over by the H.J. Heinz Company, which hired O.J. Gude to place its immense electric pickle sign.

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Election Night, Madison Square - 1896


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