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April 19, 2020 12:01 pm  #1

The First Election Results Ever Reported On Radio Were 100% Wrong!

I always love learning new things about radio history and the article linked below taught me a new one – the very first time radio ever delivered an actual election result, it got it 100% wrong.
And no, it wasn’t the ones delivered on KDKA, long acknowledged by most as the very first regularly scheduled broadcasting station in history back in 1920. (It celebrates its 100th anniversary this year.)
According to a radio historian, the actual first such results came from radio pioneer and legend Lee de Forest, who went on the air in an experimental broadcast in 1916 with the U.S. presidential results, which thankfully almost no one heard because no one had a radio at the time.
From the article:
"On Nov. 7, 1916, de Forest broadcast the returns of the Woodrow Wilson-Charles Evans Hughes presidential election, four years before KDKA.
"De Forest later wrote: “The New York American ran a wire line into our office so as to have the up-to-the-minute reports. I myself served as one of the announcers. At 11 o’clock that night we signed off, after assuring our invisible audience that Hughes had been elected president.”
"The next morning, he was horrified to find out that late results from California had in fact reelected Woodrow Wilson for a second term.”

Another great lost moment in radio! Thankfully, over a hundred years later, they seemed to have greatly improved on their accuracy.
Lee De Forest, Pioneer Broadcaster


April 19, 2020 2:35 pm  #2

Re: The First Election Results Ever Reported On Radio Were 100% Wrong!

Charles Evan Hughes was one of the greatest of the "almost presidents." A pacifist, there's thought the U.S. might not have entered World War I had Hughes been elected. Getting back to election night, here's how he found out he had lost. (Wikipedia in italics):

"When a reporter tried to telephone him the next morning to get his reaction to Wilson's comeback, someone (stories vary as to whether this person was his son or a butler or valet) answered the phone and told the reporter that "the president is asleep". The reporter retorted, "When he wakes up, tell him he isn't the president."

Last edited by Dale Patterson (April 19, 2020 3:19 pm)

"The radio craze ... will soon fade." - Thomas Edison, 1922

April 19, 2020 3:35 pm  #3

Re: The First Election Results Ever Reported On Radio Were 100% Wrong!

Sounds like a story from your book, "Close But No Cigar, Dale, about the biggest also rans and runner-ups in history. If it's not in there, perhaps it should be! (And yes, that's a blatant plug which I usually don't allow, but we've known each other for so long, I'm willing to make an exception in your case!)

Still, perhaps the biggest and best known screw-up when it comes to the media and a presidential race is the Chicago Tribune headline about Dewey defeating Truman, when it appeared the race for the White House was over before the voting even began. It spawned this infamous picture the next day in all the other papers and remains one of the most embarrassing gaffes in journalistic history.  

     Thread Starter