Don't touch that dial! Well, what I mean is, don't stop reading this column just because it's about an election. It's must have been the most exciting election ever Ð especially for Indiana. I'm talking about the election 100 years ago in 1912 when two remarkable Hoosiers were on the national ticket.

Just think of it. There was Woodrow Wilson on the Democrat ticket with an Indiana native as his vice, Theodore Roosevelt on a Progressive ticket, William Taft on the Republican ticket, Indiana native Eugene Debs on the Socialist ticket and Eugene Chafin on the Prohibition ticket.

Although Roosevelt had insisted that he wouldn't run for president again, he did try to get the Republican nomination away from Taft because he thought Taft was not progressive enough. He failed so he started the Progressive Party which became known as the Bull Moose Party after Roosevelt insisted that he was as fit as a bull-moose. In the election he actually came in second which was, and still is, unknown in national politics for a third party candidate. He beat Taft but lost to Wilson.

Women's suffrage was one of the big issues of the election. Another issue was that Wilson thought big businesses should be eliminated and Roosevelt thought they should be kept but that they should be regulated.

For Hoosiers, having Terre Haute native Eugene Debs on the ticket, even if he was a Socialist, must have been a big deal. His parents had emigrated from France. He ran for president in 1900, 1904, 1908, 1912 and 1929 (the last from prison). In the 1912 election he won more than 900,000 votes and again in 1920. He had already served time in prison (defended by Clarence Darrow no less) when, as president of the American Railway Union, he called for a strike after George Pullman reduced the wages of railroad workers.

Debs was opposed to the United States entering into World War I, and the law passed in 1918 (actually an amendment to the Espionage Act of 1917 which is still one of the most controversial laws ever passed)  that restricted public opinion on the war.  Written attacks on the U.S. Government and/or constitution were forbidden. Many were arrested including Eugene Debs who got 10 years. The law was repealed in 1921 and Debs died in 1926.

Thomas Marshall was born in North Manchester, Indiana and graduated from Wabash College. He was a lawyer and Governor of Indiana 1909 - 1913. Several lasting good things were done when he was governor of Indiana including the employers' liability law, a pure food law, minimum wage for teachers and a law that required a medical check-up for children in school were passed.

It was no doubt Marshall's success as the 27th Governor of Indiana that Wilson chose him to be his running mate. He is listed as one of the worst Vice Presidents, which I am convinced, is unfair, because he didn't take over when Wilson became so ill. He could have become president at that time if Wilson's wife and advisors had not been determined that he would not do so. They didn't like him or his sense of humor. Here are a couple of examples of his humor that I especially enjoy: "Once there were two brothers. One ran away to sea; the other was elected vice president. And nothing was ever heard of them again." Marshall once told members of the senate, "I have been in the cave of winds. I need a rest." And, of course, there's what he said about "All this country needs is a five cent cigar."

In his speech after being sworn in he promised to "acknowledge the insignificant influence of the office and accept my second-class role in a good natured way." His bodyguard said Marshall that told him, "your job is unnecessary because no one ever shoots a Vice President." One story is that he gave Wilson a book that he had inscribed, "From your only vice." I think I would have liked Marshall.

Now you might be wondering, as did I, who in the world was Eugene Chafin who ran on the Prohibition ticket in the election one hundred years ago. I looked him up on the Internet and learned that he was the author of a couple of books I read when quite young. "Lives of the Presidents," and "Lincoln, the Man of Sorrow" might have had a little bit to do with my interest in bits and pieces of history.

This election was fascinating enough that someone that really knows history could give a great program for our library or historical society about it.

I hope 1912 is a fine year for you.

Pat Smith has written "Pat's Potpourri," a staple of the Greensburg Dailiy News, for decades.

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