Donald Trump wasn't the first larger-than-life Republican to ignore the prevailing political norms of his day and directly reach out to voters in new ways to get elected president of the United States.
In 1908, William Howard Taft campaigned for the White House by traveling by train to speak to voters across the country, a change from the "front porch" style of his predecessors that relied on voters visiting the "reluctant" candidate at his home.
A new state historical marker, set to be unveiled Saturday, commemorates Taft's new whistle-stop technique by marking the Northwest Indiana site that was the first rally stop on Taft's 10-state tour that departed from his hometown of Cincinnati, Ohio.
On Sept. 23, 1908, thousands of Hoosiers crowded onto the grounds of the Newton County estate of writer and humorist George Ade to hear Taft declare his opposition to trade tariffs, his support for strong currency and his endorsement of government programs to improve the lives of rural Americans, such as free mail delivery.
Later that day, Taft's train also stopped at Indiana Harbor in East Chicago, where he told some 1,200 cheering supporters that he favored railroad safety laws, compensation for workers injured on the job, and "a square deal" for organized labor, according to the next day's edition of the Lake County Times.
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The gambit worked. Taft won Indiana and its 15 electoral votes over three-time Democratic nominee William Jennings Bryan by a margin of just 10,731 votes — earning support from a majority of voters in Lake, Porter, LaPorte, Newton and Jasper counties, records show.
While Taft's 1912 re-election bid would be derailed by an unsuccessful third-party campaign mounted by former President Teddy Roosevelt, Taft would go on to become Chief Justice of the United States in 1921 and lead the Supreme Court until shortly before his death in 1930.
The Indiana Historical Bureau will unveil its sign marking Taft's first campaign stop in Newton County at 2 p.m. Saturday at 3623 E. State Road 16, Brook, Indiana, near George Ade's Hazelden Home. Parking is available at the home.
Following the ceremony, visitors can participate in an ice cream social and tours of the Hazelden Home.