Correct response: Who was Thomas Brackett Reed, better known as Tom Reed?
Reed, a Republican from Maine, was recognized for reorganizing House rules to eliminate tactics commonly used to delay voting on legislation. “Rules should not be barriers, they should be guides,” he said, according to the House of Representative History, Art and Archives website.
Reed, first elected to the House in 1876, Reed was House Speaker for the 51st, 54th and 55th Congresses.
The Morning Star of Glens Falls on December 2, 1889, published an unflattering profile of Reed. “Tom Reed looks anything but the traditional leader. He has the frame of a Japanese wrestler, and his head might serve for that of a Chinese giant. He is fat and tall. And his big boned body is padded at every point with muscular flesh.… He cares little for appearances, and during the quieter part of the season he walks about the House with his hands in his pockets, stepping now and then to tell a story to a crowd of brother members and making laughter wherever he goes.”
In other anecdotes of the lighter side of politics collected from northern New York historic newspapers:
A lesson in vintage politically correct speech: “The word not to use at the 1962 Democratic Convention is ‘boss.’ – ‘Don’t use that word,’ a state committee official snapped today to an aide who had asked,
‘Where’s the boss?’” – The Post-Star of Glens Falls, September 17, 1962
This 19th century politician literally brought home the bacon. “One of the Saratoga delegates to the recent Democratic Convention at Hadley secured a pig which he brought home with him,” The Morning Star of Glens Falls reported on October 10, 1889. “The pig was baked and served at a supper given at D. H. Noonan’s Tuesday night. Several representatives of the Saratoga Democracy relished the dish and had a jolly time over the remains of the Hadley porker.”
Here is an added inventive to get out the vote. “It is said that Prof. Swift of Rochester has promised to name the next comet which he discovers after the successful candidate for president,” The Commercial Advertiser of Sandy Hill, now Hudson Falls, reported on November 3, 1880.
Weather was a factor in voter turnout at Glens Falls in 1884. “Yesterday opened with threatening weather, and the storm predicted by ‘early’ politicians came between eight and nine o’clock in the morning in the shape of rain. It continued storming at intervals throughout the day, making it exceedingly disagreeable for poll drivers,” The Morning Star reported on November 5, 1884. “The condition of weather had a depressing tendency, especially upon Republicans, who always look upon a wet day as against the prospects of success.”
Former President Grover Cleveland turned down an offer to buy Red Top, his private home in Washington, D.C., for about $150,000, roughly six times what Cleveland paid for the old stone farmhouse in 1886, The Morning Star of Glens Falls reported on December 2, 1889. Cleveland said the house, located then in what is now the Cleveland Park Historic District, was not for sale.
“Further he desired it to be understood that some day he hoped to take up his permanent residence at Red Top, especially since it afforded him and opportunity for quietness and recreation.” The house was demolished in 1927.
Editorial wit: “One day before elections. The politicians will doubtless make some lively movements today and tonight. Hand-shaking, solicitous inquiry and the kindest of feeling will be the order of things.” — The Morning Star, November 4, 1889.
Illustration: Portrait of Speaker of the House Thomas Brackett Reed by John Singer Sargent (from the Collection of the U.S. House of Representatives).