In the U.S. Presidential election of November 7, 1916, Republican Charles Evans Hughes tried unsuccessfully to unseat the Democratic incumbent, Woodrow Wilson. That election night a New York City newspaper, The American, gathered election results, then distributed them by telephone to hundreds of theatres, outdoor bulletin boards, and hotels, plus one radio station--Lee DeForest's experimental "Highbridge station", 2XG. Although not mentioned in this account, according to DeForest, the station ended its broadcast before the final come-from-behind Wilson victory, so while shutting down operations for the night the station incorrectly declared Hughes the winner.
In his autobiography DeForest called himself the "chief announcer" for the broadcast -- Walter Schare, the "unassuming chap" said in this article to be the broadcast's main announcer appears to have disappeared from most accounts of this historic broadcast.
New York American, November 6, 1916, page 9:
Election Returns to Go by Wireless to 7,000 Operators
New York American Bulletins Will Be Flashed to Amateurs Within 200 Miles of City.
New York American election bulletins will be flashed by wireless telephone to every wireless operator within a radius of 200 miles of New York Tuesday night.
They will be a feature of the first wireless newspaper to be issued daily from the De Forest Radio laboratories at Highbridge.
Through this co-operation more than 7,000 amateur wireless operators will instantly be appraised of the trend of the election returns as soon as they are counted and telegraphed from all parts of the country to the New York American office.
The New York American has had printed announcement cards of this wireless bulletin service. Amateur operators may have these upon application. They can be posted so that residents of the district "covered" by each may know where the news is to be obtained.
Thus will come in existence the first wireless newspaper in the history of the world. Its operation will mark a new era in the use of the wireless.
Each of the thousands of amateur stations in the radius to be served is equipped with the ordinary telephone receiver. Through these every operator will be able to hear a spoken announcement from the Highbridge Central Station.
This central station of the De Forest system is on the Bronx side of the Harlem River, about opposite One Hundred and Seventy-fifth street, Manhattan.
New York American, November 8, 1916, page 6:
American's Returns Sent 200 Miles by Wireless Telephone
This Newspaper First to Use New De Forest Method for This Purpose.
In a corner of the New York American's office last night stood a deep, semi-circular desk. Upon that desk an orderly array of papers, tables, lists and forms were piled. Over these sheets, wholly oblivious to all the turmoil and furore around them, sat a half dozen young men who worked like silent dynamos--unceasingly and methodically, like well-oiled machines, without a pause.
From that desk was swung a circle--a nebulous circle of 400 miles diameter, and through that circle were shot thousands of waves laden with the news of the election. Within that great circle hundreds of thousands of people stood watching the figures from the hotly-contested States of Ohio, Indiana, New York, the Dakotas, Illinois and so on.
WAVES FLASH NEWS.
Over their heads, reaching from that droning desk in the New York American's office to the white bulletin boards on which their eyes were fastened, a vast network of electrical waves were meshing and passing. On these unseen waves the news they sought was carried.
From the deep semi-circular desk the news has been flung by telephone to the De Forest Wireless Telephone Laboratories at Highbridge on the Harlem River. Up in the De Forest tower sat Walter Schare, an unassuming chap, who listened to a receiver clamped to his ear.
At S[c]hare's hand lay the wireless telephone transmitter key. As he heard the news from the seventh floor of the great red building near Brooklyn Bridge he snapped it forth to 8,000 amateur wireless operators within that great 400-mile circle.
Between the bulletins, music was sent through the clouds. The crowds heard "The Star Spangled Banner," "Dixie," "Columbia, the Gem of the Ocean," "America," "Maryland," "Yankee Doodle" and all the other anthems, songs and hymns that Americans love.
Thus, through the clouds, was hurled the news of the night. To tossing ships beyond the bay, beyond the end of Long Island, across the northern tier of New Jersey, far up the rolling Hudson, leaping far above the rugged palisades, topping the crests of the Catskill foothills and charging above the glowing towns and villages, farms and valleys swept the news.
It was the first time in the history of this wonderful world of ours that such a thing could be done. For the first time the wireless telephone has been demonstrated as a practical, serviceable carrier of election news and comment.
As you saw and heard, so did the millions that surged through the streets of the great city and jammed 150 of the great theatres within its limits.
In 180 places in Greater New York the New York American fed the throngs with the news. Four huge motion picture screens had been erected in Manhattan. One was stretched in the Bronx, at One Hundred and Forty-eighth street Willis and Third avenues. Another was raised at Montague and Court streets, Brooklyn.
ELECTRIC SIGNS BLAZE.
Over the heads of the shifting throngs in Long Acre Square there burned the electric sign board on top of the Godfrey building at Seventh avenue and Forty-seventh street. Of itself it told the story to a million persons. A similar frame of fire blurted forth the returns above the Military Square in Newark. These two powerful signs told the story in brief bulletins, fiercely as only fire can and accurately, as marks the news of the New York American.
In every splendid theatre and restaurant between Twenty-third street and Seventy-second, the New York American bulletins were received. The returns were read from the stage at the Shubert Theatre, the Winter Garden, Astor Theatre, the Forty-fourth Street Theatre, the Thirty-ninth Street, the Lyric, the Maxine Elliot, the Booth, the Little Theatre, the Princess, the Palace, the Alhambra, the Broadway, Ziegfeld's Follies, Castles in the Air, the Rialto, the Strand, the Globe, the Palace Theatre in Third avenue, the Eighth Avenue Theatre, the Fourteenth Street Theatre, the Jefferson, the North Star, the Lincoln, the Regent, the Hamilton, the Spooner, the Empire at One Hundred and Sixty-first street, the Prospect, the Royal; and, in Brooklyn, Keeney's Theatre, the Prospect, the Orpheum, the Fox Theatre, the Bushwick, the Greenpoint, the Gotham, the Flatbush, the Lee Avenue Theatre and the Ritz.
Upon the screens in nearly one hundred cinematograph theatres the returns were flashed. Manhattan, the Bronx, Brooklyn, Staten Island, Queens, Jersey City and Hoboken audiences received the figures, and the theatres did a record-breaking business.
In the lobbies of the following great hotels, too, were the New York American's figures posted that the crowds might know how the tide was running: the St. Regis, the Waldorf-Astoria, the McAlpin, the Claridge, the Knickerbocker, the Manhattan, the Cumberland, the Empire, the Netherlands, the Wallick, the Woodward, the Great Northern, the Navarre, the Walcott, the Ritz-Carlton and the Vanderbilt.
Always were there shifting thousands watching other great bulletin boards on which, between returns, the splendid motion pictures of the International Films Service were shown.
BAZAAR CROWDS SERVED.
These high screens were erected in City Hall Park, in Columbus Circle, at Seventh avenue and One Hundred and Twenty-fifth street and in the Sixty-ninth Regiment Armory, where that gallant command is holding its splendid bazaar. At the latter place the crowds were huge. They cheered the figures frantically.
The New York American's effort to spread the news to all within 200 miles of its office was unprecedented in its efficiency, its success, its magnitude and its unerring accuracy.
It was a stupendous effort, but the thousands of messages of thanks received amply paid for the weary strain and the night-long grind.
New York American, November 9, 1916, page 4:
AMERICAN'S BULLETINS WIN PRAISE
More Than Million Persons Get Election News Through Special Election Service of This Paper
Many letters congratulating the New York American on its election bulletin service were received yesterday from managers of prominent hotels and theatres.
More than a million persons received their first news of the returns through The American service, which was distributed throughout the city.
Diners at the fashionable hotels and restaurants as well as thousands who attended the leading theatres were kept informed of the returns from The American bulletins as they were flashed on the screen at frequent intervals.
At the Plaza, Ritz-Carlton, Vanderbilt, Waldorf-Astoria, McAlpin and Claridge stereopticons were used to display The American returns. The first results from the various States were announced far in advance of the information received through other sources.
READ IN ST. REGIS
At the St. Regis Manager Haan erected a huge bulletin board in the lobby leading to the main dining room. As The American bulletins arrived over a special telephone wire they were placed on the board and copies were read in the dining rooms. A number of guests telephoned The American bulletins to friends in other cities. One hundred and eighty-two theatres gave their audiences The American returns throughout the evening.
The crowds in the streets were not neglected. Five outdoor stereopticon booths provided the returns to those who preferred the out of doors. In addition to the bulletins, the movie programme furnished by the International Film Service afforded a delightful entertainment.
At City Hall Plaza one of the largest crowds that has ever gathered in the lower part of the city witnessed the returns. At Columbus Circle, according to the police estimate, more than 50,000 persons watched the bulletins at one time. At One Hundred and Twenty-fifth street and Seventh avenue, One Hundred and Forty-ninth street and Willis Avenue, the Bronx, and City Hall, Brooklyn, similar huge crowds were massed.
NEW SIGN BEARS NEWS.
One of the most successful displays was the illuminated bulletin of the Electric Talking Sign Company atop the Godfrey Building, Forty-ninth street and Seventh avenue. Far up in the air twenty-five stories, The American's exclusive bulletins furnished the crowd in Long Acre Square with the latest returns as they were gathered from all parts of the country. In letters four feet high, the bulletins were clearly read in the streets below, where the crowds were only limited by the police regulations.
A similar sign owned and controlled by the Eureka Sign Company, at Broad street and Military Square, Newark, gave that section of Jersey the first official bulletins.
Many thousands of men and women, within a radius of 400 miles of New York, were talking yesterday of the wireless election bulletins and service provided by the New York American.
Eight thousand amateur wireless operators in the extended zone, with apparatus attuned to the instruments of the De Forest Radio Telephone & Telegraph station at Highbridge, on the Harlem River, received the messages. Crews and visitors on warships at sea were informed of the election returns by messages sent through the air and were entertained by musical selections which the wireless carried.
PATRIOTIC AIRS BY WIRELESS.
Selections from Colombia graphaphone records, especially adapted for wireless transmission, were provided by the company to supply the musical programme given between bulletins. "The Star Spangled Banner," "Columbia, the Gem of the Ocean," "Dixie," "America" and other airs long loved by Americans were sent by the wireless way.
The following letter, from the head of the wireless telephone concern, was received by the editor of the New York American yesterday:
"I wish to thank you most heartily for the active co-operation of the Hearst newspapers in our effort to publish the first 'Wireless Telephone Newspaper.'
"In sending out New York American election returns from my laboratory station here last night, combined with a music concert, we demonstrated what I believe, in time, will mark a very significant effect on the distribution of news.
"We have been literally overwhelmed by telephonic and mail replies from various wireless listeners, who have been intensely interested in the news we sent out, with many requests that we make this news and music service a regular feature. This we propose to do.
"I believe you will recognize the fact that the time will come when from large wireless telephone stations scattered throughout the country literally hundreds of thousands of listeners, provided with a simple receiver, will be able to get the latest news, combined with music and entertainment, in their homes.
"This will mean much to those in rural districts, who are out of touch with the late evening editions of the newspapers.
"I trust you will express my thanks to all of your staff, who have so ably co-operated in making this effort a success.
"Very respectfully yours,