January 30, 1914: Superior voter applicants mocked by Duluth newspaper

On this day in Duluth in 1914, the Duluth News Tribune ran a story about immigrants applying for the right to vote went out of its way to mock some of the applicants, including that “weird answers were given by a few of the close to 100 men of various  nationalities who were made voters after the examination by R. K. Roe, Federal Inspector.” Roe had prepared over a hundred questions and asked each candidate several random selections. The newspaper ribbed candidates who had answered that Superior Mayor Joe Konkel was the vice president of the United States, that Wisconsin Governor Francis McGovern was a former “champion lightweight prizefighter of the world,” and that Wisconsin Senator  Robert LaFollette was “that guy with the pompadour.” (To be fair, they got the last one right—as the photo below attests.) Among the applicants were “one Turk, one Austrian, two Hollanders, three Englishmen, four Scotsmen, five Belgians, six Germans, six Canadians, and eleven Russians” but the majority were “Swedes, Finlanders and Norwegians.” The paper describe them as being “From all walks of life. There were men with whiskers and men without; horny-handed sons of toil and dapper little clerks with smooth faces and carefully manicured fingernails. But the greater number were laborers, farmers, and artisans.” Roe was set to examine 122 men, but only 101 showed up and of those 92 passed the test. Three men were denied papers, one because he was “engaged in the saloon business.” The paper did point out that every applicant knew that Woodrow Wilson was the sitting president and that “most of the applicants acquitted themselves with credit, answering with intelligence and without hesitation.”

Wisconsin Senator Robert LaFollette. (Image: Public Domain)