One of Dennis J. Haylon’s news companies has provided invaluable publicity to the Berkshires and The Eagle in countries around the world for a period of two decades.
In 1912, when cable news services were still not enlightened by today’s vigorous presentation and radio communication was dotted and dotted between commercial stations or amateur amateurs, Mr. Haylon discussed with Carey S. Hayward, then City Editor of the Pittsfield Journal, an idea to put this area in the spotlight.
Voting times, by tradition, were set to suit voters’ convenience, roughly corresponding to office hours, so voting was not completed until late afternoon or evening and the final count much later. Why did Mr. Haylon reason, couldn’t the hours be arranged earlier in a small town to beat the country with the report of his vote? The neighboring town of New Ashford, with about 20 registered voters, was a logical testing ground.
The plan was rejected for this national election year because the mandates for the election had already been published, setting the polling station opening time at 10 a.m. However, the inspired idea was too good to be abandoned. So, in 1916, Mr. Haylon proposed it again to the Journal and the Associated Press. The latter said that it could not be done and, if so, what? The Journal rejected it. But Mr. Haylon tried it, with complete success.
First, the idea was sold to city officials, who agreed to post voting times from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. Then, help from various citizens of Pittsfield, as well as New Ashford voters was enlisted. Everything was settled. Twenty-three of the village’s 24 franchise voters were driven to the school’s polling place early, but a tough individualist named Smith insisted polling stations should remain open until the scheduled 10am limit. , so he didn’t show up until an infuriating three-quarters of an hour later, at 9.55am.
In a hurry, the now-over presidential vote was totaled at half a minute after 10 – result Hughes 16, Wilson 7. Press cars raced to the nearest phones, three miles away, in Lanesboro . The news was transmitted from The Eagle by Leon R. Wakefield telegraph to the Associated Press office in Boston. Mr Haylon had a scoop, despite the inflexible Mr Smith – who, by the way, was the first to stand in the similar nation’s first poll four years later.
For four subsequent national elections, New Ashford’s vote continued to be the first in the face of increasing competition from other communities until, in 1936, the newly created township of Millsfield, NH, with but seven voters, took the shot and got his vote first.
This story within history is selected from the archives of Jeannie Maschino, The Berkshire Eagle.