19th Century Political Campaigns Make Today's Look Genteel

Think today’s political campaigns are nasty? The Wisconsin State Journal’s Odd Wisconsin column reminds us of the not-so-good-old-days when campaign rallies sometimes became bloody affairs.

These outdoor political events were more like protest rallies than TV speeches, as a candidate’s backers came together in a park or plaza. They often preceded torch-lit marches through town, and if two opposing parties met on the street, the scene was less like a League of Women’s Voters debate than a Packers- Bears game.
In the spring of 1847, two such groups clashed in Milwaukee. “I witnessed from the store door the free fight which took place,” recalled A.W. Kellogg. “Both sides used their torch sticks for weapons, or any club they could find, and belabored each other till heads were broken and clothes stripped off.