My great-grandfather, Edwin A. Niess, was a life-long Republican. He never voted anything but the straight Republican ticket and the fact that he even voted in a National Election tells a lot about him.
You see, he lived and worked in Washington D.C., you know, where the license plate says “Taxation Without Representation.” Can’t vote there. So where did he vote? The upright citizen that he was? Well, he voted in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. . . . as a citizen of Harrisburg!
Since Edwin saved literally every scrap of paper he either received or wrote, I know a lot about him. I think I’ve written about that before. He even kept carbon copies of letters he typed to family members and before he had a typewriter, he transcribed each letter he had written! I have copies of some of those from the 1890′s.
In 1899, he was applying for a job as a Postal Inspector, which was a political appointment at that time. According to a letter he transcribed that was written to Hon J.L. Bristow, Fourth Assistant Postmaster General, “. . . Furthermore, he is a faithful Republican and attends every election and votes the right ticket, no matter at what inconvenience or expense.” The letter had started “Mr. Edwin A. Niess is a legal resident of Harrisburg, Pa., who is now a clerk in the War Department. . . “
Another letter of recommendation he had transcribed (no date) states”. . . he is well known as a man of excellent reputation and good habits and as a regular voter of the straight Republican ticket.” This particular letter was sent to Hon. Charles Emory Smith, Post Master General.
The last letter to the Post Master General was sent on letterhead from the House of Representatives in Washington, and stated almost word for word what the first letter said. It was dated in October of 1899 and the first one was dated in December of the same year. Whether he sent out a sample letter for them to submit or not, I do not know. I just think it’s strange that they used almost identical terminology!
The letters must have worked, since he did get the job. According to an “Official Statement” (resume’) in file, he was appointed P.O. Inspector on 26 July 1900 at $1200 per annum and $4 per diem.
Also in his papers are letters he wrote to his nephew in Harrisburg. His nephew would pay his “County Tax” for him and Edwin would use Bob’s address so he could vote.
One of the more interesting letters in the collection is one from his sister, Katie written April 13, 1936. She, of course, lived in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, as did the rest of Edwin’s family. It seems every letter he saved had one thing or another to do with voting, politics or an election! This one’s excerpt is as follows:
“. . . I forgot I do not owe you a letter and would not be writing if it was not to tell you about election. (I guess you did write to me to find out about election.) Well you are to (sic) late for the spring election, and you must be registered and must come up here for that. We all registered last fall, now we need not register any more unless we move, only must go to vote and I am sick of hearing politics.”
Love the last statement! Just proves the more things change, the more they remain the same!
My favorite letter in the bunch and the last letter I will bore you with, came from his nephew Bob. It was dated 26 September 1947 and I will transcribe the first part of it here:
“Please believe me, I have been very busy lately. Not because of the fire business but Political.
We are having a very hard election campaign for all offices which leads out of the primaries for Mayor. The defeated canidate John E. Peters, went over with the Dem. Party and now we have an ugly campaign on our hands.
Uncle Edwin, if it is possible be sure to come up on election day Nov 4. because one Rep. good vote will mean very much this time. Only sickness will I excuse you this time.”
If he made it to Harrisburg on November 4th, it was probably the last election he voted in. Edwin Alonzo Niess died on 18 April 1948 in Washington D.C. Through his vast collection of newspaper clippings, pictures, letters and books, I know him like I know no other of my ancestors.
. . .and my great Repubican ancestor would be so dissappointed to know that his great-granddaughter is today a registered Democrat!