My Grandparents’ First U.S. Presidential Election

After the presidential election last week, I became interested in what my grandparents’ experiences would have been when they were first old enough to vote for a U.S. presidential election.

My paternal grandfather Walter Carl Herman Lange was born on 05 March 1908 in Detroit, Wayne County, Michigan to Wilhelm Friedrick Lange and Emma Brosch.  His first opportunity to vote for a U.S. president would have been at the age of 24 in 1932, as the 26th Amendment (lowering the voting age to 18) wasn’t added to the Constitution until 1971.

His wife (my paternal grandmother) Hazel Genevieve Wehrmeister was born on 04 October 1909 in Detroit, Wayne County, Michigan to Gustave Rudolph Wehrmeister and Evalena Ludvine York.  Her first opportunity to vote for a U.S. president would have been at the age of 23 in 1932.

My maternal grandfather Charles Edward Maudlin was born on 15 December 1910 in Shiawassee County, Michigan to O.D. Maudlin and Amina Myrtle Ehl.  His first opportunity to vote for a U.S. president would have been at the age of 21 in 1932.

In 1932, the following were the nominees of their parties:
♦ Franklin D. Roosevelt – Democratic Party
♦ Herbert Hoover – Republican Party
♦ Norman Thomas – Socialist Party

According to HistoryCentral.com’s page on Michigan voting history, Michigan was a strongly Democratic state.  Of the 1,372,082 votes cast in the state, 70.4% were for Roosevelt (965,396 votes) and 28.9% for Hoover (396,762).  Roosevelt won the election with 472 electoral votes compared to Hoover’s 59 (none went to Thomas).

On 24 August 1940 in the city of Wayne, Wayne County, Michigan, my grandfather married my maternal grandmother, Shirley Belle Havens (born on 26 September 1920 in Flint, Genesee County, Michigan to Lester Clarence Havens and Cleo May Sample).  My maternal grandmother’s first opportunity to vote for a U.S. president would have been four years after their marriage, in 1944.

In 1944, the following were the nominees of their parties:
♦ Franklin D. Roosevelt – Democratic Party (the 22nd Amendment that put term limits on the office of the president wasn’t added to the Constitution until 1951)
♦ Thomas E. Dewey – Republican Party
♦ Norman Thomas – Socialist Party

HistoryCentral.com’s information about Michigan in the 1942 election shows that the Democratic party didn’t have the same stronghold in Michigan that year.  Of the 2,205,223 votes cast in the state, 50.2% of the votes went to Roosevelt (1,106,899 votes) and 49.2% went to Dewey (1,084,423 votes).  Roosevelt was re-elected with 432 electoral votes compared to Dewey’s 99 (and again, none went to Thomas).

I do not know for certain (yet) how my four grandparents voted in their first U.S. Presidential election, but I know both families were strongly Democratic, and I can imagine that they all cast their votes for Roosevelt.

I’m going to continue compiling this same information about my great-grandparents and great-great-grandparents’ first presidential elections and state results, and I’m excited to learn more about the political history of Michigan during their lives.

What was the political history of YOUR grandparents and the states they lived in?

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