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Historical, Political, 1956 Presidential Election Voting Machine, Instruction Model


Demonstration Voting Machine
Automatic Voting Machine Corp., Jamestown, NY: 1956
Metal, paper, etc.
12.25 inches high, 14.5 inches wide, 1 inch deep

A demonstration device for a mechanical lever voting machine used in Connecticut in 1956 — a Presidential election year. It is made of grey-painted metal and has white paper tabs imprinted with the names of the candidates to be selected by functional levers. The model is flat and has a fold-out support that swivels out of the back to stand it on a table. It would be available at the polling place for poll workers to show voters how to place their votes before they entered the privacy of the large voting booth, which was shielded by a curtain that opened and closed when the main lever to cast the votes was pulled.

Product description continued below.


This instruction model was used in the general election of 1956 in Connecticut’s 3rd District, when Adlai Stevenson and Estes Kefauver were running on the Democratic ticket against Dwight D. Eisenhower and Richard Nixon, who were running for re-election as president and vice president. On the ballot for United States senator were the incumbent Republican, Prescott S. Bush, and his challenger, Democrat Thomas J. Dodd, Sr., then serving in the House of Representatives. At the time of this election in 1956, Connecticut voters elected two representatives, one to directly represent their district and a statewide at-large representative. The practice of electing at-large representatives was banned by the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Prescott Bush had been appointed in 1952 when his predecessor died. Dodd lost the 1956 contest, but ran again in 1958 and won. Bush served until 1963 and Dodd until 1971. Both had descendants who followed them into public service: Bush was the father of former President George H.W. Bush and the grandfather of former President George W. Bush and former Florida Governor Jeb Bush. Dodd’s son Christopher Dodd also served as a U.S. Senator from Connecticut and his son Thomas J. Dodd, Jr., was Ambassador to Uruguay and to Costa Rica.

Mechanical lever voting machines were first officially used in 1892. By 1930, they were in use in virtually every major American city, and by the 1960s well over half of votes in U.S. elections were cast on these machines. However, by the 1996 they only accounted for 20% of votes. They are no longer manufactured and have been replaced by computer-based or electronic machines.

Engraved metal label attached to front: Automatic Voting Machine Corp., Jamestown, N.Y., Instruction Model No. 44235.

Condition: Generally very good with the usual overall light wear and oxidation. Some minor scattered paint specks from painting a ceiling above it. Paper labels original and very good with light toning, wear and creases; some with small repaired short tears.

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