1920 was a presidential election year, and the nominees of the two major parties were both officeholders in Ohio. Can you guess their names?
Here's a clue: Both these candidates have acquired the distinction of being less interesting than their running mates.
The Democrat, Ohio Gov. James M. Cox, has been eclipsed by his: Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
And the Republican leader, Sen. Warren G. Harding, would, unfortunately, have his life eclipsed halfway through his tenure as president. His vice president, Calvin Coolidge, replaced him. Before you say, "Silent Cal? He's an unknown quantity. He's only known for being unknown" — stop. Coolidge is not so unknown as he once was. Somebody was talking up his autobiography on NPR just the other day.
Harding is more familiar than Cox, but who was he, really? What was his character? And Cox, what were his hobbies? With whom would one prefer to share a beer?
The archive of the Sept. 12, 1920, Arkansas Gazette offers a (2,000-word) essay purporting to provide just such character analysis. Dr. W. de Kerlor (aka Wilhem de Kerlor, Willie de Kerlor, Willem de Wendt, Willie Wendt and Wilhelm Frederick Wendt de Kerlor) presents his expert analysis of handwriting samples from Cox and Harding.
Here's what the (self-described eminent) graphological psychologist de Kerlor says he saw in a note written by Cox:
1. Wide spacing between lines and words. Generosity.
2. Free from flourishes. Sobriety of expression.
3. A strange habit of starting the line high up on the page, dropping it at the end.
4. An almost complete absence of loops and dashes in the formation of the letters f, g, y, b, d and l. Quite in contrast with the writing of his opponent.
5. The crossing of most t's high up on the letter.
6. A "speedy," vivacious, yet subdued letter and word formation.
7. The capitals not inordinately swollen as with "Warren."
8. The dotting of the i's somewhat shy, though precise, expressing a distinct sense of proportion.
9. The signature James M. Cox, in which the "M" is joined to "C," showing great power for sustained attention and mental concentration.
10. Personal pronouns occur but five times in 97 words, expressing about 5% "ego."
"These 10 principal points, upon which is woven the psychological complexity of the Democratic candidate, are enough to reveal a soundness of heart seldom found in a public man," de Kerlor writes. "There is no haste, neither hesitation in his deliberations. A sense of humor which reveals itself [at] best when in tete-a-tete or in intimate conviviality. Deeply sensitive to cultured and refined surroundings, but equally adapted nevertheless. Can 'rough it,' if need be, but prefers not to."
De Kerlor further deduces that Cox never forgets a friend or a promise. "There is no makeshift attitude of mind. The will is strong, the passions subdued and the emotions well controlled." Cox is "reluctant to speculate."
And his ideals are 100% democratic. He abhors anything that amounts to egoistic self assertion. He believes in radiating happiness. He is the apostle of the new gospel of service. He wants to coordinate all the parts of his world so everyone works together for the happiness of the majority while taking little if any credit to himself.
"There is no room in his heart for the complicated intrigues of foreign diplomacy, which to his understanding appear obsolete and lifeless," de Kerlor asserts. "One seems to divine in his thoughts an earnest anxiety to have the whole world get together, friends and foes alike, to redraft a broader, neutral covenant."
And now for Harding:
1. The script occupies the whole space of the page.
2. The letters are "squashed" and angular.
3. General aspect of writing is rapid with a tendency upward.
4. The y's in "you" are different from those in terminating words.
5. The first stroke, as in k of "know'' and in the b and t are made as with time-saving purpose.
6. But in "devotedly" the t is crossed in a most erratic fashion.
8. [The Gazette typographer has skipped No. 7] The commas are made to resemble fishhooks.
9. The punctuation is precise in the body of the script.
10. But he has forgotten to punctuate his signature.
11. The signature "Warren" is free from flourish, dash, lasso or other such usual impediments.
"Thus we may deduce that the characteristics of the Republican candidate are those of a willful man. One given to short shrifts and possessing a public personality which is quite different from that known in circles of intimacy," de Kerlor writes.
"The real self is elusive."
His handwriting suggests an iron will that "will exert the maximum discipline at home, while in matters of foreign policy, this same iron will should enforce a dignified position claiming the respect and good will of other neighbors of the earth plane." (De Kerlor also read palms.)
Critical of himself, Harding always strives to excel in whatever he undertakes. "Given to strokes of genius. Brilliant in his conceptions at times. And with his inborn genius, we also find the inalienable tendency (which in genius is always present) of being at times 'erratic.'''
In the wide loop formed by the capital P of "please," the graphologist reads an "innate love of knowledge and great resourcefulness of imagination. There is something of the inventor here, together with a profound reverence for all things of taste and of culture. He has romantic, passionate reactions, but only to a wholesome degree.
He has dynamic ambitions. He has a temper. His patience is a matter of self-discipline rather than a natural quality. "Dominating and seemingly autocratic, says the 'squashed' appearance of the letters. The senator can infuse into certain of his words and looks a 'bite' which alone is found in all true born leaders of men."
Where Harding will "drive in" through sheer force of argument and physical will, Governor Cox will display "that subtle power of suasion which always wins with a smile." The former believes in the law of maximum effort for efficiency, while the latter prefers to follow the lines of least resistance, and that of saving energy.
De Kerlor praises Harding for not punctuating his signature because it suggests he is capable of subordinating personal feelings to a greater cause. And the variation in his y's reveals an unsuspected artistic side. Also, a bon vivant with respect for ancient rites and old furniture.
And there you have it: all you need to know about these two fascinatingly obscure American politicians. Thank you, Dr. de Kerlor, whoever you were.
Oh. Did I fail to mention he was a fraud? Look him up. Total, notorious fraud.