#Lookback: General Election of 1940 in Horse Creek

A series where we take a #lookback at the stories and history of our community, brought to you by Mick Pryor, Financial Advisor with Edward Jones.

Let’s go back in time, 80 years ago to be exact. It’s 1940. Within 12 months, Germany will invade six European countries, wage war on England from the air, and induce the Soviet Union and Italy to join the war. Japan and China were continuing years of violent conflicts between each other, and Australia declared war against the Axis powers in tandem with Great Britain in 1939. It’s safe to say a huge part of the world experienced mass chaos during 1940.

Now, let’s peer inward in the United States. April 1, 1940, signaled the end of the decennial Federal Population Census of 1940, having recorded a population of 132,164,569 men, women, and children in the United States. While thoughts of war dominated three other continents, the United States celebrated the impending end of the Great Depression and dug into its isolationist policies. The international conflicts and an internal uptick in standards of living made for an interesting election year for political candidates. Five different parties appeared on Fremont County’s voting ballots on November 5, 1940: Republican, Democrat, Socialist, Prohibition, and Independent.

Many modern readers are familiar with the outcome of the 1940 General Elections: Franklin D. Roosevelt, the Democratic Party candidate, won an unprecedented third term as president. However, what gets lost in the dominant narratives of political history are the names and platforms of Roosevelt’s opponents. This sample election ballot, pictured here, shows what voters in 1940 saw.

There was no presidential candidate from the Independent Party, but Roger W. Babson, of the Prohibition Party, won 57,903 popular votes. His platform on “purifying the government… avoiding war by maintaining friendly relations and providing adequate defense…and encouraging the need for spiritual awakening” earned him 4th place in the election. The Socialist Party’s candidate, Norman M. Thomas, and his party’s pacifist ideals, promotion for socialist ownership, and opposition to Roosevelt’s New Deal netted 116,599 popular votes.

These three candidates did not worry Roosevelt; though, he worried about Wendell L. Willkie, the Republican Party’s candidate, and the incumbent’s most serious challenger. Willkie was a former Democrat and a prominent business executive with no experience in public office. His natural charisma and unapologetic support in American Exceptionalism helped him capture a huge following from all political sides. Unlike his main Republican competitors, Willkie favored more interventionist policies over isolationism, earning him additional support. In addition, Willkie never hesitated to denounce anti-Semitic sentiments and he used his position to advocate for full civil rights for Americans of color. Willkie won the Republican Party’s nomination and gained 22,347,744 popular votes, but ultimately failed to beat Roosevelt’s 27,313,945 votes.

In the Horse Creek polling precinct #2, Election District #19 of Fremont County, the preference for one political party over the other is obvious in the election records. In this area, 114 people over the age of 21 voted: 70 voted for Republican candidates and 44 voted for Democratic candidates. At the time of this election, there were only three registered Democrats in the Horse Creek area. Unsurprisingly, the Socialist Party and Prohibition Party received no votes from the Horse Creek polling precinct.

Next up for the Fremont County Museums

March 12th at the Pioneer Museum 7 pm, “Lander in 1920”

Wyoming Community Bank Discovery Speakers Series

March 12th at the Riverton Museum 6:30 pm, “History of Radio & Broadcasting In Fremont County” by Ernie Over

Wyoming Community Bank Discovery Speakers Series

March 19th at the Dubois Museum 7 pm, “Glaciers in the Wind Rivers” by Jackie Klancher

Wyoming Community Bank Discovery Speakers Series

March 21st at the Dubois Museum 7 pm, “Swift Fox Ecology, Distribution and Trends in Wyoming” by Nichole Bjornlie

Wyoming Community Bank Discovery Speakers Series

March 21st at the Riverton Museum 2-4 pm, “Build Your Own Telegraph” Bailey Tire/Pit Stop

Children’s Exploration Series


Consider supporting The Dubois Museum, the Pioneer Museum in Lander or the Riverton Museum with a monetary donation. The museums are more reliant than ever on donations from the private sector to continue to provide the quality programs, collections management, exhibits and services that have become their hallmark. Please make your tax-deductible contribution to be used specifically for the benefit of the museum of your choosing by sending a check to Fremont County Museums 450 N 2nd Rm 320 or taking it directly to the museum you choose to support.