Williamsport, Pa., Feb. 19, 1896.
James Mansel was the first Prohibitionist elected mayor of a Pennsylvania city.
Never before in the history of Williamsport has there been such an interest taken in the result of an election as was manifested last night. The polls had barely closed in the several wards before crowds began to gather in different portions of the city to discuss the result. Before eight o’clock, the people by one common impulse wended their way to the centre of the city, and dropped into the places where the returns were expected to be received. The crowds were not composed of excited youths who usually form the component parts of such gatherings, but of business and professional men, and the substantial, easy-going citizens who were not known to make a practice of showing any unusual anxiety to hear election returns.
Fifth ward were the first to reach Mr. Mansel’s headquarters. They were received with much enthusiasm and assured the friends of Honest Jim that the people would sweep the city with a greater plurality than was expected, as Mansel had run ahead of the estimate given by his most sanguine supporters in that precinct. The returns gave 132 votes for Williams, 50 for Corle, 118 for Mansel, and 8 for Parker.
Shortly afterwards the results of the fray in the Seventh were received over the telephone. When it was announced that Mansel had carried the ward by 17 over Williams, bedlam broke loose. The good news reached the street and swept over the city like wildfire.
Before nine o’clock it was learned that Williams’ own ward the Sixth had rebuked him by giving Mansel a plurality of 47. The Tenth followed suit with a vote of 139 for Williams, 20 for Corle, and 146 for Mansel.
About 9:15 the returns from the Twelfth ward placed a quietus on the hopes of the friends of Williams and Corle. When the figures reached Mr. Mansel’s office the news was so good that it was thought that possibly a mistake had been made. Out of 707 votes cast Mansel received 406, a plurality over Williams of 214. Corle, who resides in that ward, received by 102 votes.
The surprise of the evening was the vote of the Ninth ward, which gave Mansel 26 votes over both Corle and Williams, who each received 122.
As no doubt remained as to Mansel’s election after the returns of the Twelfth ward had been received, the enthusiasm of the Mansel people increased to fever heat. Consternation reigned in the camps of the old parties, and the leaders, who had engineered the campaign for the corporations in their efforts to defeat the people, reluctantly conceded the election of James Mansel. Many friends of Mr. Mansel dropped into his office and extended their congratulations.
Shortly before twelve o’clock the Repasz Band marched from their rooms down West Fourth street, stopping in front of Mr. Mansel’s office. A barouche was hastily secured from T.F. Salade’s livery, and Mr. Mansel, together with L. Sheffer, John Showers, W.G. Root, and the editor of the News, took seats therein, and a walkaround was commenced. Preceded by a large American flag from the rooms of the Prohibition league hundreds of Mansel supporters took up a line of march down Fourth street, to Pine, to Third, to Market street, where the paraders clustered about the carriage containing Mayor-elect Mansel, and called for a speech. Mr. Mansel, in a few well-chosen words, thanked his friends for their staunch support, and promised that his election would insure to the benefit of the people of Williamsport. The procession, amid the blaze of fireworks, then proceeded up Third street, to Pine, to Fourth, to Rose, to Erie avenue, to Campbell street, to Park avenue, halting in front of Mr. Mansel’s residence. Here three cheers were given to Mayor Mansel, and that gentleman [left] his carriage and entered his home to the congratulations of his family and friends.. (remainder of article lost) James Mansel’s great-grandson, David Mansel Clinger, kindly provided the Editor with a copy of a clipping from the February, 1896 edition of The People, a Prohibition newspaper published in Milton, Pennsylvania, which contains the above article. This victory is especially notable, because it occurred in the year of the narrow gauge/broad gauge split in the national party.
This was also during the time when the notorious Republican “boss,” Matthew Quay, dominated Pennsylvania politics, which may explain voter enthusiasm for a third-party, reform candidate.
There were four candidates for Mayor of Williamsport: Prohibition (Mansel), Republican (Samuel N. Williams), Democratic (Alvin S. Corle), and what appears to have been a write-in (W. C. Parker). Mansel, the Prohibitionist, received 2257 votes out of a total of 5620. He was the first Prohibitionist elected mayor of a Pennsylvania city.
van Auken, Robin and Louis Hunsinger (2003) — Williamsport: Boom Town on the Susquehanna