eBay Tuesday: Vote For William C. Fox

Campaign material from one of the New London city councilor's congressional bids

City Hall has a roster of former mayors printed on one wall of the City Council chambers, and today's featured item offers a glimpse into the life of one of them.

User mainstreetbooks is a portrait and campaign card of William Clarence Fox, a New London politician whose service went back as far as 1917 and continued into the 1930s. The campaign card is from Fox's 1932 bid for Congress while the portrait - signed "Affectionately 'Dad'" - is from his time in the Connecticut State Senate.

The card outlines an extensive political history, although it gives few details as to the timeframe of Fox's civic service. Born on Aug. 15, 1882, he had a single term as state representative in 1917 and two terms in the State Senate in 1919 and 1929. The card also lists his experience as 12 years on the City Council (including two terms as mayor), nine years on the Board of Education, 25 years of political experience, and 30 years of "practical business experience."

Fox first tried to win a seat in the House of Representatives in 1930, running as a Democrat for the Second Congressional District. The Democrats picked up dozens of seats due to the country's economic situation, but Fox failed to unseat the longstanding Republican incumbent, Richard Freeman, who had represented the district since his election in 1914. Fox won 46.6 percent of the vote with 33,029 ballots cast in his favor.

Several other factors were in play in 1932. The nation was reeling from the ongoing Great Depression, with greater pressure on the GOP since the crisis had occurred with a Republican majority in Congress as well as a Republican president. Freeman was ousted by his own party, which nominated William L. Higgins in his place. Fox again became the Democratic nominee for the district.

The Democratic presidential nomination was also up in the air, with former New York governor and 1928 presidential candidate Alfred E. Smith winning some support in Connecticut. When Fox - a supporter of Franklin Delano Roosevelt - was named temporary chairman of the state convention, it set up a battle for the state's delegates.

Roosevelt went on to win the nomination and the general election, but Fox lost by a razor thin margin. Of 91,474 ballots cast, Higgins won the seat in Congress by only 221 votes. Fox earned 45,011 votes - 49.2 percent - to Higgins' 45,232. A few spoiler candidates may well have helped prevent a Fox victory. Elmer Jewett, an independent Republican candidate, earned 1,054 votes while Michael H. Rollo, running on an anti-Prohibition plank, had 177 ballots.

Fox would continue to have a local and state political career, winning other elections to the State Senate and City Council. The user says the portrait comes from service in the State Senate in 1937. In 1938, he got into a dispute with Secretary of State C. John Satti at the state convention over the seating of a New London delegation, offering a substitute slate to Satti's. Fox died in 1947. The portrait may well have been addressed to his only child, William C. Fox Jr., who was born in 1916 and would serve as an Army lieutenant in World War II.

The portrait is four and a half by six and a half inches, with some minor soiling and a small chip to the mat the photo is printed on. The campaign card is five and a half by three and a quarter inches. The starting bid is $24.99, with $2.50 for shipping. The auction ends at about 8 p.m. on Wednesday.

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