Headlines of Yore

Nearly 100 years ago, Pa.’s Senate race was jolted by allegations of election fraud in Philadelphia

The ostensible winner of the 1926 contest, Republican William S. Vare, was never seated as senator.

Philadelphia Mayor Freeland Kendrick and William Vare in 1927

Philadelphia Mayor Freeland Kendrick and William Vare in 1927

Library of Congress via Philadelphia Encyclopedia

Unfounded claims of fraud in Philadelphia’s 2020 election have been disproven several times over. But a century ago, the city saw an actual voting scandal.

In the 1920s, a trio of brothers known as the “Dukes of South Philadelphia” dominated city politics as Republicans. One of them, William Scott Vare, ran for U.S. Senate and won — but his victory was clouded by allegations of tampering.

As a Philadelphia Bulletin headline from January 1927 explained, authorities seized ballots from Philly and Pittsburgh, and launched a deep investigation. The Senate refused to seat Vare, who claimed he was being targeted by elite progressives because of his working-class background.

In the middle of it all, the senator-elect had a debilitating stroke. He would never recover.

As the race for U.S. senator from Pa. heats up again, scroll through the thread below to read how it unfolded nearly 100 years ago.

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History, Politics