European visitors were stunned. Many wrote home about the wild spectacle of an American election, watching “people living as far asunder as the population of Paris is from that of St. Petersburg” simultaneously break out in political debate. To Europeans, it looked like a festival of diversity, anchored by working-class young white marchers and filled out by clubs of African Americans, Cubans or Italians, all joining “the motley crowd — American, Irish, Mexican, and Chinese,” as one stunned London correspondent reported out of San Francisco. Other travelers marveled at America’s women, denied the right to vote but still fiercely opinionated. Tourists never got used to watching schoolgirls argue politics on the streetcars.

A Swedish immigrant wrote home, proud of his new country, where “both the millionaire and the poor working man” seemed ready to break out in a compelling political speech, where “[a]ll work with…

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