Granite State Watersheds, 1916-1996
What is it about New Hampshire and how do you go about winning there?
-- Michael Kramer, Time, July 31, 1995, p. 33
New Hampshire held its first presidential primary in 1916. As in other states, candidate selection procedures had been reformed by the antipartisan impulse of the Progressive movement. An open primary, a contest open to voters from any or no declared party, had been instituted in 1910 by future governor Robert P. Bass. 1 The influence of the Boston and Maine Railroad Company, a powerful controlling influence in turn-of-the-century Granite State politics, had prevented this measure from being expanded to include presidential races in 1912. The new Democratic majority in New Hampshire's House and Senate (collectively known as the General Court) after 1912 permitted passage on May 21, 1913, of an Act to Provide for the Election of Delegates to National Conventions by Direct Vote of the People. Candidates for delegate were required to declare their candidacy not more than sixty days nor less than eighteen days before the primary. A ten dollar fee or two petitions of one hundred names of registered voters were to be submitted to the secretary of state. No provision was made for the separate declaration of personal candidate preference by voters; ballots were for delegate choice alone.
At the next biennial session of the General Court, on April 11, 1915, the laws were revised. The primary date had been originally set for the third Tuesday of every fourth May, but this was now moved to the second Tuesday in March to coincide with Town Meeting Days. Legislators calculated that March was more convenient for the large rural population, much of which would be engaged in ploughing in late April.
The next change in the primary format represented the first recognition of its increasing importance to the electoral process. In 1916 the primary had taken place one week after Indiana's and on the same day as Minnesota's. New Hampshire gained first position in 1920 when these states either moved or abandoned their primaries as the Progressive reform impulse weakened across the nation. By May 1949 primaries were undergoing something of a renaissance. Richard Upton, speaker of the New Hampshire House of Representatives, secured the passage of