The election was incredibly close.
The Democratic candidate had taken the popular vote, but as you know, elections are decided by the popular vote, and the electoral count was still in dispute. Florida was hanging by a chad. Whoever took Florida would win the White House.
The year was 1876, and the election was between Rutherford B. Hayes and Samuel J. Tilden. It was true that as the election results poured in, Florida's electoral votes remained contested, but so did those of South Carolina, Louisiana and Oregon.
Samuel J. Tilden, the Democrat from New York had taken the popular vote by about 250,000.
In those days, the only electronic medium in the world was the telegraph, and that was owned by Western Union, who controlled all the telegraph wires in the country.
The information that was transmitted over those wires belonged to the Associated Press, another Media Monopoly that worked hand in hand with Western Union to make sure that no one got into the turf.
The AP was able to exercise such massive control because it fed 80% of the news stories that filled the nation's newspapers every day. There were only papers in those pre-radio and TV days, and those papers needed content. That content came from the AP and that content was delivered over Western Union wires.
Think of this as the Facebook and Google of the 19th Century.
The men (and it was all men) who owned the AP were staunch Republicans, and one man in particular, William Henry Smith, wanted to largely non-descript and highly mediocre Rutherford B. Hayes, of his native Ohio in the White House.
For weeks leading up to the election, the AP had run endless stories, almost entirely fictional, of what an utter genius and hero Hayes was, while running stories about how terrible and corrupt was the New Yorker Sam Tilden.
Even so, the election came down to a tie, to be decided by a special Congressional Committee.
The Committee debate (and fought to the death) for four long months to reach a conclusion. During that time, Smith and Western Union allowed Hayes and the Republicans to read the Democrat's telegrams discussing strategy and numbers - perhaps the first case of hacking.
In the end, the tech companies of the day were able to put so much pressure on Congress, and deliver so much info to the Hayes people that it was decided that the outstanding 20 electoral votes would be awarded to Rutherford B. Hayes, who won the Presidency by a margin of 1 electoral votes. In other words, Hayes took them all.
The deal that was worked out was called The Great Compromise of 1877, and the deal was that Hayes would take the White House and all the Federal troops that had been occupying the former Confederate States.
Reconstruction was effectively over, to be replaced by Jim Crow laws and institutional racism.
A pretty profound price to pay for putting Hayes in the White House, with implications long after Hayes was forgotten.
But that's the power of the media.
That's why it is so vitally important for you to take control of your own media. Make your own content. Share it with the world.