Henry Clay Bascom was born at Crown Point Center, New York, in 1844, attended the public schools, personally organized a literary society. and while yet in his teens became locally conspicuous as a writer and lyceum debater. While still a youth he commenced public speaking in a spontaneous outburst at variance with the temporizing remarks of a clergyman at a public meeting. The extemporaneous faculties there manifested were the presage of convictions that kept Mr. Bascom constantly before the public as a temperance speaker and writer for thirty years.
Converted at the age of fourteen, he has been prominently connected with Methodism, serving as class-leader, Sunday-School superintendent, and, in emergencies, as lay-preacher. His education was completed in his father's law office and at Fort Edward Collegiate Institute, where for some timer he served as tutor. Commencing with no money, in 1868 he became accountant and correspondent in the troy Pattern Works, to which business he succeeded as proprietor in 1879. It is the largest stove pattern manufactory in America. Twice married, his first union, brief, but happy, was with the accomplished daughter of Judge Saxe, of Vermont. She early expired of consumption. The present Mrs. Bascom was Miss Ellen L. Forbes, of Greenfield, Massachusetts.
Originally Republican in politics, in the early seventies Mr. Bascom was nominated for school commissioner and became thus acquainted with the inner workings of the Republican machine. Flatly refusing to contribute to corruption funds or participate in bribery methods, he there and then had a falling out with his party. Regarding Democracy as not less corrupt, Mr. Bascom acted independently until his connection with the Prohibition Party in 1880 or 1881, since which time he has been a delegate to every national convention and each annual New York State convention of the Prohibition Party. For many years he has been a member of the State executive committee, and since 1888, associated with William T. Wardwell, has represented New York on the national Prohibition committee.
In 1885 he was the Prohibition candidate for governor of New York, making sixty addresses in fifty days, the vote he received being an increases of 5,300 over the preceding Presidential vote. He was candidate for Presidential elector in 1892, and a candidate for the Constitution Convention of 1894.
[Bascom died in December of 1896.]
-- Data from An Album of Representative Prohibitionists (1895)
Henry Clay Bascom was born at Crown Point Center, New York, on September 3, 1844. He was the son of Daniel W. and Pamelia (Shearer) Bascom, and the brother of Chester Bascom.
He was educated in public schools. At the age of 14, he joined the Methodist church, later becoming a Sunday school superintendent and a lay preacher. As a teenager, he became locally known as a writer and a public speaker at lyceums. He also began to promote temperance through public speaking and writing, which he would continue to do for decades.
Bascom studied at his father’s law office and at the Fort Edward Collegiate Institute. In 1867, he moved to the city of Troy, New York and the following year began working as an accountant and correspondent for Troy Pattern Works: a company which manufactured stove patterns. Henry and his brother Chester purchased control of the pattern works company in 1879, and they ran the company together into the 1890’s.
In 1874, he married his first wife, Lizzie W. (Saxe) Bascom. She died three years later, in 1877.
Bascom had initially been a Republican in politics. In the early 1870’s, he was nominated for a local school commissioner position and became acquainted with the local Republican political machine. He refused to participate in the corruption and bribery which was practiced in it and left the party. Since he regarded both the Republican and Democratic parties as corrupt, he became an independent.
He joined the Prohibition Party in 1880 or 81 and quickly rose to a position on the New York Prohibition Party executive committee. Following its strong performance in the 1884 presidential election, the Party saw growing membership and prominence in the New York.
In 1885, the Prohibition Party nominated Bascom as its candidate for Governor of New York. The Republican Party feared having to compete with the Prohibition Party for votes and attempted to negotiate with Prohibition Party to get it to withdraw its statewide ticket in New York. When that effort failed, members of the Republican Party lied to the public, falsely claiming that the Prohibition Party state ticket had withdrawn. But this was quickly corrected by public statements by Bascom and other figures in the Prohibition Party.
Bascom ran a committed campaign for governor. He campaigned on a platform which included support for local, state, and national prohibition laws, support for a cconstitutional amendment on prohibition, support for education on temperance in all public schools, support for women’s suffrage, support for civil service reform, reforming state assessment laws, and establishing policies to promote harmony between labor and capital. During the campaign, he did 60 speeches across the state in 50 days, and in some cases did three speeches in day.
He received mixed coverage in the news: from the Saratogan newspaper praising him as a good selection for his party, to anti-prohibitionists attacking him, to an article mocking him for not eating beef. In the end, he received 30,867 (3.01%) votes, and came in 3rd place. His results were roughly 5,000 votes more than the party’s results in the 1882 governor’s election and its statewide performance in the 1884 presidential election. His results were also the largest percentage of the vote that the Prohibition Party has so far received for Governor of New York.
Henry Bascom continued to be involved in Prohibition Party activism. He would make visits to the state legislature to oppose bills which allowed for the sale of alcohol, promoted bills to establish statewide prohibition, and promoted a prohibition amendment to the state constitution. For instance, in 1886, he and other prohibition activists went to the state legislature to protest a high license bill, and again visited the legislature in 1888 in regards to another high license bill.
Bascom married his second wife, Ellen L. (Forbes) Bascom in 1886. They would remain married until his death.
He became one of the members of the Prohibition National Committee in 1888, representing New York State. In 1890, he delivered a speech at the National Temperance Convention, promoting a prohibition amendment to the U.S. constitution. And in 1891, Bascom criticized President Harrison for replacing 12,000 civil servants Cleveland Administration and claimed that his actions contradicted commitment to civil service reform.
During the party’s 1892 presidential convention, Bascom was one of the people considered for the party’s presidential nomination. He came in 4th place, with 3 delegates voting for him. John Bidwell was nominated as the Party’s candidate for president, and Bascom acted as one of the people on his slate of electors in New York. In 1893, Bascom was one of the party’s delegate-at-large candidates for the 1894 state constitutional convention.
Henry Clay Bascom died in Jacksonville Florida on December 14, 1896. He was buried at Oakwood Cemetery in Troy, New York.
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-- Contributed by Jonathan Makeley