Stamp the Rooster

William Thibodeaux

Nicholas “Nick” Broussard surrounded by hundreds of townsfolk from Erath who were on hand to see him off to Washington, DC.

The 2014 midterm elections are finally over along with the seemingly constant television and radio ads urging voters to elect this candidate or that candidate.
Nearly a hundred years ago voters were bombarded with political newspaper ads. For instance, during the election season of April 1916, voters were urged in bold type letters by The St. Landry Clarion to “Stamp the Rooster.” Stamping the rooster meant endorsement of the entire Democratic ticket at the ballot box. Long before the Civil War and Thomas Nast’s Republican elephant, Democratic donkey, Tammany tiger, and Santa Claus, a rooster was the symbol of the Democratic Party.
An article in The Commoner dated May 26, 1905 mentioned that Major W. W. Armstrong of Cleveland, Ohio was the first to suggest that a rooster be used as the Democratic symbol. Was he correct? A writer in the Washington Star begged to differ. He claimed that the credit should go to a Democratic senator from Indiana, who first suggested the rooster in a letter to one of his constituents after it was definitely known that Democratic candidate James K. Polk had closely defeated Whig candidate Henry Clay in 1844. According to the Washington Star article, a letter was sent to the editor of the Cleveland Plain Dealer that read: “Tell Bird B. Chapman to crow!” Chapman was the editor of the local Democratic organization, and his next publication contained the first Democratic rooster crowing over the defeated Whigs. And, that is how a crowing rooster became the Democrat’s symbol.
One of the biggest promoters of the Democratic Party in this area was Nicholas “Nick” Broussard of Erath, Louisiana. On April 18, 1934, surrounded by hundreds of enthusiastic citizens of Erath, Nick began his 75 day, 1,600 mile trip to Washington, DC to deliver two, prize-winning white Wyandotte roosters for President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Nick traveled over rough roads and heavy traffic in a mule-drawn buggy to deliver the two roosters. The roosters were raised by Mrs. Maude (Gaidry) Villien of Maurice. She was the wife of Dr. J. A. Villien also from Maurice. I recently spoke with Mrs. Maude Villien’s 84 year old son; Alfred Villien, a native of Maurice who said he vaguely remembered the story. “It happened a few years after I was born, but I remember the folks in the area talking about it around election time,” said Alfred Villien.
According to an article by the “Item Roving Reporter”, 78 year old Nick Broussard left Erath in good spirits heading towards Washington, DC. Besides his two-prize winning roosters and an old mule, the self-proclaimed “oldest active Democrat” in the state of Louisiana brought a case of famous Jax beer for the president, compliments of Jackson Brewing Company of New Orleans. Nick also had his trusty Conoco “Tour-aide” travel map especially prepared for him. Nick arrived in Washington on July 3, 1934. Unfortunately, the president was out of office at the time and couldn’t see Nick. The mule and buggy were sold in Washington and Nick Broussard boarded a passenger train for the return trip to Erath.
Special thanks go to Warren Perrin who graciously allowed me the use of his amazing document and photo collection at his Acadian Museum in Erath.

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