HURST (CBSDFW.COM) – A former North Texas mayor has something that he believes connects him with the first black man to vote in this country. It is an old and rare ballot box, if you could call it that.
And, there is another connection. This ballot box is believed to have once been owned by a famous inventor from that era.
Now, Bob Hampton of Hurst has it.
Hampton has few pieces of sentimental memorabilia from his many years in politics. He was a Mayor in Hurst, a Tarrant County Commissioner and served on the Council of Governments.
One of the items most valuable to him is the antique ballot box. An old, Korean war buddy named Kenneth H. Hacker gave it to him. “I’ve had it for 20 years,” he said.
Hampton believes that it is quite possibly THE ballot box used by the first black man to vote in the country in 1870. “It’s a cast iron frame. And it’s very thick glass,” Hampton said as he tapped on the glass bowl.
Voters back then cast their ballots with handmade marbles. There was a different color marble for each candidate. Hampton said the antique ballot box came with a newspaper article from 1936 that shows an illustration of the box and the first black man who cast his ballot, Thomas Mundy Peterson. “If it is THE one, THE box, then it’s worth somewhere up to $10,000. But, I don’t know,” Hampton said.
Hampton won’t even clean it. He’s afraid he’ll wipe off fingerprints from the man believed to be the original owner. “Thomas A. Edison,” Hampton said. “Edison died 17 days before I was born.”
Hampton is 80 now. He said that his old Army buddy gave him the antique ballot box after Hampton helped him clean out an old storage room. Hacker’s mother was an antique dealer who lived in New Jersey, not far from the place Thomas Mundy Peterson cast his first vote.
Even if it turns out it’s not THE ballot box, it’s still a part of political history Hampton will hang onto for now. “It’s really a neat thing,” Hampton said.
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