The whistle-stop train tour
Once train travel opened up America’s frontiers in the mid-1800s, delivery of the stump speech was streamlined by the use of whistle-stop train tours. Since train stations served as the hub of American life in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, a candidate could hit several small towns in a day, stand on the platform of an observation car or private coach, and give a quick summary of his speech to the hundreds or even thousands of people and fun barn animals who gathered for the spectacle.
In the 1800s, newspapers were primarily partisan arms, and in the decades surrounding the Civil War, sectionalism ran rampant, with multiple factions battling over westward expansion, economic turmoil, and the sanctity of the Union. Every position on the political spectrum usually published its own stand-alone newspaper too, openly supporting a candidate and denigrating its rivals in a bitter and often inflammatory manner. It wasn’t until around the turn of the century that Americans began viewing newspapers as standard bearers of journalistic objectivity, and the advent of news magazines, radio, and TV in the 1920s and '30s put what many thought was the final nail in the coffin of these partisan outlets. Until the 1990s, that is, when Fox News and MSNBC redefined what it meant to unashamedly stake out specific ends of the political spectrum.