Harry’s New York Bar, that iconic Parisian watering hole of American writers, actors, composers and celebrities, as well as the site of pilgrimage for countless American tourists, is also the scene of a quirky yet amazingly accurate ritual in political prognostication.
American jockey and saloon owner, Tod Sloane, opened the establishment as the New York Bar in 1911 and sold out to his bar manager, Scotsman Harry MacElhone, in 1923. Forever after the place would be known as HARRY’S New York Bar. With the next presidential election in 1924, Harry, always the promoter, came up with a way to engender interest among the many American tourists who were escaping the Prohibition of America’s “Roaring 20’s” in search of a more liberal lifestyle, free-flowing booze and the cheap cost-of-living in post-WWI Paris.
Harry laid hands upon a ballot box and invited anyone with an American passport to cast their unofficial straw vote. On election day the results were tabulated. The Harry’s Bar winner? Incumbent Calvin Coolidge. Thus began a string of prescient presidential predictions.
With the exception of a lapse during WWII, when the German officer corps held sway at Harry’s, that ballot box has been the receptacle of Harry’s straw vote for every presidential election since 1924 and has correctly picked the winner in all but two elections; Jimmy Carter in 1976 and George W. Bush in 2004.
Who will win Harry’s Bar straw poll in the upcoming November election? An excellent question and one that is anyone’s guess, given the nature of this year’s out-of-the-ordinary political process and cast of characters.
I will make every effort to secure a promise from our pals at Harry’s to text me the official count as soon as it is totaled. If they comply, look for an immediate post to this website. With the 7 to 9 hour time difference between France and the U.S., you just might be able to scoop your friends and neighbors with the winning prediction.
To our MOVEABLE FEAST compatriots traveling with us this October, make sure to carry your passport around town and be ready to cast your vote should your wanderings take you past the swinging doors of this slice of Manhattan in Paris.