Historical Background

Active presidential campaigning and the use of mementos for advertising did not begin until the mid eighteen hundreds. One reason was that through 1812, a majority of presidential electors were chosen by state legislatures rather than by popular vote. A second reason was that it was not considered proper to openly seek the office of president. After being nominated, most candidates stayed at home and awaited the results.

It was Andrew Jackson's bitter loss to John Quincy Adams in 1824 that led him to plan political assaults and win against Adams in 1828 and Henry Clay in 1832. A few items such as snuff boxes, thread boxes, clothing buttons, tokens, ribbons, and ceramic plates were made to appeal to the electorate.

1840 is considered the year when campaigns and trinkets really began to flourish. "Tippecanoe and Tyler Too" was the slogan for William Henry Harrison and John Tyler, Whigs. Their party generated enthusiastic support with parades, political rallies, and souvenirs that were intended to get them elected. The tradition of "Hurrah Campaigns" has diminished over the years with modern electioneering. Much of the political activity has shifted toward special interest groups.

The twentieth century brought the age of electronic transmission, first radio, then television, and the Internet. All of these forums are used to reach the voting public. Media consultants view voters as members of an audience rather than participants in a process. Gadgets such as buttons, pins, banners, and posters are not considered to be as valuable in generating votes . This has led to a decrease in their production. It will be interesting to watch how future elections are conducted and if broad based voter participation is ever revived.

This exhibit of buttons, ribbons, pins, watch fobs, medalets, postcards, and sheet music is made possible through the courtesy of the Ohio Historical Society and the Macy Hallock collections. The author wishes to thank these people for generously allowing her to photograph their materials for this educational project. A list of books used for preparation of the exhibit can be found on the resources page. In Addition, the Library of Congress has published an 11"x14" book of Presidential Campaign Posters.

Updated June 27, 2012
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