This month we will open our new exhibit Vote for Me! in the Education Room. Whether Democrat or Republican, Whig or Know-Nothing, political candidates from all parties have had to work to advertise themselves and their platforms to the voting public. The exhibit will feature political advertisements including handbills, buttons and signs from our collections from as far back as the 1840s and as recently as 2010.
This letter, dating to the 1840s, is one of the oldest pieces of political advertising in our collection. It urges Democrats to reject the wealthy bankers, businessmen and lawyers running for office and elect someone who understands the struggles of the working man. It’s well over 100 years old and, except for some word choices, it practically reads like something from the Occupy movement.
Over the years, the nature of political advertisements have changed. While the letter from 1840 is rather wordy, modern ads rely less on long winded arguments and more on catchy slogans, bright colors and photographs. Take, for example, this Republican handbill from the 1990s.
There are some really great items on display, but my favorite is this anti-New Deal ad from the 1936. Why, you ask? Well, because it’s just so clever. I’ll admit, unless you are a history geek or lived through the 1930s, some of the jokes are rather obscure but, if you take the time to look up the references, I’m sure you’ll get a kick out of it. After all, when was the last time you saw a funny political poster that wasn’t created by The Daily Show or Stephen Colbert?
Since our founding, voting has been a right, privilege and responsibility. Do your part and vote. Also, come and see our exhibit. It’s practically your patriotic duty!