New Archives Exhibit Features the Kitsch of Presidential Campaigns Past

We’re no stranger to campaign materials this time of year, especially since our swing state status has made us the target of campaign ads on TV, radio and even the Internet. As you drive through town, you may see yard signs in support of a ticket or a bumper sticker proclaiming allegiance to a particular candidate. But have you seen anyone wearing a campaign button, belt buckle or hat recently? How about singing a tune out of a campaign songbook? A new archives exhibit on the 5th floor of Alden Library features these types of campaign materials and more. 

It’s hard to imagine in the days of promoted Tweets, Facebook ads and email fundraising, but in the earliest presidential elections, political memorabilia was the primary, and sometimes only way that candidates could communicate with the voting public, according to Jordan Wright a collector of campaign artifacts and author of Campaigning for President.

The Presidential Campaign Artifacts Collection in the Mahn Center for Archives and Special Collections, which came to the Archives courtesy of an anonymous donor in 1979, features a wide variety of campaign objects from the 1804 to 1972 campaigns. The collection includes more than 1500 campaign buttons, ribbons, banners, medals, bumper stickers, license plates, printed campaign cartoons and much more for total of more than 4500 items. The exhibit features the most interesting examples of each type of item, according to Doug McCabe, Curator of Manuscripts, who developed the exhibit.

The next time you’re in Alden or find yourself tiring of the 2012 campaigns, we invite you to visit the 5th floor and take a look at these campaigns of years past, or take a look at the gallery of items from the collection below. (Photos by Shari DiBari/Ohio University Libraries)