If Elected: Campaigning For The Presidency

June 22, 2004
November 03, 2004

In August and September, 2004, New York City will host the Republican Party's national convention for the first time in its history. The New-York Historical Society will mark that occasion, and this year's presidential election, with an exhibition that examines the history of American presidential elections since the time of George Washington, through the lens of campaign ephemera and other items of material culture. If Elected: Campaigning for the Presidency will be on view from June 22 through November 3, 2004.

The exhibition examines a wide spectrum of presidential campaign artifacts dating back to the late 18th century. In an age saturated with electronic and print media, we easily lose sight of the central role that banners, badges, mugs, plates, bandannas and countless other sorts of ephemera have played as vehicles for signifying political loyalties and inspiring voter support. Guided by interpretive texts, visitors will see the development of favored presidential mythologies, the introduction of new forms of persuasion, and the changing campaign issues that voters have faced during the past two hundred years. Objects will be drawn primarily from Historical Society collections. Exhibition materials will include broadsides and sheet music from the New-York Historical Society Library; posters from the Department of Prints, Photographs & Architecture; and a wide variety of campaign memorabilia from the Historical Society's Museum, including lapel buttons, parade lanterns, ribbons, flags, banners and miscellaneous objects such as a log cabin whiskey bottle, necktie, thimble, textiles and tee-shirts bearing slogans. New media will be exploited extensively to underline the burgeoning use of radio, television and the Internet in presidential campaigns during the past seventy years.


A special component, Campaigns on Cotton will explore the phenomenon of political textiles with a display of approximately seventy-five examples drawn from the Society's premier collection, supplemented by several loans from the Yale University Art Gallery and private collections. Organized into five sections, Campaigns on Cotton will proceed chronologically, charting presidential campaigns from 1789 to 2004, while exploring the changing uses of kerchiefs to promote candidates and their causes. Examples range from a rare pre-presidential one promoting George Washington, to one commissioned recently touting the campaign of George W. Bush.

Creative: Tronvig Group