New York City, NY
In this display, The New York Public Library is proud to present presidential campaign ephemera dating back nearly 150 years: a lapel pin with a portrait of Abraham Lincoln, a Barry Goldwater bumper sticker, and even a Richard Nixon poster designed to be hung in college dorm rooms. Some offer detailed candidate platforms; others communicate largely through graphic treatment, providing a visual perspective on the ways campaigns have sought to inspire voters on a more visceral level.
For more than a century, The Library has been collecting and preserving an array of local and national political campaign ephemera as part of its world-renowned research holdings—from early lapel pins and stamps to bumper stickers and posters.
Though vital at the time of their creation, these types of materials were generally not meant to be saved beyond election season. Yet, the Library collects such materials precisely for the significance they take on after their original utility has ended—as important historical records that provide insight into the culture and politics of the past. Indeed, when taken together, these otherwise fleeting materials document the history of elections at their most personal level, showing how candidates have sought to enter the realm of everyday life to persuade voters and win over their hearts and minds.
As the U.S. prepares to select its next president this November, these materials represent the many facets of our country’s political past—as well as the democratic values it has long upheld.
Credit: Exhibition overview from museum website.