As now, democracy was up to bat 100 years ago
When the museum’s Archives Center was relocated to the first floor in 2003 to make room for the Price of Freedom exhibition, staff members were assigned to find items in our collection to reproduce as decorations for our new reference room. It was a great opportunity for each of us to showcase some hidden treasure in our collections. I immediately remembered one of my favorite images, a postcard in our Lou Newman Collection of Baseball Memorabilia, with the title “Democracy at Bat, 1908 Campaign.” I love this image! It combines politics and baseball in a satirical way.
The donkey, representing the Democratic party, is up to bat, obviously hoping to get a hit, with William Howard Taft behind the plate for the other team wearing the catcher’s gear (often nicknamed “the tools of ignorance”). One of a catcher’s roles is to “call” the game for the pitcher, i.e. signal to him what type of pitch to throw, and as the pitcher is unseen, maybe we’re to assume that it’s Teddy Roosevelt, who campaigned (“pitched”) for Taft that year. Democratic candidate and two-time loser William Jennings Bryan officiates as umpire, and his hand is raised in a “strike” call. Uncle Sam is out of place here, as there’s no fourth man at home plate during a baseball game. As we now know, the Democrats struck out, and Republican Taft won the election.
Cathy Keen is an Associate Curator in the museum’s Archives Center.