Ready to Wear

With the success of the Lincoln Wide-Awakes of 1860, manufacturers of torches and oil-resistant parade clothing redoubled their efforts to supply ready-made paraphernalia across the political spectrum.

Torchlight stickpin, 1888

Torchlight stickpin, 1888

Ferrotype medalette collection, 1860

Ferrotype medalette collection, 1860

Thirteen-year-old Goodwin Palmer documented the election of 1860 with a collection of four ferrotype medalettes picturing that year’s presidential candidates, each attached by thread to a piece of card stock. Abraham Lincoln won a plurality of the popular vote in the four-way race, followed by Stephen A. Douglas, John C. Breckinridge, and John Bell.

Gift of Ralph E. Becker Collection of Political Americana

Campaign Clothing

Even though children and adolescents could not vote, they participated in the presidential campaign by attending the public events that their parents and other adults did, often wearing clothing and hats made especially for them.

Trade catalog, Unexcelled Fireworks Company, New York, 1884

New York City’s Unexcelled Fireworks was one of several companies that developed a robust trade in oilcloth parade clothing, hats, and torches made for political clubs and their marching units throughout the northeastern United States in the late 19th century.

Gift of Ralph E. Becker Collection of Political Americana

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Bryan and Sewall campaign cap, 1896

Cleveland and Thurman campaign cap, 1888

McKinley and Roosevelt campaign cap, 1900

Parker and Davis campaign cap, 1904

Roosevelt and Fairbanks campaign cap, 1904

Gifts of Dr. Richard H. Howland, Sara L. Lepman in memory of Dr. Harry Lepman, Ralph E. Becker Collection of Political Americana, and Unexcelled Fireworks Company

Street Banners

Political street banners could be ordered from a catalog or from a visiting salesman with a miniature model.

Trade catalog, Unexcelled Fireworks Company, 1888

Gift of Unexcelled Fireworks Company

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Dressing the Part

New York City’s W. R. Scofield distributed Unexcelled Fireworks flags, lanterns, balloons, torches, and caps to “jobbers,” who sold campaign supplies directly to street-wise political groups and organizations.

Campaign trade literature, 1868

Gift of Mr. George Rinsland

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