Friday, September 30, 2016

Politics Past: Political Prints and Social Satires in the Graphics Division

As our nation cycles through a particularly contentious political year, the collections of the Clements Library remind us that this is not the first time. Evidence of political pyrotechnics from past elections can be found across all divisions of the Clements Library. Smoldering in the print collection are examples of the political broadsides that were popular in the 19th century. These entertaining lithographs and engravings were sold mostly in urban areas at booksellers, stationery stores, and directly from the publishers. They would circulate in parlors, taverns, coffee shops -- anywhere that people gathered and met to discuss the events of the day.

The Clements collection of political prints and social satires can be explored online in the Library's Digital Image Bank.

Additional images are continually being added from the larger selection found in the Mirlyn catalog.

Subject searches for "Caricatures and cartoons," coupled with other search terms will bring up results in both databases. Sorting Mirlyn search results by date may be helpful to locate election year peaks. The original prints can of course be requested and viewed in the Clements reading room.

From the election that triggered secession and the Civil War, this print from 1860 shows four of the major candidates for the Presidency competing in "The National Game." John Bell, Stephen Douglas, John Breckenridge and Abraham Lincoln.

The national game three "outs" and one "run" : Abraham winning the ball.

The Democratic Party was so hopelessly divided in 1860 that they held three conventions and nominated two candidates to run against each other. The political death of Democratic President James Buchanan and the rise of Senator Stephen Douglas as one Democratic nominee are the subject of this hilarious lithograph.

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