From the age of Washington on, voting our presidents in has been a quintessential American ritual. Hail to the Candidate details two hundred years of presidential campaigns, a tradition one observer has called the "longest folk festival in the world." As a chronicle of the changing character of American electioneering, the book captures the intensity and popularity of campaigns past and displays the array of devices candidates have used to project a positive image of themselves and a negative image of their ...
From the age of Washington on, voting our presidents in has been a quintessential American ritual. Hail to the Candidate details two hundred years of presidential campaigns, a tradition one observer has called the "longest folk festival in the world." As a chronicle of the changing character of American electioneering, the book captures the intensity and popularity of campaigns past and displays the array of devices candidates have used to project a positive image of themselves and a negative image of their opponents. Drawing on archival photographs and a vivid legacy of buttons, banners, sewing boxes, pipes, pitchers, snuff boxes, parade floats, bumper stickers, fliers, marching regalia, gadgets, and other novelties, Keith Melder traces the rise of political campaigns in nineteenth-century America. From Andrew Jackson's campaign to Lincoln's, from William Henry Harrison's to Teddy Roosevelt's, large numbers of citizens participated in hurrah-style celebrations of democracy, unleashing deep emotions and outpourings of enthusiasm, partisanship, and popular delight. Melder also shows how electioneering became more restrained and less festive and joyful as new techniques of mass communication replaced rallies and parades, campaign symbols, and political artifacts - and, sadly, reduced mass participation. Tracing the history of presidential images from the first, sedate campaign of George Washington to the video images of Ronald Reagan and George Bush, Hail to the Candidate also focuses on political-party appeals to women, and on pollsters, media specialists, and television to describe the ever-changing political race to become president.
A curator at the Smithsonian, Melder ( Beginnings of Sisterhood ) presents persuasive evidence that the so-called ``evils'' of the modern American political system have existed since the nation's birth, bolstering his argument with illustrations of the hats, buttons, banners and other political memorabilia in the museum's collection. The first president, George Washington, was also the first to be concerned about his image (he was idealized even on a memorial pitcher) and the first to be subjected to smears. The substitution of symbols for rational discourse may have reached its zenith in 1840, when William Henry Harrison's handlers saturated the country with pictures of log cabins designed to reinforce the image of Harrison's rustic simplicity and wartime sacrifice. The real difference between campaigns of yesteryear and those of today appears to be the level of participation of the electorate. Before mass communication, the banners and torches, parades and debates of the ``hurrah'' era of campaigning tell of a giant, participatory festival that provided not only information but entertainment to generations of Americans. Thanks to Melder, even-20th century media addicts can revisit that era. (May)
Keith Melder, curator in the National Museum of American History's Division of Political History, assisted by two fellow curators, has retold the history of American presidential elections with emphasis on the constantly changing paraphernalia such as buttons, banners, posters, etc., and what it says about the electoral process. Specifically, he finds that from the campaign of 1840 through the early 20th century politics was highly participatory (hence all the ``giveaways'' and spectacle) and now, despite the importance of campaign imagery, it has become more of a spectator sport. Many histories of the presidential election process are in print. What makes this book unique is Melder's use of the artifacts in the Smithsonian's Ralph E. Becker Collection of Political Americana to prove his thesis. The wealth of illustrations included makes the book equally suitable for political science or Americana collections. Previewed in ``On the Campaign Book Trail,'' LJ 3/15/92, p. 110-112.--Ed.-- Deborah Hammer, Queens Borough P.L., New York
School Library Journal
YA-- Melder has reached into the Smithsonian's bottomless trunk of Americana and brought up a collection of homegrown political ephemera from banners and buttons to shaving mugs and spittoons, to show how presidential electioneering has been carried on for the last 200 years. The chatty, informative narrative covers the campaigns of presidents from George Washington to George Bush, and makes a perfect accompaniment to the 200 illustrations, half of which are in full color. A delightful way for students to learn about politics, especially in this, an election year.-- Richard Lisker, Fairfax Public Library, VA