This mechanical pull-tab card caricatures Martin Van Buren, the Democratic candidate in the presidential election of 1840. (Collection of Allen Frey)
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As Americans experience the congressional and gubernatorial campaigns of 2010 and examine the results of their selections, the Virginia Historical Society turns—as it has done before—to local collector Allen Frey to see what the past can tell us about the present. We have placed online a dozen examples drawn from Dr. Frey's collection of American presidential campaign materials, to see if politicians and campaigns of the past were as vitriolic as they are today. You will see that in fact they were and that the most basic choices—between small or big government, between policies that benefit business or the common man, and between isolationism or foreign involvement—are ever present and have rarely been easy.
Dr. Frey's collection is best described in his own words:
I have been a collector of American Presidential campaign memorabilia and political ephemera for over 25 years. My collection includes well over 1,000 items used to promote the image and slogans of presidential candidates and influence the voter. Beginning with inauguration clothing buttons for George Washington, the collection encompasses a wide variety of materials for almost every presidential campaign to the most recent. Among the campaign items are political textiles, glassware, 3-dimensional objects, ribbons, posters, ballots, songbooks, sheet music, cartoons, pamphlets, pins, medals, and colorful campaign buttons. Where possible, the theme of the collection attempts to illustrate the major issues and events of each election. Portions of the collection have been featured in earlier Virginia Historical Society exhibitions and used in presentations on presidential campaigning to local organizations.
—Dr. Allen Frey
Examples from the Frey collection are not currently on display at the VHS; they can be viewed only online.
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