Political Novelties

The Constitution made the presidency and the positions of senator and representative elective offices. By the early 19th century, rivalries among political factions in the new government led to the creation of a competitive party system. The promotion of candidates among an expanding electorate placed increasing importance on the success of popular political campaigns.

The earliest objects in this group commemorate George Washington’s inauguration as the first president in 1789. Washington was the nation’s overwhelming choice, and the popular artifacts associated with his presidency generally celebrated the man and the office. With the realization of an in-and-out party system in the era of Andrew Jackson, advocacy replaced commemoration. Commemorative clothing buttons, sewing boxes, and crockery gave way to expendable campaign advertising novelties such as badges, buttons, and ribbons. These objects are the products of an economy of popular promotion that sought to instill a high level of activism and engagement. By the mid-20th century badges, buttons, and ribbons began to be displaced by investments in radio and television advertising and opinion polling.