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Presidential Campaign Post Cards

Author: Jean Heider

( Article orginally published October 1960 by Hobbies )

This year of 1960 being an election year, let's look back on some of the Presidential campaigns of the past when post cards played an important part.

One gratifying benefit of post cards, I have discovered, is that they provide historical data frequently missed in encycliopaedias and other books published after the event has passed. A post card, like a newspaper, records a situation 'as it was when it happened. History books often skim over the series of events leading to a big climax, while post cards have captured the intensely interesting side-lights.

For instance, President William Howard Taft's campaign for election gets no more than a sentence in most encyclopaedias. However, volumes of post cards issued on behalf of both candidates picture graphically the struggle for voter favor. In 1908 the campaign orator could reach only those few people within sound of his voice. The written word, with pictures or cartoons, reached the masses.

Thus a series of comic post cards making light of an opponent's foibles and arguments could be powerful weapons. Post card wit could be quick and pointed. It quickly passed to the whole country.

Publishers catered to both sides with similar cards. One produced a card showing the political complexion of the country from 1860 to 1908. Another offered one card giving the vital statistics of the Republican Party, and a second card doing the same for the Democratic Party.

Animal symbols for candidates and parties were popular post card subjects. Theodore Roosevelt is frequently indicated by a teddy bean, Taft by an opossum. And, of course, the donkey and the elephant show up in many disguises!

Non were card makers content with simple printed cards. Mechanicals, pull-outs, and appliques; as well as, embossed, tinselled_ and puzzle cards are profuse.

Portraits of the candidates were produced in many forms. Most frequent were the double portraits of the contending presidential and vice presidential nominees. Generally oval, they were draped with flags, often embossed, and gilded. Stars, shields, and the Statue of Liberty were popular decoration.

The most heated post card campaign apparently was Taft vs. Bryan, 1908. Taft was backed up by James S. S.herman for Vice President, and Bryan's running mate was John W. Kern. Similarity of the two leaders' names got much attention. For example, "Who will it be Willie T. or Willie B.?" or, "This Bill wins if this Bill don't."

One ornate card has Taft and Bryan prize-fighters in a ring with Uncle Sam as the referee, while Theodore Roosevelt and people from other nations are at the ring-side. This embossed card is titled "May the Best Man Win." No copyright or publisher credit or serial number seems given. The figure of a bumblebee in the stamp box may suggest the Bee Publishing Company. One mechanical card pictured the two candidates in a foot race toward the White House. Their legs were pictured on wheels. By holding the card with the wheels on a flat surface, forward movement will make the wheels turn, giving both gentlemen the appearance of running as swiftly as you move the card.

A set of two cards pictured the donkey on one and the elephant on the other. By pulling the tail of each animal a picture of the candidate of that party would come into view, William H. Taft on one, and William J. Bryan on the other.

The Billikin was a fad of the day, a little statue standing for "The God of Things as They Ought to be."

The Billitaftikin was called the Sunny Idol, while the similar Billibryanikin was labeled the "On Again -Off Again People's Idol." Both were produced on easel post cards punched out around the statue to fold back so they would stand up. No publisher is - shown.

The same idea had been used four years earlier on a post card for Teddikin. In this the Billikin sprouted the giant teeth and bushy moustache cartoonists favored for Theodore Roosevelt.

1. Grollman, Chicago, issued a series of 1908 boxing cards in which Uncle Sam referees a bout between the donkey and the elephant, with Taft and Bryan in the corners as water boys. The series, unnumbered, starts with the shaking of hands and concludes as a draw.

Elaborate post card portraits of the winner immediately after the election undoubtedly- were good sellers. The E. L, Theochrome Company of Germany put out fancy gilt cards in tribute to Taft "Our New President," whose election was hailed to mean "Glory and Prosperity for Our Country."

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