Presidential Campaign Handkerchiefs
Printed handkerchiefs became popular in Britain during the mid-seventeenth century. Printed in part to hide snuff stains, designs included city maps and London cab fees as well as notable figures and commemorative events.
Although the British ban on exportation of textile manufacturing and printing machinery made printed handkerchiefs difficult to produce in the United States, presidential depictions appeared very early in the country’s history. A depiction of George Washington on horseback, commissioned by his wife, Martha, and printed by a colonial printer, John Hewson, dates to 1776.
Handkerchiefs and bandanas were used throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries as campaign propaganda and textiles from three different campaigns are included in the Hyder Collection.
James G. Blaine and John A. Logan
Images of James G. Blaine and his running mate, John A. Logan, are printed onto a red handkerchief with a detailed border of flags. The basic design is replicated in Harrison and Morton’s 1888 campaign handkerchief.
Blaine, former U.S. Senator and Speaker of the House, and Senator John A. Logan of Illinois formed the 1884 Republican ticket for president and vice president against Democrats Grover Cleveland and Thomas A. Hendricks. The 1884 election also marked the first time a woman ran a full campaign for office, with Belva Ann Lockwood running as the candidate for the Equal Rights Party. The Prohibition Party nominated John St. John for their presidential candidate.
The campaign was highly influenced by the character of the nominees. Blaine had lost the Republican nomination in the two previous elections because of the “Mulligan letters.” James Mulligan, an employee of Warren Fisher, Jr., had found a series of letters written by Blaine to Fisher indicating Blaine had sold his influence as Speaker of the House.
Cleveland, known as “Grover the Good,” was popular for cleaning up graft associated with Tammany Hall as governor of New York. His campaign was not without scandal, however, when it was discovered that the unmarried governor had fathered a child. In spite of this, Cleveland was able to gain the support of many Republican reformers who became known as “Mugwumps.”
In the final week of the campaign, Blaine attended a Republican meeting. A group of New York preachers with Reverend Samuel Burchard as their spokesperson, chastised the Mugwumps and citing as the precursor to the Democratic party “rum, Romanism, and rebellion.” The anti-Catholic slur was highly publicized by Cleveland’s campaign and strengthened the Irish and Catholic vote in New York City against Blaine. Though the margin of victory was narrow, Blaine lost to Cleveland.
Benjamin Harrison and Levi P. Morton
This handkerchief depicts Benjamin Harrison and his running mate, Levi Morton on a blue background with a border of flags. The basic design is the same as that of Blaine and Logan’s 1884 handkerchief. The slogan, “Protection [of] Home Industries” reflects a primary issue of the campaign, that of tariffs. Republicans saw high protective tariffs as a means for shielding American goods from foreign competition and guaranteeing high wages, profits, and economic growth for the country.
Harrison and Morton were the Republican candidates for president and vice president in the 1888 election. James G. Blaine, the 1884 unsuccessful Republican presidential candidate, was the initial favorite. It was not until the eighth ballot at the convention that the Blaine supporters shifted to Harrison and he secured the nomination.
Harrison ran a front-porch campaign, during which the candidate stays close to home to make speeches and appearances to supporters, and campaigned heavily on the issue of maintaining protective tariffs, which appealed to industrialists and factory workers. Cleveland adhered to the tradition of presidential candidates not campaigning. Though Harrison received fewer popular votes than his opponent Grover Cleveland, he carried the Electoral College and became president.
Voter fraud was common in the 1888 election. States allowed ballots to be printed and distributed by each party, making ballots easily identifiable and secrecy impossible. Vote-buyers could simply watch to guarantee that a purchased vote was dropped into the ballot box. In Indiana, Harrison’s home state, the treasurer of the Republican National Committee, William W. Dudley, sent a letter to the Indiana county chairmen with instructions on how to give Harrison a 10,000 vote plurality. Although much of his advice was legal and the methods he described had been in use for many years, Dudley told chairmen to divide the “floaters,” those persons who went between the parties to sell their vote to the highest bidder, into “blocks of five” and appoint someone to watch them to make sure that all of the voters voted the Republican ticket. The letter was highly publicized when it was obtained by the Democratic press. However, it did not cost Harrison the election and may have helped the Republican Party, as it raised the floater’s fees from $2-$10 to $15-$20, a price that the Republicans, with their greater financial resources, could still afford. The corruption of the 1888 election did lead to voting reform. By the 1892 election, 38 states had adopted secret ballots.
Roosevelt’s 1912 Progressive Battle Flag
Unable to seize the Republican nomination for president from incumbent William Howard Taft, Roosevelt created the Progressive Party, also known as the Bull Moose Party. During his campaign, Roosevelt was shot in the chest in an assassination attempt by John Schrank. He proceeded to give his scheduled speech before seeking medical attention. Roosevelt was unsuccessful in his bid for the Presidency, though he became the only third-party candidate take second place, beating Taft but losing to Woodrow Wilson.