FRANKFORT, Ky. (October 29, 2004) – Politics may not always be pretty, but the artifacts of presidential campaigns are always telling of the nation’s political climate. The Kentucky Historical Society is a rich resource for these historic buttons, banners, stickers and other paraphernalia that market a candidate, many of which are on display in its Old State Capitol temporary exhibit, Vote Here! Presidential Campaigns, 1896-2000.
Exhibit Curator Mike Jones hopes that visitors will note not only how campaigns have changed over the years, but also how much they have remained the same: “The issues of economics and war are recurring themes. A candidate’s connection to the military was as important to the elections of the late 19th century as today. William McKinley and Theodore Roosevelt used the success of the Spanish-American War to win in 1900. America’s current state of war is likewise a major topic between presidential candidates George Bush and John Kerry.”
Four different types of items are on display in the Old State Capitol—buttons, three-dimensional objects, paper items, and textiles. More than collectibles, the exhibit artifacts range from an 1896 goldbug pin worn by a supporter of gold-based currency during the McKinley-Bryan race, to a 1964 six-pack of “Gold Water” marketed as “the right drink for the conservative taste.” Other notable items include an elegant 1904 Republican delegate pin worn in the June 21st national convention in Chicago, and an FDR pin where a pulley moves a donkey’s back leg to “kick out Depression.” These artifacts are punctuated by informative kiosks that offer presidential trivia, audio snippets of campaign speeches, and the infamous 1960 televised debate between candidates Nixon and Kennedy.
The exhibit is a selection from over 2000 items donated to the Society by Drexell R. Davis.
In addition to the items on display in the Old State Capitol, the Society is home to an 1844 silk flag used by Henry Clay in his bid for the presidency. The flag, donated in 1922 by Mrs. Charles T. Varnon of Walton, Kentucky, is constructed in three pieces and has a painted center disk with a portrait of Clay. Its mottos read, “Law, Order, Liberty & Union. Presented by the Whig Ladies” and “The Victory Won, Sister’s Smiles We’ll greet you.” The flag is currently being preserved as a part of the Society’s recently awarded Saving America’s Treasures grant.
The Kentucky Historical Society’s exhibit Vote Here! Presidential Campaigns, 1896-2000is on display at the Old State Capitol on the campus of the Kentucky Historical Society. Visiting hours are Tuesday through Saturday, , and Sunday, To purchase tickets and take a tour of the exhibit, visitors must first stop by the KentuckyHistoryCenter in downtown Frankfort at 100 W. Broadway. Admission prices are $4 for adults, $2 for youths (ages 6-18), and $3 for veterans. Children 5 and under are admitted free of charge and all tickets permit entry to the Society’s other galleries and museums at the KentuckyHistoryCenter and the KentuckyMilitaryHistoryMuseum. For more information, please call (502) 564-1792, or visit the Web at http://history.ky.gov.
An agency of the Commerce Cabinet, the Kentucky Historical Society, since 1836, has provided connections to the past, perspective on the present, and inspiration for the future. KHS operates the Old State Capitol, KentuckyMilitaryHistoryMuseum and its five-year-old headquarters, the KentuckyHistoryCenter. Since 1999, the thirty-million-dollar HistoryCenter has welcomed almost one million visitors. For more information about the Kentucky Historical Society and its programs, visit the Web site at http://history.ky.gov or call (502) 564-1792.