Mudslinging dirty even in early politics

February 22, 1998|By LISA GRAYBEAL

by Richard T. Meagher / staff photographer

click on images to see enlargements

Kenton Broyles

SHARPSBURG - There were no bumper stickers, plastic pins and obnoxious television commercials around when three presidential candidates ran against John Quincy Adams in 1824.

But the concept of politics and winning votes then was just as competitive as it is now. The difference is only in the mediums they used to get their names out, their messages heard, and their opponents defamed.

"They used anything, anything to attract votes," said Waynesboro, Pa., resident Kenton Broyles, who displayed his large collection of political campaign memorabilia Sunday afternoon at Antietam National Battlefield.


Displayed in wooden cases with glass tops, Broyles has collected campaign memorabilia dating back to George Washington, though most of the silver coins, medals and ornate buttons made then were to commemorate Washington's March 4, 1789, inauguration.

Some of the first political campaign items used to sway voters were produced in 1824 during the country's first contested presidential election.

Candidates John Quincy Adams, Andrew Jackson, Henry Clay and William Crawford supplied their supporters and lured potential voters with silver coins and tokens, medals and buttons imprinted with their slogans and pictures.

Larger medals and decorative ribbons came into play when Andrew Jackson made his second and successful run for president in 1828 and again in 1832.

But it wasn't until 1840, when William Henry Harrison and opponent Martin Van Buren ran for president, that political campaign keepsakes came into their own.

"1840 was kind of a banner year for political campaign memorabilia," Broyles told a small crowd during an hour--long oral presentation about his collection.

Colorful silk scarves, ornate broaches and pins, silverware, pipes, snuff boxes, umbrellas and noisemakers were produced and sold to supporters to promote their favored candidate.

Campaign buttons"Really what you see here is the American people coming alive. ... It really tells you a story. You get a feeling for the people of the time," Broyles said.

Techniques in mudslinging and unscrupulous campaign tactics were alive and well when James Buchanan and John C. Fremont vied for the country's top post.

"We po'ked 'em in '44, we pierced 'em in '52, and we'll 'Buck 'em' in '56," reads a slogan on a ribbon supporting Buchanan.

"They used to tear at each other," Broyles said.

He held up a card of political cartoons attacking Abraham Lincoln during his 1864 presidential campaign.

"Lincoln was hated by a lot of people. In 1864, he was not the hero," Broyles said.

Without television and radio broadcasts to get their messages out, early politicians relied on creative campaign gimmicks and personal visits to towns to win votes.

"Today it's all on TV. They spend money on television advertisements and that's it. It's so generic," Broyles said.

A member of the American Political Items Collectors, Broyles started his collection 40 years ago and has items dating from the 1700s to 1964.

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