Miller House is playing politics

October 15, 2000

Miller House is playing politics

By STACEY DANZUSO / Staff Writer

Before they had buttons and bumper stickers, presidential candidates used handkerchiefs to get their names and faces under the public's nose.


Campaigning for the 1888 election, Grover Cleveland and running mate Allen G. Thurman passed out handkerchiefs showing their profiles under the heading "Our candidates."

Benjamin Harrison and running mate Whitelaw Reid also campaigned with handkerchiefs during their failed bid for reelection in 1892.

In addition to the detailed handkerchiefs, now yellowed with age, the Miller House in downtown Hagerstown has all kinds of political memorabilia on display through next month's election.

Sample ballots dating back to the 1840s, campaign buttons for nearly every presidential election in the 20th century and even a piece of flooring from the White House fill out the new display in the Hagerstown museum.


Within what was once a second-floor bedroom, campaign materials from past elections line the room and two glass display cases.

Many of the items are on loan from local residents, including museum docents Margaret Stoner and Shirley Day, said Elizabeth Graff, curator.

Tin donkeys from one of Franklin D. Roosevelt's four successful bids for president, and Nixon pins and Bush/Quayle buttons on loan from Hager House Curator John Nelson fill the cases.

"We have as many political parties represented as possible," Graff said.

She said the museum workers who arranged the display made sure to date some items, including a campaign flier from 1878 that touts John Ritchie's congressional platform, "Opposed to negro equality."

Other items were less controversial, like invitations to Maryland's March 16, 1933 General Assembly Ball at St. John's College in Annapolis.

The museum secured a piece of wood flooring laid in the White House in 1799 and removed in 1902.

Earlier this year, museum officials planned six exhibits using inventory donated by local residents over the years.

The museum already opened displays in the 19th century historic house on needlework and summertime artifacts. The exhibit of political memorabilia opened after Labor Day and will continue until the holidays when a Turn of the Century exhibit is planned.

"If we don't change things, why should people come back?" Graff asked.

The Miller House at 135 W. Washington St. is open for tours between 1 and 4 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday. Admission is $3 for adults, $2 for senior citizens 60 and older and free for children under 16.

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