A (Brief) Survey of Campaign Posters Throughout Election History: Printmaking history

By Elena Johnston

With the current election, there has never been a better time to examine how print culture has played into politics, specifically through posters. Posters are one of the main advertising tools. A good poster can be the face of your campaign, and so they are crucial to political strategy. The design should reflect that values of the subject while still being appealing to voters. The poster is a quick, effective way to convey what the candidate’s main goals are. Campaign posters have long been used throughout US and world history in general, but for the sake of today’s article, we will be looking at eight iconic posters that have defined American political history. While these posters are iconic, this small collection is just a sampling, there are thousands of campaigns posters! We will also be only looking at campaign posters as protest and other political posters are too extensive to cover here!

1. Grand National Democratic banner. Peace! Union! and victory! (1864)

This poster depicts the Democrats running against Lincoln in the 1864. The print is highly stylized and detailed with the portraits of the candidates. American iconography is also shown. The two figures clasp hands, showing political unity in the time of the civil war. The cornucopia also represents the era of prosperity that the country was going into. The actual print was published by Currier & Ives publishing company and is a watercolor lithograph.

Image credit: Google Images

2. Keep Cool with Coolidge! (1924)

Although not as detailed as the 1864 poster, Coolidge’s poster still relies heavily on American iconography as he sails a metaphorical “ship of state” with lady liberty. It is also an early example of campaign slogan’s which would become used on nearly every political poster from now on. It was published by T.J Honaker but little details about the actual production of the print were discovered during research.