This blog includes text and images drawn from historical sources that may contain material that is offensive or harmful. We strive to accurately represent the past while being sensitive to the needs and concerns of our audience. If you have any feedback to share on this topic, please either comment on a relevant post, or use our Ask Us form to contact us.

Electing an American President

With the 2016 U.S. Presidential Elections just around the corner, we’ve been having fun answering the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration’s #ElectionCollection challenges on Twitter. The timing also seemed right to put some of our elections-related memorabilia on display here at Mudd. Our lobby exhibit case now holds a variety of elections-related materials from diverse collections in the Princeton University Archives and the Public Policy Papers, with a date range spanning nearly a century from William McKinley’s 1896 campaign to Bill Clinton’s in 1992.

William McKinley campaign badge, ca. 1896. Princeton University Library Records (AC123), Box 406.

Although there are several winning candidates represented in the case, you’ll also have the opportunity to take a look at the memorabilia from some failed presidential campaigns. We have Adlai Stevenson sunglasses and George McGovern bumper stickers on display, among other items.

Our tiger friend models sunglasses from Adlai E. Stevenson’s 1952 campaign. Adlai E. Stevenson Papers (MC124), Box 229.

Not all of the memorabilia focuses on the candidates themselves, but also the world surrounding a presidential campaign, such as Anne Martindell’s 1972 Democratic National Convention delegate badges. A press release Jacqueline Kennedy wrote in 1960 details the experiences of a future First Lady on the campaign trail.

Press release by Jacqueline Kennedy, October 27, 1960. Adlai E. Stevenson Papers (MC124), Box 47.

We had a hard time choosing what to put on display, given how many fascinating things we had to choose from. Many of these items will be shared on Twitter via the #ElectionCollection challenge, but if you want to see more, feel free to consult the collections in the annotated list below. This is not an exhaustive list of materials one might find in our collections related to American presidential elections, but presents some notable highlights.

Bumper sticker, 1972. George S. McGovern Papers (MC181), Box 178.


Selected materials from Seeley G. Mudd Manuscript Library related to U.S. Presidential elections:

David L. Aaron Papers (MC275)

David L. Aaron was Deputy National Security Advisor for the Jimmy Carter administration. His papers contain materials on Jimmy Carter’s 1980 reelection campaign. There is also some material related to Carter’s 1976 campaign and Aaron’s work as a foreign policy adviser for Walter Mondale’s 1984 presidential campaign.

Collection on William F. McCombs (MC090)

William F. McCombs was a lawyer heavily involved in Woodrow Wilson’s presidential campaigns in 1912 and 1916. This collection includes a set of bound newspaper clippings about the campaigns.

General Manuscripts Collection (AC001)

Within this collection is a letter from James Campbell Davis to David B. Smith regarding the 1848 U.S. presidential election. James Campbell Davis was a member of the College of New Jersey (Princeton) Class of 1849.

Historical Photograph Collection, Campus Life Series (AC112)

Students and alumni of Princeton University have expressed their political views in a variety of ways. Our exhibit contains one example: a photograph of an anti-Roosevelt sign carried by a member of the Class of 1921 at Reunions in 1936. The collection also includes photographs of other election-year signs from other times.

Anne Martindell Papers (MC203)

Anne Martindell is a former Democratic Senator from New Jersey. Her papers contain materials related to the presidential campaigns of Eugene McCarthy (1968), George McGovern (1972), Jimmy Carter (1976), Gary Hart (1984), Walter Mondale (1984), and Bill Clinton (1992).

George S. McGovern Papers (MC181)

George S. McGovern sought the Democratic nomination for president in 1968 and secured it in 1972. His papers contain extensive records of these campaigns.

Papers of Woodrow Wilson Project Records (MC178)

The Papers of Woodrow Wilson Project Records were compiled by Arthur S. Link and his staff to document the life and times of Woodrow Wilson. These records are photocopies of materials held in various repositories and contain records related to Woodrow Wilson’s 1912 and 1916 presidential campaigns.

William Potter Diary (AC323)

William Potter was a member of the College of New Jersey (Princeton) Class of 1863. His diary covers his time as a student at Harvard and Princeton from 1859-1862 and records his impressions of the campaign and election of Abraham Lincoln in 1860.

Princeton Alumni Weekly Photograph Collection (AC126), Box 27

This collection contains a file of photographs with captions taken during Ronald Reagan’s 1980 presidential campaign.

Princeton University Library Collection of Woodrow Wilson Additional Materials (MC215)

This collection contains a printed silk kerchief most likely made in support of Woodrow Wilson’s campaign for president in 1912, or perhaps for his inauguration in 1913.

Princeton University Library Political Cartoons Collection (MC180)

Consisting of a thousand original drawings by various political cartoonists from 1889-1944 fully digitized and viewable online through the searchable finding aid linked above, this collection’s cartoons provide commentary on a range of presidential elections.

Princeton University Library Records (AC123)

From this collection, we have exhibited a campaign badge for William McKinley (1896). Researchers will also find a fabric bookmark featuring Dwight D. Eisenhower and Adlai Stevenson ’22 from the 1952 elections.

Princeton University Publications Collection (AC364)

A pamphlet entitled “A Princeton Student’s Letter to His Father and His Father’s Reply” is found in this collection. It reflects on the divisions among Princeton University’s students and alumni during the presidential election season in 1912. You can read more about it in our previous blog post.

Adlai E. Stevenson Papers (MC124)

Adlai E. Stevenson ’22 was the Democratic Candidate for President in 1952 and 1956. His papers contain extensive records of both campaigns. They also contain materials related to other Democratic candidates, including former Princetonian John F. Kennedy (1960) and Lyndon B. Johnson (1964).

Undergraduate Alumni Records 1748-1920 (AC104)

Princeton University has had many alumni involved in politics. One of these alumni is Norman Thomas of the Class of 1905, who ran for president as the Socialist candidate in six consecutive elections in 1928, 1932, 1936, 1940, 1944, and 1948. His alumni file contains some materials related to these campaigns.

Hugh C. Wallace Papers (MC111)

Hugh C. Wallace was an influential financier from the American northwest and a regional leader for the Democratic Party. This collection primarily consists of materials related to the campaign for reelection of Woodrow Wilson as president in 1916.

Woodrow Wilson Collection (MC168)

Woodrow Wilson (Class of 1879) was the successful Republican candidate for president in 1912 and 1916. This collection contains records from both campaigns.

3 responses to “Electing an American President”

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.