Election Material from the Gilder Lehrman Collection

The Deadlock of 1800

Alexander Hamilton faced a dilemma: a tie in the Electoral College between Thomas Jefferson, whose political principles were directly opposed to Hamilton’s own, and Aaron Burr, whom Hamilton believed to have no principles at all. Putting patriotism above politics, Hamilton wrote letters urging Federalists to vote for Jefferson.

Here, writing to Harrison Gray Otis, a congressman from Massachusetts, Hamilton declares “In a choice of Evils let them take the least–Jefferson is in every view less dangerous than Burr.”

Read the full letter at the Gilder Lehrman website.

Election Scare Tactics

The 1828 presidential contest between John Quincy Adams and Andrew Jackson was marked by slanderous accusations from both sides. This broadside listed men Jackson had ordered executed during the 1813-1814 war against the Creek.

The Presidential Stars

During the election of 1860 Broughton's Monthly published four issues featuring engraved portraits of 1860 presidential candidates with astrological charts and commentary on their potential success.

Election Flair

The practice of wearing political merchandise to show support for candidates began in the early 19th century and was particularly popular during the stirring election of 1860. These tokens, featuring tintypes of Abraham Lincoln and his running mate, Hannibal Hamlin, have holes at the top for the token to be tied to a lapel by a string.

Grant the Winner

Following Lincoln’s assassination, Ulysses S. Grant attempted to work with President Andrew Johnson, but a dispute arose in 1867 when Grant refused to back Johnson in his struggle with Congress.

Grant believed that the federal government had to protect African Americans from racist southern governments and prevent former Confederates from retaking power. The Radical Republicans courted Grant, and his election in 1868 was never seriously challenged.

An African American Nominee in 1880?

Blanche Kelso Bruce was the first African American to serve a full term in the Senate. Born into slavery, Bruce was sent to the Senate by the state of Mississippi and served from 1875 to 1881. In this circular letter, the authors address the Republican Party with the intention of putting forth Bruce as a nominee for Vice President of the United States at the upcoming Chicago Convention.

Foreign Policy Debate

In 1898, two years into William McKinley’s first term as president, the United States fought and won the Spanish American War. The conflict proved to be the defining issue of the 1900 election. McKinley continued to emphasize an expansionist foreign policy, and he selected as his running mate then New York governor Theodore Roosevelt, who had made his name during the war by leading a charge of Rough Riders.

The RNC vs. FDR

In 1940, Republicans were apprehensive of Roosevelt’s expansive New Deal policies, the potential for US intervention in World War II, and the implications of a third term in office for the nation and the candidate.

In this broadside, the Republican National Committee laid out five reasons to “Vote Against a Third Term and Dictatorship,” noting that a third term would go against American historical tradition as well as make the man holding the office “believe that his will alone should be the law.”

Ike Likes Nixon
Richard Nixon served as vice president under Dwight Eisenhower, but lost the 1960 presidential election. He reentered politics after a hiatus, and on July 18, 1968, Eisenhower endorsed his bid for the presidency, saying, "I have deliberately followed a policy of avoiding endorsement for any office...The issues are so great, the times are so confusing, that I have decided to break personal precedent."

In this letter, Richard Nixon thanks Admiral Strauss for his influence in gaining Eisenhower's endorsement.

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Developed by the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History.

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