Discovering political paraphernalia

August 28, 2008 3:34:12 PM PDT
With the Democratic Convention this week and the Republican Convention next week, a lot of people are psyched to support their candidate.And we're not talking about just T-shirts emblazoned with your favorite candidate's face. In fact, since the presidential campaigns began, there have been many ways to publicly align yourself with your choice and your party.

"In this exhibition, there are approximately 800 objects, of which half are buttons," said Thomas Mellins, of the Museum of the City of New York.

Buttons and pins have been around since the dawn of American politics, when supporters sewed them on to back George Washington.

Tintypes with candidates faces were popular during the Civil War, and, of course, celluloid versions came out at the turn of the 19th century.

"Memorabilia has historically run the gamut," Mellins said.

Now, there's a wide range on display at the the museum. It's chock full of presidential campaign items, including paper lanterns used in torch-lit parades in the 1800s.

More discreet displays appear on walking canes or under hats or on chamber pots.

"It's never been entirely clear to me if this is meant as a compliment or an insult," Mellins said.

Even popcorn boxes could become political.

"At the end of the day, the movie theater owner would tally up which box he had sold more of," Mellins said.

Think of it as an early version of an exit poll.

Memorabilia also keeps pace with the times. With cars came the precursors to bumper stickers.

And today we have bedazzled items for babies from

There are silk scarves for each party, from Echo. There are candy bars, greeting cards and even air fresheners available at Daily 235 in Nolita.

Walk in stride with your party in Tom's Shoes, sold at Forecast Footwear.

The point is that paraphernalia gives you a chance to become a cheerleader. In the 60s, you could have even worn a paper mini dress at a rally. Talk about participation.

"That's what the memorabilia is all about," Mellins said. "It gives everyone an opportunity to feel they they are a part of something very important."

The presidential campaign exhibit at the Museum of the City of New York runs until election day, November 4.

Items in this story:
Onesies and outfit - $24

Echo scarves

Obama candy bar
Greeting cards
Air fresheners

Tom's Shoes
Forecast Fashion
510 broadway
New York, NY 10012

Presidential Campaign Exhibit
Museum of the City of New York


STORY BY: Eyewitness News reporter Lauren Glassberg


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