On The Campaign Trail in 1896

The flag of the United States of America in 1845 contained 27 stars.

Pomp and circumstance, stars and stripes, drum rolls and fifes, please! Election day celebrates its 175th birthday today!

Tucked in between Sunday and Wednesday, Congress chose the first Tuesday in November 1845 as the official day to declare this political event a national holiday. Ideal for voters who would have to make a day’s journey into the county seat to cast their vote (Monday) without disturbing the nation’s religious rest day (Sunday) or encroaching on merchant market day (Wednesday) Tuesday was the perfect day in the week to call upon the country to exercise it’s political powers.

In 2013, Ms. Jeannie’s mom sent a box of family treasures and interesting antiques that had been collected or used by various family members over a century ago. Contents included a civil war inkwell used by Ms. Jeannie’s great great grandfather Albert…

Albert's inkwell that he carried with him throughout the Civil War.
Albert’s inkwell that he carried with him throughout the Civil War.

and a silk scarf monogramed for Ms. Jeannie’s great, great grandmother Martha at the World’s Fair in 1893…

Silk Handkerchief Souvenir from the World's Fair Chicago 1893
Silk Handkerchief Souvenir from the World’s Fair Chicago 1893

Another fantastic wonder included in the box was this pair of campaign buttons for Republican presidential nomination William McKinley and his vice presidential choice Garret Hobart.


Dating to 1896, the set is comprised of a 2″ inch round button badge and a 3″ inch tie clip encased in gold medal. McKinley was running on the platform of maintaining the gold standard as the foundation for the U.S. economy so almost all of his political swag included gold colors to communicate his cause.

There were gold campaign posters…


and gold bug pins…


There were gold campaign ribbons…


a bevy of gold buttons some featuring the pair, some just featuring McKinley…


and even a gold umbrella for rainy day rallies!


Donald Trump and his love of all things gold would definitely have approved of the McKinley/ Hobart campaign colors!

McKinley’s platforms of protection, sound money and reciprocity turned out to be winning tickets as he defeated Democratic hopeful William Jennings Bryant to become the 25th President of the United States with Garret Hobart at his side.

Get lost for just a minute in the patriotic spirit of the day with this footage from the National Archives as you take a walk along the parade route with spectators at McKinley’s inauguration in March 1897.

Striving for hope, opportunity and prosperity for citizens of the United States, McKinley barreled through his first two years as President before tragedy struck the White House in 1899 with the death of Hobart from a heart condition. McKinley, carrying on, campaigned and won a second term in office in 1901, this time with Theodore Roosevelt as his VP. But by 1901, McKinley himself would be dead – the third US President to be assassinated.

The last portrait photograph of President McKinley . Taken in Buffalo, eight days before he died. Photo courtesy of McMahan Gallery and Archive.

It is easy to get caught up in the hoopla of contemporary political campaigning and to forget the hundreds of campaigns that came before. In 1896 these two gentlemen, McKinley and Hobart  were the dream team of the Republican party – riding high on their hopes and ideals for a better country and more golden skies ahead. Not much has changed in that department over the course of a century and half. Politicians still seek the same things – a better way of life for all. We are lucky in that way. To  live in a country where we have the freedom to express our views, the encouragement to strive towards our dreams,  and the support to accomplish our goals not only as individuals but also as Americans.

Happy Election Day dear readers!!!


4 thoughts on “On The Campaign Trail in 1896

  1. So interesting, we are so lucky to live in a country such as ours. We have much to be thankful for and owe much to those who have gone before us. What a to do just to vote way back then!


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