As we head toward the final weeks before the election there are more signs on the trees and on the road dividers, more people wearing campaign buttons and stickers and handing out campaign literature. It can be overwhelming to see all the campaign literature.
Campaign posters, buttons and other ephemera are not new. Prior to the advent of radio, television and the internet, candidates used campaign signs, buttons, ribbons, light shades and banners to reach out to voters who might not have been able to come to a speech or access a newspaper. The Library of Congress has made many of these unique artifacts available online.
Activate prior knowledge by asking students what they know about campaign buttons. Show students the Lincoln-Johnson Campaign button. Have them use the analysis tool to record their observations and thoughts about the button. They might repeat the process with the publication supporting “P. O’Malley” for mayor. Which do they think would have more effective at gaining voter support?
Have them consider what makes a campaign poster, button, ribbon or other kind of election ephemera successful.
Let them compare campaign buttons and other materials from elections from the past and present. Do they think the materials from the past would be successful today? Why or why not
Students can create posters or buttons either for an upcoming school election or for an election happening in their community.
What other kinds of campaign ephemera would students create if they could not use television, radio or the internet to encourage people to vote?
The Prints and Photographs Division has a slide show of presidential campaign posters.
How much do your students think that campaign posters, buttons and other ephemera can help encourage voter turnout or sway a voter’s opinion? Provide some of your students’ responses in the comments.