“Hanging around Us in Plain Sight: The Great American Political Campaign Poster, 1844-2012”

Hal Elliott Wert

Young female political campaigner using telephoneThe new lithographic printing techniques from Germany produced the first hand-colored campaign prints for the 1844 election. The demand for political prints grew and the 1880s color printing innovations produced a revolution that saw dozens of well-designed posters for the campaigns of William McKinley and William Jennings Bryan in 1896 and 1900. After 1912 a few colorful posters were appeared in each campaign, mostly printed by the new offset process, but it was the rise of Democratic insurgents in the 1960s that brought about the next great explosion of political posters. The 1968 candidacy Eugene McCarthy motivated artists to produce posters beyond offset—screen print, spray paint stencil, collage assemblage, and occasionally hand drawn. In 1972, the George McGovern campaign was alive with hundreds of creative posters and prints. In 2008 the candidacy of Barack Obama inspired artists to produce another marvelous outburst of posters using a wide variety of printing techniques. The historical development of the campaign poster, its relationship to technology and its effectiveness in using visual language to persuade voters is the central focus of this article that includes thirty-one outstanding examples in full color online.

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PS: Political Science & Politics / Volume 49 / Issue 01 / January 2016, pp 59-70

Copyright © American Political Science Association 2016