As the 2012 presidential campaign gains steam with party conventions, round-the-clock television ads and the usual up-tick in party-affiliated rhetoric, it becomes necessary to remind ourselves of the timelessness of such divides. In his 1796 farewell address, George Washington warned against the dangers of political factions: “The common and continual mischiefs of the spirit of party are sufficient to make it the interest and duty of a wise people to discourage and restrain it.”
We have yet to heed his advice.
Political history curators Larry Bird and Harry Rubenstein of the National Museum of American History have spent decades collecting the ephemera of our two party system, putting ideologies aside in the spirit of assembling the most valuable mementos for American history students of the future. Attending both conventions every four years, Bird and Rubenstein (known as “Harry and Larry”) preserve materials that best represent the atmosphere of the presidential campaigns, from the red, white and blue confetti that rains down at the end of speeches, to the dapper buttons of the candidates’ devotees.
In celebration of the work that Harry and Larry embark on every year, we’ve assembled a few tokens of presidential campaign memorabilia from the Smithsonian collections.