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Posters and Election Propaganda

A blog dedicated to the examination of communications in election campaigns, with a focus on posters

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Posted by Steven Seidman at 10:20AM   |  1 comment
John Binns, "Coffin Handbill," 1824/1828 [detail] (Library of Congress)

The 2008 Democratic National Convention begins today. The party's first convention was held in 1832 in Baltimore. The Democratic-Republican Party (as the party was then called) nominated President Andrew Jackson for a second term. Jackson had run for the office in 1824 and 1828, winning in the latter election. 

Elections back then (as now) were hotly contested, with the facts often slanted. Broadsides (early, crude posters) were circulated both for and against Jackson. John Binns, editor of the Philadelphia Democratic Press, printed an anti-Jackson broadside that depicted six coffins containing militiamen, who, “an eye witness” alleged, had been executed wrongfully, on General Jackson’s orders during the War of 1812. In addition, it showed another dozen coffins, representing regular soldiers and “Indians” who were put to death under Jackson’s command. There was also was a drawing of Jackson on a city street, running his sword through a man’s back. 

After this "Coffin Handbill" first appeared, Jackson had his “Nashville Committee” of supporters answer the charges, stating that those executed had been guilty of mutiny, theft, arson, and desertion. Just like today, campaigns needed to have response teams in place to counter the political ads of the opposition.

1 Comment

If you research the allegations against Jackson, there was some validity to them, but it didn't matter be they right or wrong. There was a concerted effort to relay some truths about the General, and they were not "Swift Boat" in nature. He really did some of those things! The reputations of such allegations by his friends were in some cases public relations lies; those lies are still alive.

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