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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 11:15AM   |  Add a comment
Ambrotype of "Wide Awake" Marcher (1860) []

In late June, Cowan's Auctions, Inc. auctioned off an ambrotype of a "wide awake" marcher for Abraham Lincoln during his 1860 campaign for president of the United States. The ambrotype brought in a record $10,575.

The "wide awakes" were typically young men, who marched for the Republicans in huge torch-lit parades, sometimes singing political songs. Lincoln, himself, coined the term for these supporters, according to The New York Times, saying in Hartford, Connecticut: "The boys are wide awake. Suppose we call them the 'Wide-awakes'." These men wore oil-cloth covered caps and capes, and swung torches during campaign rallies and marches in support of the Republican ticket of Lincoln and Hannibal Hamlin. The marcher pictured in the ambrotype also carried a campaign banner (see a similar one to the right) for Lincoln and Hamlin.

The Republicans organized parades and rallies, with free food and drink provided, and Lincoln’s supporters also published two weekly newspapers, both called The Rail Splitter, which not only propagated his stands on issues, but also raised funds. The overriding issue of the campaign was slavery expansion, which had finally reached the crisis stage, after decades of agitation by abolitionists and proslavery expansionists.

Much more on the epic 1860 campaign is included in my book, Posters, Propaganda, and Persuasion in Election Campaigns Around the World and Through History.






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