June 1956 | Volume 7, Issue 4
America’s political conventions have always—or almost always—been deadly serious affairs, with politicians, statesmen, and just plain citizens getting together to put dignified men in nomination for the highest office in the land. But out of these portentous gatherings have come some of the most colorful and, at times, the most lighthearted effervescences of the American political spirit. Gaudy posters come out, quadrennially, to prove that the salvation of the farmer, the manufacturer, the laborer, and the American citizen generally depends on the victory of this, that or the other ticket. Behold at right, for example, the brightly colored blandishments of William McKinley and the protective tariff; the arguments are no more subtle than the contrasting pictures of prosperity and poverty. But no one expects them to be, for it is all part of the game, silly, outrageous, sublime. Then there are the buttons, the ribbons, the imposing badges; and the cartoons, the grotesque bets, the songs no one remembers two weeks after election. On succeeding pages, AMERICAN HERITAGE presents a number of glimpses into the more breezy side of our weighty political campaigns, in the thought that a democracy which determines its own fate and selects its own riders manages to conduct the business with an unfailing gusto and hilarity.