Campaign Button Digital Collection!

YouTube and Facebook ads. Texting supporters to remind them of their polling location. Presidential campaigns have changed significantly over the years, but catchy slogans and memorable logos have always been part of campaigning.  A selection of campaign buttons makes up a new digital collection from South Carolina Political Collections (SCPC) in conjunction with the exhibit “In the Arena: Presidential Campaigns and Conventions” showcasing presidential campaign materials from 1940 to 1984.

Wendell Willkie buttonSCPC’s holdings include a large number of objects such as buttons, pins, pens, medals and other “ephemera” relating to politics. The digital collection draws on these materials. Some of the materials are duplicated from our collections, like a Hollings for President bumper sticker. Some of the material has been collected or donated by SCPC staff or members of the public. This is especially true of our more recent campaign buttons.

While our collection of presidential ephemera is greatest for the past few election cycles, SCPC chose to digitize those from 1940 to 1984 to highlight some of the older and rarer materials we have. For example, while Barack Obama or George W. Bush buttons might still be common these days, few people can say they have seen a Wendell Willkie button or a guidebook to the 1961 Inauguration.

What’s the first campaign you remember? For me, it was the Bush-Gore campaign – I was in second grade; for my dad it was the 1960 Kennedy-Nixon campaign; and for my grandfather it was probably the 1940 Roosevelt-Willkie campaign. Check out the digital collection and let us know which is your favorite piece of campaign memorabilia!

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In Memoriam: Harvey S. Teal

Harvey Teal

Harvey Teal

The South Caroliniana Library has never had a better friend than Harvey Teal (1928-2020).  When I arrived in 1983 as Curator of Manuscripts, the retired educator was an often daily presence conducting research in one of the several areas in which he became expert, discussing with Director Allen Stokes a lead to an important new collection, or generously sharing his broad expertise with other researchers.

Harvey’s connection to the Library dated back to his student days at USC when he was employed there.  During my tenure at the Caroliniana, it felt like Harvey brought in about half of the material we acquired.  His success was assured, thanks to a lifetime devotion to South Carolina history and a friendly gregarious nature that made him friends wherever he went.

Teal with Mrs. Betty Holland at a Caroliniana event

He worked assiduously to broaden my knowledge of South Carolina history including tutorials about subjects as diverse as the work involved in harvesting turpentine and the vagaries of the Dispensary system.  Among my favorite memories is a drive to Camden following the path of Sherman’s troops with a stop at the site of the Cleveland School fire that claimed the life of the father of former governor John Carl West, Harvey’s childhood friend.  We lunched at a local diner where everyone knew Harvey, and ended our day with a visit with another of Harvey’s great friends, state senator Don Holland.  When Political Collections was established, Senator Holland became a friend and then a donor of papers.

My favorite among Harvey’s collections is a great story in itself.  Harvey had heard that Winthrop was having a garage-style sale and drove to Rock Hill hoping to find manuscripts.  He brought back several cartons holding personal papers of the College’s founder, David Bancroft Johnson.  These had been stored, if memory serves, in the campus home of Johnson’s widow.  Extensive correspondence with leaders including Ben Tillman  documented the founding and early years of the College.  It was thrilling to arrange and describe these remarkable materials.  I’ve often wondered what might have become of these treasures had Harvey not taken it upon himself to make that drive.  And Johnson’s papers were just one of thousands of collections Harvey acquired for the University.  Harvey was a grand gentleman and his passing is a great loss to South Carolina.

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In the Arena: Presidential Campaigns and Conventions

Every four years the country begins the ever-lengthening process of nominating candidates for President. The first stop in the South is South Carolina, who this year holds its Democratic Presidential Primary on Saturday, February 29th. The newest South Carolina Political Collections exhibit “In the Arena: Presidential Campaigns and Conventions” showcases memorabilia from the 1948 to 2012 campaigns as well as Democratic and Republican National Conventions from the 1940s to 2016.

Adlai Stevenson

Stevenson cigarettes

Campaign memorabilia is like a time capsule of how a candidate worked on convincing voters. Some types of materials are alike throughout the sixty-four years of campaigns exhibited; things like buttons, bumper stickers, and pamphlets are just as common in 1948 with the election of President Harry Truman as in 2012 with the re-election of President Barack Obama. Others are unique products of their time. A voter in 1952 might display their preference for Adlai Stevenson by lighting up a cigarette from an “Adlai for President” pack. Another might use a handkerchief emblazoned with Hubert Humphrey’s 1968 infamous “HHH” logo.

Once the primaries and caucuses are over, delegates for each party go to their National Convention. This year the Democratic version will be held in Milwaukee, while Republicans will gather in Charlotte. While the primaries focus on individual candidates, the Conventions focus on the parties. The most iconic scene from a Convention is when the delegates formally nominate their party candidate. Standing with their state placard, as shown in this picture from the 1972 Democratic Convention in Miami Beach, each state, territory, and district announce who they nominate as their party’s candidate for President. On display in the exhibit are two South Carolina placards – one from the 2008 Democratic National Convention in Denver and the other from the 2004 Republican National Convention in New York.

1972 Democratic Convention in Miami Beach

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Is SC’s 6th Congressional District the Best Documented in America?

John Jenrette

John Jenrette

South Carolina Political Collections enjoys a national reputation for its broad holdings documenting all aspects of government, politics, and contemporary life.  We will soon open our newest and thirty-first congressional collection.  John Wilson Jenrette, Jr. (b. 1936) represented South Carolina’s 6th Congressional District from 1975 to 1980.  Longtime Democratic Party leader Don Fowler credited Jenrette for his “very courageous stand against one of the most long-lasting evils in American society – racism and the habit of denying African-Americans the right to vote.  He was the first white S.C. politician who took that issue head-on and sought their vote.”  The progressive and charismatic legislator’s career was derailed when he was implicated in the FBI’s ABSCAM investigation into government corruption.  He ultimately was convicted of bribery and served thirteen months of a two-year sentence. 

Jenrette’s collection consists of over six feet of material, chiefly 1972 to 1980, documenting his service in Congress, his campaigns for office, and his life outside of Congress.  We expect to receive more materials in the coming months.  The richest segment of the collection is formed by the regular newsletters sent by the congressman to his constituents to inform them about major issues confronting Congress and particularly matters of concern to Jenrette and his District.  News clippings form the bulk of the collection and document both Jenrette’s rise to prominence and his fall from grace.  

John JenretteThe Loris, SC, native graduated from Wofford College in 1958 and received his law degree from  USC in 1962.  While pursuing the latter, he was employed as a page in the South Carolina Senate and then as a clerk for the Finance Committee.  In 1961, he also served as President of the USC Student Bar Association.  Upon graduation, Jenrette opened a one-man law firm in North Myrtle Beach.  The Democrat won a seat in the South Carolina House in 1964 and, in 1972, he sought a seat in Congress.  A vigorous campaign allowed him to defeat seventeen-term incumbent John L. McMillan in a hotly contested primary.  Probably hurt by the divisive nature of that primary, Jenrette was then defeated in the general election by Republican Ed Young.  Energized by his win over McMillan, Jenrette sought the seat again in 1974 and defeated Young.

Jenrette entered Congress as part of the “Watergate class” — ninety-one freshmen sent to Washington in the wake of the Nixon scandal.  Among Jenrette’s fellow freshmen were South Carolinians Butler Derrick and Ken Holland and others who would gain prominence in Congress — Max Baucus, Chris Dodd, Charles Grassley, Tom Harkin, Henry Hyde, Paul Simon, Paul Tsongas and Henry Waxman.  Even in such august company, Jenrette stood out and became the first freshman elected to serve in the House Whip organization.

In Congress, Jenrette took a prominent stance against racism, particularly efforts to suppress the African American vote.  He helped South Carolina native Ron McNair become an astronaut; founded and chaired the Travel and Tourism Caucus, a vital industry in South Carolina; and worked to secure cost-of-living raises for recipients of Social Security, to promote solar energy, and to better fund public education.

John JenretteSouth Carolina’s 6th Congressional District is remarkably well documented.  SCPC holds the papers of representatives Allard Gasque, John L. McMillan, Jenrette, Robin Tallon and its current representative, Jim Clyburn.  These papers cover all but two sessions of Congress, 1923 to date.  During the missing four years, the District was represented by Ed Young and John Napier, both of whom placed their papers at Clemson.  Also, as part of our efforts to document the rise of the Republican Party in South Carolina, SCPC conducted a particularly rich oral history with Napier, which is available to study here.  One has to wonder if there is a better documented Congressional District in America. 

Some may criticize us for preserving Mr. Jenrette’s papers.  But archivists must strive to document all of history.  John Jenrette occupied a position of importance and accomplished some good for the people of his District, state and nation.  Perhaps more important, preserving his papers ensures the fullness of the archival record of the people of South Carolina’s 6th District.  We look forward to opening the collection to study.

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In Memoriam: Ruth Thomas’s Stewardship of the Environment

Ruth Thomas

Ruth Thomas testifies

Ruth Sackett Thomas (1920-2020) devoted the bulk of her adult life to safeguarding the environment and particularly to monitoring the impact of nuclear power.  In 1972, she helped create the South Carolina organization Environmentalists, Inc. [EI] and soon became the heart of the non-profit grassroots organization.  Eventually, she ran EI out of her Columbia, SC home.  Her social activism and dedication to the environment and to EI continued to her death last weekend.

The organization grew out of concern over the environmental impact of the Barnwell Nuclear Fuel Plant.  EI’s membership included university professors, attorneys and social and health care professionals.  Thomas assumed a number of roles over the years including legal assistant, researcher, coordinator, treasurer and president.  She testified before the U.S. House, the Senate and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.  The group received a commendation from the Citizen’s Clearinghouse for Hazardous Wastes in 1989.

Environmentalists, IncThe University received its first shipment of EI papers in 1995 and Thomas added to the collection steadily.  In recent years, she lived in a retirement home in North Carolina.  On a December, 2015 visit, I had to wait to speak with Ms. Thomas until she had returned from her brisk morning constitutional.  I was told she walked every morning.  That day we picked up some ten feet of new materials.

The collection currently contains of almost 120 feet of material, chiefly composed of research files as well as legal materials from the many lawsuits in which EI was involved or studied.  EI’s papers forms a valuable resource for research on the nuclear industry and its impact on our environment.  South Carolinians everywhere should applaud Ms. Thomas’s devotion and fortitude in working to protect our environment and her diligence in preserving the records of that effort.  Her example is a challenge to us all.

Contributed by Herb Hartsook

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New Joe Azar Material

Columbia recently lost a well-known local figure when Joseph “Joe” Azar passed away in September after a battle with cancer.   A native of the Capital City, he was widely known for his long-running and successful store, Upstairs Audio and Video, and for his interest in improving his community.  He was a supporter of the development and growth of the Five Points area, where his store has been located for many years.  Drawn to public service, he also ran for mayor multiple times, and was in the race for city council in several different election years.  He campaigned on such ideas as consolidating city and county services, supporting local businesses and attracting new industry, and developing Columbia’s “cultural, artistic, recreational and educational assets”.

In addition to his political involvement, Azar worked to establish the Rolling Readers of the Midlands, a program for children’s literacy, volunteered in the community, and was active in fraternal and service organizations such as the American Hellenic Educational Progressive Association (AHEPA) and the Sertoma Club.  It was fitting that, after word of his passing spread, the Columbia City Council observed a moment of silence in his memory at one of their meetings.

Shortly following Mr. Azar’s memorial service, SCPC connected with friends of his who had put together a small collection of campaign materials, memorabilia, and photographs which had been displayed at the service.  These items are now here in our holdings.  Many thanks to those who made it possible for us to have some materials documenting Mr. Azar’s life and service as a local activist and an advocate of bettering his community.

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New Exhibit – “Graphic” Opinions: South Carolina Political Cartoons

Editorial cartoons grace the pages (or webpages) of many American daily newspapers and are widely popular with readers. Their subject matter ranges from local to international matters, and the cartoons often provide biting commentary. As the famous cartoonist Herbert Block said, the editorial cartoonist is “the kid who points out that the Emperor is without his clothes.” However, this art is in decline; the Herb Block Foundation has said that, in 1900, there were approximately 2,000 editorial cartoonists employed. Today the number is closer to 25.

South Carolina Political Collections holds original artwork and papers from two editorial artists: Walt Lardner and Kate Salley Palmer. Walt Lardner was a cartoonist for a variety of magazines and The State newspaper from the 1960s to his retirement in 1988. Kate Salley Palmer started cartooning for the Daily Gamecock newspaper while at the University of South Carolina and later became the Greenville News‘ dedicated cartoonist before eventually starting a children’s book publishing business, Warbranch Press.

The work of these two fine South Carolina editorial artists is now on display as part of the exhibit “Graphic” Opinions: South Carolina Political Cartoons, in the South Carolina Political Collections Gallery from August 29th, 2019 to January 20th, 2020.

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Lifelong Learning

Lifelong learners show an intense drive to understand their world and all the myriad elements that impact on their lives and their society.  Their character is, at least in part, defined by a deep and innate curiosity.  I have been inspired by several lifelong learners – Fritz Hollings, Sarah Leverette and Warren Irvin.

The Hollings reference collection

Even as a senior U.S. Senator, with the incredibly busy schedule that position entailed, Hollings made time for serious reading.  He began each day, often while being driven to his office in Washington’s Russell Senate Office Building, with a variety of newspapers.  He ended each day with books on topics that interested him.  I well remember one Christmas in the late 1990s when I asked what he was reading over his holiday.  He had three books – two on contemporary Mexican-American affairs and one book on world finance.  Time has proven that he was prescient in his concern over our relationship with Mexico.

Hollings viewed travel as a remarkable opportunity to learn about foreign cultures.  On his return from a Codel or other trip, Sen. Hollings would share what he had seen and offer his impressions about the people he had met and the conditions under which they lived.  And his travel often informed his votes and legislation he was writing.

In retirement, and particularly in his last months, Senator Hollings continued to read as a way to enrich himself.  Thanks to the generosity of the Hollings family, a small selection from his vast library is now available in the Dorothy Smith Reading Room.  About forty volumes include a favorite he reread during his final months – a biography of Franklin D. Roosevelt – and the book I intend to read soon, The Statesman and the Storyteller: John Hay, Mark Twain, and the Rise of American Imperialism.

On your next visit to the Reading Room, perhaps, like me, you will be inspired to read a book enjoyed by the Senator.

By Herb Hartsook

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In Memoriam: Martha Cunningham Monteith (1921-2019)

Martha MonteithMartha Cunningham Monteith passed away Saturday, July 27, 2019. A pioneer in speech pathology, she was the first trained speech therapist employed by the South Carolina public school system, establishing the inaugural program at Richland County District One in 1949. Over the years, she worked to secure state funding for speech and hearing services for all public schools in South Carolina. She also helped establish the Department of Speech Pathology and Audiology at both SC State University (c. 1954-1962) and University of South Carolina (1966).

Mrs. Monteith also actively participated in much of the work of her husband, Dr. Henry D. Monteith, a well-known local physician and community leader. She promoted the many services offered by the Victory Savings Bank within the community during its leadership by Dr. Monteith from 1945-1980. She also helped him with his medical home visits and served with him on the board for the Palmetto Medical, Dental, and Pharmaceutical Association Women’s Auxiliary.

Mrs. Monteith did great work for her community as an activist and later as a benefactor. She participated in the Civil Rights Movement by working on influential projects including the successful integration of the University of South Carolina in 1963 by her niece, Dr. Henrie Monteith Treadwell. She also worked to preserve sites of historical and educational significance, including her sister-in-law Modjeska Monteith Simkins’ home and the Monteith School (now Booker T. Washington – Monteith Cultural Center). Both sites have been placed on the National Historic Registry. As a member of the Benefactors Society of the Richland County Public Library Trust, she donated the Cunningham-Monteith Large Picture Center at the Richland County Public Library. In 2005, she participated in an oral history interview with the library wherein she discusses her time teaching for Richland School District One, life in Columbia during segregation, and the history of the Monteith School.

Martha MonteithMrs. Monteith became a supporter of USC’s Special Collections upon the donation of  the papers of her sister-in-law, Modjeska Simkins, to SCPC, which now is also receiving the papers of her niece, Henrie Monteith Treadwell, and most recently Mrs. Monteith’s own papers. Upon retirement, she spent her time travelling the world with Dr. Treadwell. A devoted singer, Mrs. Monteith was often hired to sing at weddings and other events during her time in college, and actively participated in her church group as a vocalist in the Women’s Missionary Society. She was also an avid hat collector, as evidenced by her participation in the Turner Memorial A.M.E. Hat Divas group.

Her papers consist of about 1 linear foot of material from 1938 to 2016, all of which is digitized and can be viewed here. Mrs. Monteith will be greatly missed. We send our regards to her family during this time.

written by Chauna Carr

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National History Day 101 Workshop, August 9th

National History Day (NHD) is a year-long themed research project competition for 6th-12th grade students across the U.S. and beyond that culminates in an international competition (“Nationals”) held every year at the University of Maryland, College Park, each June.

Students canNHD 2020 compete solo or in groups and in the categories of papers, websites, documentaries, exhibits, and performances on any topic in history as long as they connect it to the yearly theme. Past entries have had titles such as “Uneducated: The G.I. Bill in the Segregated South,” “Taking a Stand Against Child Labor: The National Child Labor Committee,” and “’Only a Novel?’: Jane Austen’s Innovations for the Romantic Novel.”

For students who create projects (regardless of if they compete), learn and strengthen their analytic, research, writing, speaking, and time-management skills. It can lead to scholarships as it did for me, or simply a lifelong passion for history.

South Carolina Political Collections will be hosting a teacher workshop, “National History Day 101,” on Friday August 9th from 9 to noon. This workshop will include information about History Day, sample projects, tips and tricks for creating the best entry, list of topics that could use University of South Carolina Special Collections, and a discussion of other resources U of SC has to help students create their strongest project.

Anyone interested in learning more about National History Day or those who already work with NHD students are welcome to attend the free workshop. Please RSVP to Ann Abney at by July 30th to reserve your spot.

NHD 101 Workshop




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