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.
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.