Packaging Presidents

Packaging Presidents: 200 Years of Campaigns & Candidates was published to accompany an exhibition at the Abraham Lincoln Library and Museum in 2008.

From the Forward:
Packaging Presidents reprises a project first completed in a more modest fashion over 24 years ago. In 1984, The Hudson River Museum in Yonkers, New York, hosted an exhibition and published a modest catalogue of the same title. Then, as now, the core of the exhibition was the collection of Merrill Berman, and the curator and primary author was Frederick Voss. Six elections and four presidencies later, the subject has lost none of its fascination. The essays in this book examine themes that have been a persistent presence in American presidential politics for nearly two centuries. 

The material remnants of presidential campaigning are today less varied than a century ago, and as often driven by commercial motive as genuine political passion. Television and the Internet have supplanted the buttons, banners, and bandannas of the nineteenth and first half of the twentieth centuries as a means of reaching the electorate. But the themes illustrated so compellingly in the following pages continue to animate our national discussion when electing a president. Forging a connection with the "common man"—whoever she or he might be—is still an essential part of campaigning, leading to embarrassing moments for Republicans and Democrats alike. As Vietnam veterans exit the political scene, the ability to project toughness in the face of America's history, however, suggest that this represents no more than a temporary hiatus: in the coming decades, the Iraq War will surely spawn its share of presidential contenders.

Slurs, smears, and personal attacks have been a part of presidential campaigns since 1800. While such forays into political destruction are today more often subtle, and more likely delivered by surrogates rather than the candidates themselves, they remain an effective tool. Indeed, the 24/7 news cycle that characterizes television and the growing reliance upon the Internet have combined to make personal attacks more effective: often without an identifiable source, they reach a far broader audience than was previously the case. Packaging Presidents serves as a valuable reminder that, at least in presidential politics, the more things change, the more they stay the same. -- Rick Beard, President & CEO, Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library Foundation, 2008

Packaging Presidents: 200 Years of Campaigns & Candidates; by Frederick Voss with contributions from Rick Beard and Michael Cheney; Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library Foundation, Illinois, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-97999182-1-60-9799182-1-9

Click to order from Amazon