Documenting Political Campaigns in the Moment - Image Gallery Essay | Wisconsin Historical Society

Historical Essay

Documenting Political Campaigns in the Moment - Image Gallery Essay

Candidates on the Road

Documenting Political Campaigns in the Moment - Image Gallery Essay | Wisconsin Historical Society
Campaign buttons; Eisenhower v Stevenson

Ike vs Adlai

Assortment of buttons, and a few stamps, representing the presidential campaign between Dwight Eisenhower and Adlai Stevenson in 1956. WHI 127357

Coming of age in Ohio, James Baughman (1952-2016) developed a passion for the Cleveland Indians and presidential campaigns.  The youngster’s hobbies offered a good window into the American experience.

EnlargeCampaign Poster

Roosevelt and Johnson

Poster featuring Theodore Roosevelt and his running mate in the 1912 presidential campaign, Hiram Johnson. Underneath the men is a quote from Rudyard Kipling reading: "For there is neither East nor West, Border nor Breed nor Birth, When two strong men stand face to face Though they come from the ends of the earth." WHI 127864

For over fifty years Baughman “collected in the moment,” attending campaign rallies, trading materials among other collectors, and occasionally purchasing special items to improve his personal collection of political campaign ephemera.  He continued amassing the collection while a student at Harvard and Columbia, and after he joined the faculty at UW-Madison in 1979.  Every four years the collection swelled, as the talented historian and journalism professor acquired additional materials:  buttons, ribbons, and posters that captured the democratic experiment.  Baughman gradually assembled an exceptional collection, documenting every presidential campaign from 1896 (William McKinley vs. William Jennings Bryan) to 2012 (Barack Obama vs. Mitt Romney).  

A gifted and beloved teacher, Baughman found joy in the storytelling opportunities afforded by his personal collection.  Graduate students attending backyard cookouts marveled at Baughman’s encyclopedic grasp of long-forgotten party planks and vice-presidential candidates.  A favorite item – always worthy of a good story – was a rare political poster promoting the virtues of the insurgent Bull Moose Party of 1912.

The Historical Society and University of Wisconsin community mourned when Professor Baughman passed away
on March 26, 2016. Yet Baughman’s legacy and support for American
history continues.  Baughman had previously made plans to
donate the important collection to the Division of Library, Archives,
and Museum Collections, which has digitized the collection as part
of an image gallery highlighting the Society’s political
ephemera collection.

More Collecting in the Moment

EnlargeMilwaukee Journal Sentinel Journalists

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Journalists

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel journalist sitting at tables, from left to right: Rick Wood, Dan Bice, Patrick Marley, Mary Spicuzza, and Craig Gilbert working in the media filing center at the Republican presidential debate. WHI 126805

WHS archivists decades of experience collecting history as it happens. During the extraordinary 2016 presidential campaign season, Andy Kraushaar, Curator of Visual Materials, and David Erickson, archives project assistant, photographed Democratic and Republican rallies in Janesville, Madison, Milwaukee, Green Bay and West Bend.  Arriving early and staying late, the two photo archivists captured varied events and protests outside the convention halls, once again collecting in the moment. The Society also hired freelance editorial photographer, Andy Manis, to document the Democratic and Republican presidential primary debates in Milwaukee.   The resulting photographic portfolios offer rich stories for future storytelling.  

View the image gallery featuring the Baughman Collection of political ephemera, 1896-2012

View the images from the 2016 campaign

To view images from earlier political campaigns, 1850-2009, visit:

Political Campaigns of the Past: 1850-2009