Republican Standard Bearers Abraham Lincoln and Hannibal Hamlin

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Republican Standard Bearers: Abraham Lincoln and Hannibal Hamlin
Newton Briggs, Photographer
Photoprints mounted on silk ribbon
Everett D. Graff Collection of Western Americana
Vault Graff 2490 No. 2
Newberry Library

Vote for Lincoln and Hamlin, the new Republican Party candidates! This ribbon would have been worn to show support for Abraham Lincoln in his campaign to become President in 1860. In this case, “standard bearers,” or “flag” bearers, refers to the fact that Lincoln and Hamlin are representing the ideas of the Republican Party in the election. Hannibal Hamlin, the Vice Presidential candidate, was a Senator and former governor from Maine. Hamlin was chosen to be Lincoln’s running mate because he came from a state that strongly supported the anti-slavery goals of the Republican Party. Interestingly, Lincoln and Hamlin did not actually meet each other until after the election. When the two men were finally introduced, they found they had much in common. Both men were tall, friendly, and had served in Congress. Both opposed the extension of slavery into the western territories.

Political campaigns produced lots of visual material advertising their candidates. Prints, buttons and other ephemera like this ribbon had been produced in previous elections. But this item is a bit more modern. Here, actual photographs have been printed right onto the cloth. The tiny print at the bottom indicates that Newton Briggs of Galesburg, Illinois, took the images.  Having a photograph on the ribbon made the pictures of the candidates very accurate and realistic. And as Lincoln himself knew, having one’s portrait available to potential voters was important to winning. Every politician since Lincoln has taken advantage of photography in this way. 

1. Describe the different symbols at the top of the ribbon. What message is the ribbon trying to tell about the two candidates? 

2. What other kinds of campaign ephemera exists today? Think of anything you’ve seen, anywhere, with President Obama’s name on it.

3. Photography was pretty new when Lincoln and others began using it in their campaigns. These days, how do politicians use TV and the internet to promote themselves?

Further reading:
Hunt, H. Draper. Hannibal Hamlin of Maine: Lincoln’s First Vice-President (Syracuse UPress, 1969).

Foner, Eric.  Free Soil, Free Labor, Free Men: The Ideology of the Republican Party before the Civil War. Oxford  University Press, 1995).

George Eastman House [Rochester, NY], “Notes on Photographs,” Karina Kashina,

Courtesy of the Newberry Library, Chicago