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13 Vintage Presidential Campaign Posters That Will Take You Back

In its new book, the Library of Congress celebrates the past two hundred years of presidential campaign poster art.

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Political junkies and art lovers, rejoice!


If you are a fan of vintage political posters, you’re in luck. Look no further than Presidential Campaign Posters: Two Hundred Years of Election Art, published in 2012 by the Library of Congress. The book celebrates the signs that came long before TV commercials became the chief medium for communicating with voters. Political campaigns often relied on the decidedly low-tech method to get their candidates’ names, images, and messages out. But what these old-school promos lacked in reach—potential voters had to pass a poster, and even then they might not notice it—they made up for with visual impact and artistic quality, which is why they have endured to this day.

The oversized (11″x14″) tome from Quirk Books includes 100 ready-to-frame posters. Here are some of our favorites. Next, read about the astonishing facts you never knew about U.S. presidents.

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1848: Taylor


General Zachary Taylor appears the ultimate warrior in this color woodcut, sitting astride his horse as the heavens praise his victories. The piece, simply titled Union, bears no indication of Taylor’s party or platform. He’s a manly man, after all; no further explanations needed. Here are more interesting tidbits about presidents.

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1856: Buchanan


Democratic candidate James “ten cent Jimmy” Buchanan clearly means business in this solemn campaign poster. He’s looking ahead with a serious look on his face while six American flags surround his figure. Less really does seem to be more in Buchanan’s campaign as he handily defeated Republican candidate James Fremont. Make sure you read up on these cool president facts to learn even more about our nation’s leaders.

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1860: Lincoln


Abraham Lincoln ran on a pro-Union ticket as the nation teetered on Civil War and meant business when it came to preserving the Union. His cause is evident in his use of a simple American flag for his poster. Next, learn more about Abraham Lincoln with these timeless Abraham Lincoln quotes.

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1908: Taft


It’s no coincidence that this poster of William “Bill” Taft resembles a merry Father Christmas. Fortunately for the little-known Republican candidate, he bore a striking resemblance to a then-newly popularized cartoon of a round and jolly St. Nick. If you want to learn even more about U.S. presidents, here are 24 hidden talents of U.S. presidents.

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1944: Dewey


In running against a much older FDR, New York Governor Thomas Dewey used his youthfulness as a focal point in his campaign. However, Dewey may have taken that approach too far with this school-bus yellow campaign poster featuring a cartoonish elephant and a rhyming slogan. Here are other cool president facts you might enjoy reading about.

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1960: Kennedy


That hair, that smile, those clean, strong, locks of red, white and blue. As this poster makes clear, JFK’s 1960 campaign was all about youth and “vigah.” That he was such a handsome son-of-a-gun didn’t hurt, either. And if you are still wondering about the mystery behind JFK’s death, here are 15 presidential mysteries that were never solved.

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1964: Johnson


It’s always a good thing if your initials rhyme with USA. LBJ’s dead serious expression sends a message of strength and determination, and he’s clearly man enough for the job—his left ear is bigger than the Great Lakes.

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1968: Romney


Like his fuel-efficient Rambler, George Romney’s campaign poster is simple and crisp. In contrast to the stereotype of a used car salesman, the smiling face of the former head of American Motors conveys a sense of trustworthiness and dependability. Try to put your presidential knowledge to the test by trying to match U.S. presidents to currencies next.

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1968: Kennedy


Wait, is this a poster for a presidential campaign or a concert at San Francisco’s Avalon Ballroom? The cartoony caricature, the swirling typography, the bright colors and the youthful “Bobby” combine to give this poster its unmistakeable ’60s energy. That this buoyant campaign was ended by murder is cruel irony. Here are some iconic and funny quotes from Kennedy and other U.S. presidents.

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1968: McCarthy


Minnesota Senator Eugene McCarthy, an outspoken critic of the Vietnam War, was the first Democrat to challenge LBJ for the nomination and scored a strong second-place finish in the New Hampshire primary before winning in Wisconsin and Oregon. But McCarthy’s campaign for peace lost momentum once Robert Kennedy entered the race. Next, try to see if you can recognize these presidents from baby U.S. photos.

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1984: Reagan


As much a movie poster as a campaign poster, “Bringing America Back!” features a grandfatherly Ronald Reagan as the leading man of the next four years. Who better to steer the country to economic recovery after a recession than the Gipper. Reagan was an Illinois native — find out what other states U.S. presidents are from.

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2008: Obama


The campaign that gave America it’s first black president deserved an iconic poster, and it got one thanks to street artist Shepard Fairey. The powerful image of Barack Obama seeming to peer into the future was everywhere. He eventually did run and won in 2012, but his first campaign’s posters were the clear winner. Find out how iconic presidential couples like Barack and Michelle met next.

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2008: Obama


Another iconic poster from Obama’s 2008 campaign, this time by Berlin-based artist Ray Noland, shows Barack Obama surrounded by people carrying signs and megaphones. Crowned with the US motto “E pluribus unum” (“out of many, one”), this poster successfully invited people to rally around the presidential nominee. And if you’re wondering what Obama might have been up to since he left the presidency, check out the perks U.S. presidents get after leaving the office.

Reader's Digest
Originally Published in Reader's Digest