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Democratic Party

The Democratic Party is the oldest continuously-functioning political party in the United States. It began in 1792 when followers of Thomas Jefferson organized and called themselves the Jeffersonian Republicans or the Republican Party. This name was changed to the Democratic-Republican party in 1798, then to just Democrats in the 1820s. The political viewpoint of the party has also changed from conservative in the 1800s to liberal in the 20th and 21st centuries.

The first Democratic campaign advertising material was produced in the 1820s, but the election of 1840 produced the largest amount of campaign material up to that time. This presidential race between Democratic President Martin Van Buren and Whig party candidate William Henry Harrison was the first to be run as a classic campaign complete with banners, posters, slogans, and souvenirs.

The Democratic Party first used celluloid pin-back buttons in the presidential election of 1896, promoting their candidate William Jennings Bryan who ran against Republican William McKinley. Campaign buttons continued to be the most popular advertising souvenir until the '90s when less-costly stickers gained preference.

Quick Facts

  • In the 1870s, political cartoonist Thomas Nast used a donkey to represent the Democratic Party in his cartoons. The donkey symbol has been widely used as the logo of the party ever since, but it has never been formally adopted as the party's official symbol
  • The rarest 20th-century Democratic Party campaign items come from the unsuccessful presidential campaign of James Cox and Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1920. The party had very little money to spend on campaign items during this election, so Cox/Roosevelt political items are difficult to find
  • One of the most famous pieces of Democratic Party memorabilia is the November 3, 1948 issue of the Chicago Tribune with the headline, "Dewey Defeats Truman." Democratic incumbent Harry Truman won the election

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