Philadelphia, – From George Washington’s diary to Bill Clinton’s
saxophone, new artifacts at the National Constitution
Center provide a unique glimpse into the lives of the nation’s
presidents. Visitors will experience firsthand the evolution
of the voting process through a display of historic voting
machines, including a wooden ballot box from the 1800s and a Palm Beach
County voting booth from the controversial 2000 election. The
assortment of 30 artifacts from collections around the country will be
on display in the Center’s main exhibition, The
Story of We the People, beginning June 29. The artifacts will remain on display until the end of the year.
Highlights of the presidential artifact collection include:
George Washington’s Personal Pocket Diary, 1796
Washington kept this pocket diary during the final year of his
presidency. In it, he recorded temperature, wind
direction, and general observations on the weather, revealing his
continued interests as a farmer even while serving in public office. Courtesy of the American Philosophical Society.
Thomas Jefferson’s First Inaugural Address, 1801
In this printed copy of his speech, the new president calls for peace between the political parties after a bitter campaign.
Thomas Jefferson’s inauguration marked the first change of power from one party to another. Courtesy of a Private Lender.
William Henry Harrison Campaign Flag, ca. 1840
This flag shows William Henry Harrison standing confidently in front of a log cabin. As the first presidential candidate
to actively campaign for office, Harrison used log cabins and hard cider to promote himself as a common man. Courtesy of the Chester County Historical Society.
Franklin Roosevelt’s Fedora, ca. 1937
Jaunty fedoras became one of
Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s trademarks as president. President
Roosevelt purchased this fedora while in office. National Constitution Center Collection.
“I Like Ike” Stockings, ca. 1952
One of the catchiest campaign slogans of all-time, “I Like Ike” captured the positive feelings toward Republican candidate
Dwight Eisenhower. The phrase appeared everywhere during the 1952 presidential campaign – even on women’s stockings. Courtesy of the Chester County Historical Society.
Ronald Reagan’s Jellybean Jar, 1980s
Ronald Reagan began eating jellybeans in the 1960s to help quit smoking. During his presidency, a crystal jar of Jelly
Belly jellybeans was kept in the Oval Office and passed around during Cabinet meetings. Courtesy of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum.
Bill Clinton’s Tenor Saxophone, 1994
The saxophone is a lasting part of President Bill Clinton’s public image. This instrument was played by Clinton in
the Oval Office during his first term. Courtesy of the National Music Museum.
Barack Obama’s “A More Perfect Union” Speech, 2008
Barack Obama’s speech on race at the National Constitution Center was
considered a pivotal moment of the
2008 campaign. This signed original copy was used by Obama when he
delivered the speech from the Center’s F.M. Kirby Auditorium on March
18, 2008. National Constitution Center Collection.
Also on display are several impeachment items, including:
Andrew Johnson Impeachment Trial Ticket, 1868
This ticket admitted spectators
into the Senate gallery for America’s first presidential impeachment
trial. President Andrew Johnson was acquitted by a single vote on May
26, 1868. Courtesy
of North Carolina History Museum.
Gerald Ford’s Pardon of Richard Nixon, 1974
This ceremonial copy of impeached president Richard Nixon’s pardon was
one of many signed by Gerald Ford in 1974. In the months following the
pardon, President Ford gave these copies as souvenirs to visiting
dignitaries and heads of state. On
loan from the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum.
addition, visitors can explore firsthand how ballots and voting systems
have changed over the years as a response to political, social,
and technological change. Voting artifacts include:
Circular Wooden Ballot Box, early 1800s
This wooden ballot box was designed by Philadelphia architect Thomas Ustick Walter.
pebbles called “tallies” were dropped into numbered holes, each assigned
to a different candidate. The drawers were opened to count the
of the American Philosophical Society.
Metal Voting Box, early 1900s
This simple, metal ballot box was used in Northampton Township, Pennsylvania.
Voters placed paper ballots in an open slot, which was padlocked until they were ready to be tallied. Courtesy of the Mercer Museum.
Gear-and-Lever Demo Voting Machine, early to mid-1900s
like this help voters become familiar with new technology before
entering the voting booth. This model is for a
gear-and-lever voting machine. First introduced in 1892, it became the
most widely used type of voting machine throughout most of the 1900s. Courtesy of the Mercer Museum.
Punch Card Voting Machine, 2000
This voting machine was used in Palm Beach County, Florida during the controversial 2000 presidential election. The punch
card system with its confusing “butterfly ballots” led to a dispute over Florida’s decisive electoral votes. National Constitution Center Collection.
The National Constitution Center is at 525 Arch Street, Independence Mall, Philadelphia
For more information, call 215.409.6700
or visit www.constitutioncenter.org.
Information submitted by The National Constitution Center