What can we learn from election-day art?

November 8, 2016

Interesting contrasts, at least.

I love the “County Election” painting of George Caleb Bingham, showing an election in 1852, the year incumbent President Millard Fillmore could not get even the nomination of his party. I love the tension of Norman Rockwell’s painting of the 1944 election in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, with tensions we see only in retrospect. (That post also shows real tensions in a family, in the election of 1948, in another Rockwell painting).

What else does the world of art show about elections in America? What do you think?

Illustration from Harper's Weekly, showing election persuasion at the polls. Library of Congress collection

Illustration from Harper’s Weekly, November 7, 1857, showing election persuasion at the polls – politicians trying to buy votes. Library of Congress collection

If bribery didn’t work, there was always plain old fisticuffs.

Fighting at the polls. Illustration from Harper's Weekly, November 7, 1857. Library of Congress collections

Fighting at the polls. Illustration from Harper’s Weekly, November 7, 1857. Library of Congress collections

Here’s an unusual ritual, portrayed about the 1892 contest between William Henry Harrison and Grover Cleveland. Did this really happen? Did the loser pull the winner on a cart through the city?

 

“Lost Bet,” by John Klir, Library of Congress. Pearson’s education materials say this was common in the 19th century.

Louis Dalrymple noted a twist on the tradition four years later.

Puck Magazine, November 11, 1896.

Puck Magazine, November 11, 1896. “Print shows a bloated businessman holding an American flag labeled ‘Victory,’ riding in a wheelbarrow being pushed by another man; in the background, a young boy is telling a stranger that his Dad had a bet with the other man regarding the outcome of the presidential election. The stranger is uncertain who lost the bet.” Drawing by Louis Dalrymple for Puck. Library of Congress collections

Not sure how long that tradition of the loser pushing or pulling the winner hung on, but by 1904 election night was an occasion to walk about, socialize, and watch fireworks, if this print from the William Randolph Hearst organization is accurate. Teddy Roosevelt won the presidency on his own that year.

“Election night illumination at the Flatiron Building [New York City].” New York Sunday American & Journal, a Hearst newspaper. Library of Congress collections

“Politics in the Oyster House,” 1848 by Richard Caton Woodville. Image found at Wikiwand

George Caleb Bingham's

George Caleb Bingham’s “Stump Speaking,” 1853-54. Image from Wikiwand

Not all election work involves a crowd.

George Caleb Bingham,

George Caleb Bingham, “Canvassing the Vote”

George Caleb Bingham,

George Caleb Bingham, “The Verdict of the People,” 1854-55. Wikiwand image

This looks more like the campaign party of a victorious candidate in the late 20th and early 21st centuries, though I’m not really sure this tradition survived much past the 2000 election.

John Sloan,

John Sloan, “Election Night,” 1907, an image from a New York drinking establishment. Collection of the Memorial Art Gallery of the University of Rochester.

Janie Price’s Evolution of American Painting said:

Here is the scene of Election Night written in Sloan’s Journal:

“Took a walk in the afternoon and saw boys in droves, foraging for fuel for their election fires this evening. . . . after dinner . . . out again and saw the noisy trumpet blowers, confetti throwers and the “ticklers” in use—a small feather duster on a stick which is pushed in the face of each girl by the men, and in the face of men by the girls. A good humorous crowd, so dense in places that it is impossible to control one’s movement.” (John French Sloan)

Women voted for the first time nationwide in 1920, after the ratification of the 19th Amendment. J. F. Kernan’s painting for The Country Gentleman magazine in 1922 shows some of the tensions that remained after the national amendment.

J. F. Kernan in Country Gentleman magazine, November 4, 1922

J. F. Kernan in Country Gentleman magazine, November 4, 1922. Wikimedia image

Rockwall made great use of his time and photographs in Cedar Rapids. In addition to the painting there, he used the setting for his famous “Undecided,” which became the cover of the Saturday Evening Post. 1944 was the last time prior to 2016 that both major candidates came from New York.

“Undecided,” Norman Rockwell, 1944. Copyright Curtis Publications

 

One might wonder if Rockwell considered himself undecided, when one sees this “son” of the painting, from 1960, featuring Rockwell in the same voting booth.

“Norman Rockwell at the Voting Booth” painted in 1960, based on his 1944 studies in Cedar Rapids, it seems to me. Image from The Easel

“Norman Rockwell at the Voting Booth” painted in 1960, based on his 1944 studies in Cedar Rapids, it seems to me. Image from The Easel

One last Rockwell to close out, one of my favorites, showing the happy candidate Casey, after having gotten the news that the voters were not so happy with him.

Norman Rockwall,

Norman Rockwall, “Elect Casey,” or “Before and After,” November 1958 for the Saturday Evening Post.

Legendary election jokester Dick Tuck once ran for the state legislature in California, on the slogan, “The job needs Tuck, and Tuck needs the job.” He lost, and he said what I can imagine the fictional Casey saying, “The people have spoken. The bastards!”

What are your favorite election day images? What are your memories of elections past?


2016: Election day art of Norman Rockwell, and unpredictability of elections

November 8, 2016

Especially in 2016, I think of this great, undersung painting by Normal Rockwell, “Election Day (1944)”:

Norman Rockwell, Election Day, 1944, watercolor and gouache, 14 x 33 1/2 in., Museum purchase, Save-the-Art fund, 2007.037.1.

Norman Rockwell, Election Day, 1944, watercolor and gouache, 14 x 33 1/2 in., Museum purchase, Save-the-Art fund, 2007.037.1.

Remember when people used to dress up to go to the polls?

In 1944 President Franklin Roosevelt ran for an unprecedented fourth term.  Most Americans did not know it, but he was deathly ill at the time.  He dropped Vice President Henry Wallace from his ticket — some argue it was a mutual disaffection at that time — and selected the relatively unknown young Missouri U.S. Sen. Harry S Truman for the vice president’s slot.

In November 1944, D-Day was known to be a successful invasion, and most Americans hoped for a relatively speedy end to World War II in both Europe and the Pacific.  Within the next ten months, the nation would endure the last, futile, desperate and deadly gasp of the Third Reich in the Battle of the Bulge, the liberation of Berlin in April 1945, and end of the war in the European Theatre on May 8; the Battle of Leyte Gulf, the Philippines Campaign, and the bloody, crippling battles of Iwo Jima and Okinawa in the Pacific Theatre, and then the first use of atomic weapons in war, at Hiroshima and Nagasaki (and we hope, the last use).

Voters in Cedar Rapids could not have known that.  They did not know that, regardless their vote for FDR or his Republican challenger, New York Gov. Thomas Dewey, Harry S Truman would be president within six months, nor that the entire world would change in August 1945.

This painting captures a time of spectacular moment, great naivity, and it pictures the way history got made.

For a 2007 exhibition, the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art offered this history:

Norman Rockwell: Fact & Fiction

September 12, 2009 – January 3, 2010

In 2007, the citizens of Cedar Rapids rallied together to purchase a series of watercolors destined for the auction block in New York. These five watercolors, by acclaimed 20th century American artist Norman Rockwell, depicted scenes associated with an election day and were created specifically for the November 4, 1944 issue of the Saturday Evening Post. To complete the Post commission, Rockwell traveled to a quintessential Midwestern town, Cedar Rapids, to study local citizens as models for his series of images.

In the 65 years since his visit, numerous anecdotes and stories have arisen about the artist’s time in Cedar Rapids and the creation of this work. This exhibition uses these five, newly conserved and restored watercolors and a related oil painting from the Norman Rockwell Museum, along with numerous photographs taken by local photographer Wes Panek for Rockwell, to investigate the many facts and fictions associated with Rockwell’s visit and this set of watercolors.

Norman Rockwell: Fact & Fiction has been made possible in part by Rockwell Collins, Candace Wong, and local “Friends of Norman Rockwell.” General exhibition and educational support has been provided by The Momentum Fund of the Greater Cedar Rapids Community Foundation.

Friends of Norman Rockwell: Wilma E. Shadle, Howard and Mary Ann Kucera, Jean Imoehl, Ben and Katie Blackstock, Marilyn Sippy, Chuck and Mary Ann Peters, Phyllis Barber, Ann Pickford, Anthony and Jo Satariano, Barbara A. Bloomhall, Virginia C. Rystrom, Jeff and Glenda Dixon, Robert F. & Janis L. Kazimour Charitable Lead Annuity Trust, Fred and Mary Horn, Mrs. Edna Lingo, John and Diana Robeson, Jewel M. Plumb, Carolyn Pigott Rosberg, Mr. and Mrs. Robert J. Buchacek, Dan and Anne Pelc, Mary Brunkhorst, and John and Diana Robeson.

I am amused and intrigued that this scene also closely resembles the scene when I voted in Cheverly, Maryland, in 1984 — down to the dog in the picture.  Oh, and most of the women didn’t wear dresses, none wore hats, and I was the only guy in the room with a tie.

Roosevelt won the 1944 election in an electoral college landslide, 432 to 99, but Dewey won Iowa, and we might assume Dewey won Cedar Rapids, too.

And that Truman guy?  Rockwell came back to the topic of elections four years later, when Truman was running for election to the office he’d filled for nearly four years, with another classic, American election portrayal.

“Election Day,” by Norman Rockwell, 1948

More:

 

Yes, this is an encore post.

Yes, this is mostly an encore post.


Election Day 2016: Fly your flag, and VOTE!

November 8, 2016

Saint Louis Art Museum, St. Louis, Missouri George Caleb Bingham (American, 1811–1879). The County Election, 1852. Oil on canvas. 38 x 52 in. (96.5 x 132.1 cm). Gift of Bank of America.

The County Election, 1852. Saint Louis Art Museum, St. Louis, Missouri George Caleb Bingham (American, 1811–1879).  Oil on canvas. 38 x 52 in. (96.5 x 132.1 cm). Gift of Bank of America.

Every polling place should be flying the U.S. flag today.  You may fly yours, too.  In any case, if you have not voted already, go vote today as if our future depends upon it, as if our nation expects every voter to do her or his duty.

Today the nation and world listen to the most humble of citizens.  Speak up, at the ballot box.

Did you notice?  In George Caleb Bingham’s picture, there are no U.S. flags.  You should fly yours anyway.

The whole world is watching.

More:

Yes, this is an encore post.

Yes, this is an encore post. I really like Bingham’s painting.


Milky Way from Easter Island

November 6, 2016

National Science Foundation tweeted this out:

National Science Foundation tweeted this out: “#photooftheday: Moai under the #MilkyWay. #space #galaxy #astronomy #science http://bit.ly/2ffTmVZ Image credit: Anne Dirkse”

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Issues you haven’t heard discussed in the campaign, 3: Clinton on national service

November 5, 2016

Part 3 of a series, listing policy issues we’ve heard too little about during this presidential campaign.

This is borrowed wholesale from the campaign website for Hillary Clinton (unless otherwise noted), just to try to get a little discussion going on the real issues of the campaign.

Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub is working on a series of issues not yet discussed, less than a week before the vote. Consider it public service, in the spirit of Fillmore, who remained ever conversant in public affairs and anxious to take a role to push for policies to improve America, as he saw it — and who, supported by his wives, founded the White House Library, the Buffalo and Erie County Historical Society, and the University of Buffalo (now SUNY-Buffalo) to further knowledge.

Beyond a military draft, which few people want in an era of a very successful all-volunteer military, should we ask more of our young people, ask them to serve the nation? How would such a scheme work?

Clinton’s policy paper introduction on national service:

There aren’t many places where people of all ages, all races, all backgrounds, all beliefs come together in common cause. But service is one of them, and that’s one of the reasons I think it’s so valuable, because in addition to the good work it does, it helps us reconnect with each other to feel more a part of our shared American life. I believe that one of the jobs of president is to encourage more service … .

Hillary, September 30, 2016

The generation of Americans coming of age today has changed our politics and our country. From racial justice and marriage equality to economic opportunity and climate change, they have put key issues at the top of the national agenda. Hillary Clinton believes we must do more to support activism and create pathways for Americans to serve and to lead.

As president, Hillary will:

  • Expand national service. Hillary will create more opportunities for Americans to participate in national service, creating economic and educational opportunities while improving communities. She will significantly expand AmeriCorps to allow hundreds of thousands of more Americans to serve their communities through organizations such as City Year, YouthBuild, American Red Cross, Habitat for Humanity, and other community organizations. To achieve this, Hillary will grow AmeriCorps to 250,000 members annually, fulfilling the goals of the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act. And she will create a National Service Reserve to enable millions of Americans across the country to engage in part-time volunteer service to their communities, taking on the most pressing challenges identified by state and local leaders and earning recognition for their contributions. Read more here.
  • Increase access to higher education. Hillary believes that if you serve your country through national and community service, you should be able to earn meaningful educational benefits. Her New College Compact will build on the current AmeriCorps Segal Education Award, on top of her plans to make debt-free college available to all by doubling the Segal Award and making it tax-free so that AmeriCorps members can earn more than $10,000 for college for every year of full-time service.
  • Strengthen international service. As secretary of state, Hillary saw firsthand the impact that Peace Corps Volunteers have around the world. That’s why, as president, she will continue to be a strong advocate for the Peace Corps. She will strengthen the program to provide more opportunities to send Americans abroad to work side by side with local leaders and address our most pressing global challenges.
  • Bring Americans together. Hillary strongly believes in the power of service to break down barriers by bringing together Americans from all backgrounds and uniting them in common purpose. She will ensure that national service remains at the top of her agenda as a broad-based solution to expand opportunity for people across America and strengthen our communities and our country.

Hillary has a strong record of supporting national service:

  • As first lady, Hillary advocated for Congress to reauthorize AmeriCorps so that tens of thousands more Americans would have opportunities to learn “how much more we get when we give.”
  • As senator, Hillary fought to protect AmeriCorps from budget cuts, and in 2003 stood alongside 150 mayors and governors in requesting funding to secure and grow the program. She also co-sponsored a bill to base AmeriCorps Education Award on the average public college tuition as a way to reduce student debt and allow more Americans to attend college in a time of rising costs.
  • As secretary of state, Hillary re-established the Peace Corps’s relationship with Indonesia after a 45-year hiatus. The first program in 2010 sent 19 volunteers, and now that number has grown to more than 100. Also under her leadership, the State Department provided $1 million to the Peace Corps to advance renewable energy efforts.

Read the fact sheet

Related:

I must confess a bias. In my time in Washington I met many former Peace Corps volunteers, and others who volunteered for VISTA and other programs. I found them without exception to be great leaders of people, and committed workers (in and out of government) who put service to the nation before their own welfare, often — and almost always to the great benefit of American people.

I liked them. Service to America had made them better people, and easier to befriend and respect.

Programs that train such leaders are priceless, in my estimation.

More:

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Issues you haven’t heard discussed in the campaign, 2: Clinton, on gun violence, with mothers of gun violence victims

November 4, 2016

Part 2 of a series, listing policy issues we’ve heard little about during this presidential campaign.

This is borrowed wholesale from the campaign website for Hillary Clinton (unless otherwise noted), just to try to get a little discussion going on the real issues of the campaign.

Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub may do an entire series on issues not yet discussed, less than a week before the vote. Consider it public service, in the spirit of Fillmore, who remained ever conversant in public affairs and anxious to take a role to push for policies to improve America, as he saw it — and who, supported by his wives, founded the White House Library, the Buffalo and Erie County Historical Society, and the University of Buffalo (now SUNY-Buffalo) to further knowledge.

What about gun violence?

Gun violence prevention

From the right: Former U.S. Rep. Gabby Giffords, Sec. Hillary Clinton, Sybrina Fulton (mother of Trayvon Martin),

I believe weapons of war have no place on our streets. We may have our disagreements on gun safety regulations, but we should all be able to agree on a few things. If the FBI is watching you for suspected terrorist links, you shouldn’t be able to just go buy a gun with no questions asked. You shouldn’t be able to exploit loopholes and evade criminal background checks by buying online or at a gun show. And yes, if you’re too dangerous to get on a plane, you are too dangerous to buy a gun in America.

Hillary, June 13, 2016

Too many families in America have suffered—and continue to suffer—from gun violence. It’s the leading cause of death among young African American men—more than the following nine causes combined. America cannot go on like this.

As president, Hillary will:

  • Expand background checks to more gun sales—including by closing the gun show and internet sales loopholes—and strengthen the background check system by getting rid of the so-called “Charleston Loophole.”
  • Take on the gun lobby by removing the industry’s sweeping legal protection for illegal and irresponsible actions (which makes it almost impossible for people to hold them accountable), and revoking licenses from dealers who break the law.
  • Keep guns out of the hands of domestic abusers, other violent criminals, and the severely mentally ill by supporting laws that stop domestic abusers from buying and owning guns, making it a federal crime for someone to intentionally buy a gun for a person prohibited from owning one, and closing the loopholes that allow people suffering from severe mental illness to purchase and own guns. She will also support work to keep military-style weapons off our streets.

Hillary has a record of advocating for commonsense approaches to reduce gun violence:

  • As first lady, she co-convened a White House Summit on School Violence after the Columbine tragedy, and strongly defended the Brady Bill, which instituted federal background checks on some gun sales.
  • As senator, she co-sponsored and voted for legislation that would close the gun show loophole, voted against the dangerous immunity protections for gun dealers and manufacturers, and co-sponsored legislation to extend and reinstate the assault weapons ban.
  • As a candidate, she is honored to have the endorsement of many groups working to take on the epidemic of violence, including the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence and its Million Mom March chapters, the Newtown Action Alliance, and Everytown for Gun Safety—including Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America.

Read the fact sheet

Related:

What do you think? Why didn’t we hear more about this in debates, and in news coverage of the campaign?


Issues you haven’t heard discussed in the campaign, 1: Clinton, on fair taxes

November 3, 2016

presidential-taxes-13-638

Slide from the Motley Fool on Clinton’s tax plan; slide is from 2015, Clinton’s position isn’t changed much. She knows what needs to be done.

With an assist from Warren Buffet.

This is wholly purloined from the campaign website for Hillary Clinton (unless otherwise noted), just to try to get a little discussion going on the real issues of the campaign.

Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub may do an entire series on issues not yet discussed, less than a week before the vote. Consider it public service, in the spirit of Fillmore, who remained ever conversant in public affairs and anxious to take a role to push for policies to improve America, as he saw it — and who, supported by his wives, founded the White House Library, the Buffalo and Erie County Historical Society, and the University of Buffalo (now SUNY-Buffalo) to further knowledge.

It’s outrageous that multi-millionaires and billionaires are allowed to play by a different set of rules than hardworking families, especially when it comes to paying their fair share of taxes.

Hillary, January 11, 2016

Hillary Clinton believes that we need an economy that works for everyone, not just those at the top. But when it comes to taxes, too often the wealthiest and the largest corporations are playing by a different set of rules than hardworking families.

Hillary is committed to restoring basic fairness in our tax code and ensuring that the wealthiest Americans and large corporations pay their fair share, while providing tax relief to working families. That’s not only fair, it’s good for economic growth, because she will use the proceeds to create good-paying jobs here in America—and make bold investments that leave our economy more competitive over the long run.

As president, Hillary will:

  • Restore basic fairness to our tax code. Hillary will implement a “fair share surcharge” on multi-millionaires and billionaires and fight for measures like the Buffett Rule to ensure the wealthiest Americans do not pay a lower tax rate than hardworking middle-class families. She’ll close loopholes that create a private tax system for the most fortunate, and she’ll ensure multi-million-dollar estates are paying their fair share of taxes. Read the fact sheet
  • Close corporate and Wall Street tax loopholes and invest in America. Hillary will close tax loopholes like inversions that reward companies for shifting profits and jobs overseas. She will charge an “exit tax” for companies leaving the U.S. to settle up on their untaxed foreign earnings. She will close tax loopholes that let Wall Street money managers pay lower rates than some middle-class families. And she’ll reward businesses that invest in good-paying jobs here in the United States. Read the fact sheet
  • Simplify and cut taxes for small businesses so they can hire and grow. The smallest businesses, with one to five employees, spend 150 hours and $1,100 per employee on federal tax compliance. That’s more than 20 times higher than the average for far larger firms. We’ve got to fix that.
  • Provide tax relief to working families from the rising costs they face. For too many years, middle-class families have been squeezed by rising costs for everything from child care to health care to affording college. Hillary will offer relief from these rising costs, including tax relief for Americans facing excessive out-of-pocket health care costs and for those caring for an ill or elderly family member.
  • Pay for ambitious investments in a fiscally responsible way. Hillary believes that we can afford to pay for ambitious, progressive investments in good-paying jobs, debt-free college, and other measures to strengthen growth, broaden opportunity, and reduce inequality. Hillary will use the proceeds from ensuring the wealthiest and the largest corporations pay their fair share to pay for these investments without adding to the debt.

Read the fact sheet

Related:

What do you think? What do your numbers show?

More, not from Clinton’s campaign:


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