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November 9, 2012

Friday Finds: “Look On This, Then On This”

William McKinley presidential campaign poster (US 5620), circa 1895
William McKinley presidential campaign poster (US 5620), circa 1895, Poster Collection, Hoover Institution Archives.

Every four years we elect or reelect our president.  In our time, presidential campaigns devote many hours to television advertisements as a way to reach the American public. Before television, however, presidential campaigns relied on posters to broadcast their message. The Hoover Archives poster collection includes many such campaign posters. 

This poster from the campaign of Republican presidential candidate William McKinley received a lot of attention on our Twitter page this week!  This poster presents the viewer with two alternatives: “Look On This, Then On This.” The artist depicts a dichotomy with overt symbols criticizing McKinley's opponent, Grover Cleveland. The rocky road, the bent bike wheel, and the boarded up factory are portrayed in comparison to the alternatives on “Republican Road.”  Even the poster itself is painted in bright yellow and dull gray, to carry the theme forward. 

To create your own analysis of a historical poster, enjoy searching through the thousands of digitized posters in our database.