Presidential campaign items trace American history

by Sam Sentelle

Rotarian Dr. Robert Alexander (right) listens as Dr. Ed Grant shows historical items from past presidential campaigns. The number of stars in the Confederate flag appearing here dates the ribbon in this group to February 1861 -- three months before Virginia seceded.

Presidential campaign items trace American history

Edward L. Grant

September 25, 2018

Putnam Rotarians today were treated to a unique review of presidential elections by Dr. Ed Grant who displayed a broad collection of campaign ribbons, badges, and tokens from the 19th century. “The first five presidents were elected only by the Electoral College ” said Grant. “There was no popular vote in those days.

“As a result, there aren’t any true campaign items for those first five presidents. However, there were items made to commemorate their elections.”

A “James Madison” creamware mug in his collection is the only one known to exist.

“The Smithsonian wants that one, bad,” Grant joked. “I might loan it to them sometime, but they’re not getting it yet.

“In 1824,” he continued, “they had the first true presidential campaign. There was a popular vote, and that particular election almost did away with the Electoral College.

“In that year Andrew Jackson was running against John Quincy Adams — as well as William Crawford and Henry Clay.

“Jackson won the popular vote. He also got the most electoral votes — 99 votes total. It took 120 to get elected. Adams received 84 electoral votes”.

Since no candidate held a majority the election went into the House of Representatives, and Clay was Speaker of the House.

On the night before the House vote, Clay promised support to Adams in return for an appointment as Secretary of State. “It was called ‘the corrupt bargain,'” said Grant.

Jackson ran again in 1828 and won by a strong majority. “It’s in this period, Grant said, “that we see the first campaign items.”

The first campaign ribbon and the only one known still to exist is secure in a vault at the Smithsonian. “I have offered to trade them something for it,” Grant joked to laughter from his audience.

His collection includes a ribbon for the election of 1832, one of only eight of its kind known to exist.

In the years before the Civil War, said Grant, “campaigns weren’t run like they are today. Most of the campaigning was done by newspaper articles and ribbons and tokens.

“It was almost inappropriate for a candidate to go out on the stump.”

American history is reflected in the Grant collection. There is a campaign ribbon for the election of former president Martin Van Buren in 1848 as a candidate of the anti-slavery Free-Soil Party.

A ribbon from 1852 touts Winfield Scott as a candidate for the Whig Party.

Three schools and the county seat in Putnam County are identified by Gen. Winfield Scott’s name, as well as Scott-Teays Elementary School and the community of Scott Depot in Teays Valley.

And a ribbon for the provisional inauguration of Confederate president Jefferson Davis includes a flag which, from its number of stars, was designed before Virginia voted for secession.

For several years, Ed Grant edited The Vandalia Journal, a regional historical quarterly.

A recent district superintendent for the West Virginia Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church, Dr. Grant presently serves as senior pastor of St. Andrew in St. Albans. He also has served churches in Winfield and Barboursville.

He is the father-in-law of Buffalo High’s Danielle Grant, a Putnam teacher-of-the-year. One of her students recently won a Rotary scholarship to WVU.

Rev. Dr. Ed Grant A graduate of Asbury Theological Seminary, Dr. Grant presently serves as senior pastor for St. Andrew United Methodist Church in St. Albans..
Rev. Dr. Ed Grant A graduate of Asbury Theological Seminary, Dr. Grant presently serves as senior pastor for St. Andrew United Methodist Church in St. Albans..
Rotarian Dr. Robert Alexander (right) listens as Dr. Ed Grant shows historical items from past presidential campaigns. The number of stars in the Confederate flag appearing here dates the ribbon in this group to February 1861 -- three months before Virginia seceded.
Rotarian Dr. Robert Alexander (right) listens as Dr. Ed Grant shows historical items from past presidential campaigns. The number of stars in the Confederate flag appearing here dates the ribbon in this group to February 1861 -- three months before Virginia seceded.

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Sam Sentelle


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