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Connecting to Past Presidents

One way to secure voter confidence was to invoke the names and images of great past presidents. In his first two runs for the nation’s highest office, William Jennings Bryan was linked on sheet “Patriotic National Silver Song” refers to Bryan’s crusade for a monetary standard using both gold and silver. A 1920 campaign song cover pictured Warren G. Harding (1865–1923) with former Republican presidents Theodore Roosevelt and William McKinley. Instead of Harding’s other Republican predecessor, William Howard Taft, Abraham Lincoln is in the center under the broad embrace of Uncle Sam.

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  • J.W. Murphy. “Patriotic National Silver Song.” San Francisco: James W. Murphy, 1896. Music Division, Library of Congress (20)

  • “The Bird of Freedom.” Kansas City, Missouri: Piper and Piper, 1900. Music Division, Library of Congress (22)

  • Edward L. Bohal. “Harding’s the Man for Me.” Mansfield, Ohio: E.L Bohal, 1920. Music Division, Library of Congress (23)

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Grover Cleveland’s Bride

Frances Folsom (1864–1947) married Grover Cleveland during his first term as president 1885–1889. Scandal, no stranger to Cleveland, soon swirled around his young bride. One rumor accused her of infidelity; another suggested she was a battered wife. To counter these attacks, Democrats blatantly exploited her image in a positive light during Cleveland’s 1888 campaign for re-election. Aimed at a female audience even though women could not vote, these lyrics mention “Frankie” Cleveland Clubs, popular groups inspiring women to become interested in politics.

Old Kentuck’s Bureau. “We’ll Rock Her in the White House Chair.” Philadelphia: Lee & Walker and W.W. Cook, 1888. Music Division, Library of Congress (18)

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Family Traditions

The quest for the nation’s highest offices often ran in families. In 1840, William Henry Harrison (1773–1841) was elected president. Forty-nine years later, his grandson Benjamin (1833–1901) wrested the White House from the incumbent, Grover Cleveland, by linking himself to his grandfather. When Cleveland returned triumphant in 1892, his vice president was Adlai Stevenson, Sr., (1835–1914), who ran on a ticket with presidential candidate William Jennings Bryan (1860–1925) in 1900. Stevenson’s second try proved unsuccessful, as did the presidential race of his son Adlai, Jr., (1900–1965) against Dwight D. Eisenhower (1890–1969) in 1952.

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  • O.H. Evans, music, and C.F. Pearse, words. “We’ve got the Grandson, Ben.” Maryville, Ohio: J. Van Pearse, 1888. Music Division, Library of Congress (19A)

  • M.H. Rosenfeld, music, and George Cooper, words. “Cleveland and Victory.” Chicago: National Music, 1892. Music Division, Library of Congress (24)

  • Isidor D. Danziger. “March on with Adlai & John: A Campaign Song.” Washington, D.C.: American Free Enterprise, 1952. Music Division, Library of Congress (25)

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McKinley, “The Voice of the Buckeye”

The cover art of “The Voice of the Buckeye,” sheet music for William McKinley’s 1896 campaign, is rich in imagery. Cherubs point to the title that lauds his origins as a native of Ohio, the Buckeye State. Along the bottom are representations of the volunteer regiment he commanded. Most powerful is his depiction as a family man. Flanked by his wife and grandmother, McKinley (1843–1901) is shielded under the powerful wings of the American eagle.

Ellis Brooks, music, and Mrs. Anna N. Snyder, words. “The Voice of the Buckeye.” Chicago: Mrs. Anna N. Snyder, 1896. Music Division, Library of Congress (21)

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Sections: Early Rally Songs | Songsters | Forgotten Candidates | Issues and Slogans | Links to Family or Past Presidents