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Collection Printed Ephemera: Three Centuries of Broadsides and Other Printed Ephemera

Political Broadsides

"The Gerry-mander : a new species of monster..." Published Salem, 1812.

The breadth of the collection makes it possible to follow political activities at the local, state, and national levels over many decades and to compare strategies and issues in different geographic areas. Executive proclamations, citizen petitions, and campaign literature are all well represented.

Revolutionary leaders used widely-circulated newspaper extras to publicize colonial solidarity and encourage future concerted efforts against British measures. "No Stamped Paper to be had" reports a variety of colonial efforts intended to force the repeal of the hated Stamp Act of 1765, including Boston printers vowing to continue printing papers without stamps, New York and Philadelphia merchants resolving not to import British goods, New Jersey freemen declaring that they would ignore the act and all who support it, and public hangings of the effigy of the stampman in Halifax and the effigy of the Lt. Governor in New York.

Major national policy changes are documented and sometimes influenced by broadside polemics. "National Utility, in Opposition to Political Controversy" marks Thomas Jefferson's conversion from a strict agrarian philosophy by publishing his famous January 1816 letter in which he states "We must now place the manufacturer by the side of the agriculturist. . . manufacturers are now as necessary to our independence as to our comfort." Jefferson's testimony was influential in the passage of the Tariff Act of 1816, which formed the basis of American protectionism for the next thirty years. In "No Annexation of Texas" New York leaders, including Albert Gallatin and Theodore Sedgwick, encourage citizens to oppose the ratification of a treaty that would make Texas a state.

One rare broadside is even responsible for introducing a new word to our political vocabulary. In 1812 the Jeffersonian Republicans forced through the Massachusetts legislature a bill rearranging district lines to assure them an advantage in the upcoming state senatorial elections. To dramatize the extraordinary division of Essex County for partisan gain, Federal polemicists drew the map of the South District in the form of a salamander, a mythological monster shaped like a lizard. The South District was formed from a single line of towns along the outside of the county and Chelsea from Suffolk County. Although Governor Elbridge Gerry had only reluctantly signed the redistricting law spawned by zealous Republican colleagues, this caricature, "The Gerry-mander. A New Species of Monster" has forever connected his name to gerrymandering, a word that has come to describe any arbitrary redistricting for political advantage.