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Political Campaign Strategy in the Gilded Age

Gilded, being covered in a thin layer of gold only to provide false splendor to the object of a persons gaze, is the word that the famous author Mark Twain artfully chooses to describe the era from the end of reconstruction to the turn of the 20th century. As well known as the era is, really little actually improved drastically for the nation. Many presidents were elected and served office in the white house from the years during the Gilded Age, including: Rutherford B. Hayes, James A. Garfield, Chester A. Authur, Grover Cleveland, and Benjamin Harrison. Many of these names are of prominent politicians however the impact that they left in comparison with the presidents that would soon follow in the era of progressivism would be miniscule.


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However one advancement that we begin to notice arising from this era is the political campaigning for the presidential election. Major tactics that enhanced the political campaigns included advertizing, touring the country speaking to the public, and the occasional waving of the “bloody shirt”. During this time thanks to the advancements in mass productions and industrialization political candidates could produce little trinkets like buttons and posters and make things that the public would see. Buttons and banners would start to create a mentality of style verse substance.During this time thanks to the advancements in mass productions and industrialization political candidates could produce little trinkets like buttons and posters and make things that the public would see. These objects ranged from brass bands, flags, campaign buttons, picnics, posters, and so on. The candidate’s free handouts would start to create a mentality of style verse substance. Political candidates for office would also speak publically to their audience. Travelling to all stretches of the country to get their ideas to the people. On the political campaigns the politicians would gather crowds with free food and free beer to attract interest and then please the audience with inspiring campaigning promises and amazing speeches. High turnouts at these campaign functions were due to regional, ethnic, or even religious ties of loyalty to their political parties. The last thing on the list to be addressed, the “bloody shirt” of the political battlefield. Many of the political candidates were once soldiers in the Civil War. Now as runners in the race for president, they would wave their metaphorical “bloody shirt” to the crowds. “Hey look at me! War hero extraordinaire,” would be the emphasis portrayed to the people. With the victories on the battlefields of the war people would be swayed to vote for them for president.



The Princeton Review: Cracking the AP U.S. History Exam 2010 Edition (page 143)
AMSCO United States History: Preparing for the Advanced Placement Examination (pages380-381)

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