Long before the “hanging chads” of the 2000 election, presidential contests offered drama, intrigue, and narrow victories. The seven elections presented here were selected for the pivotal role they played in shaping U.S. history and our electoral process.
The election of 1800 exposed one of the flaws in the original Constitution regarding the Electoral College process. The election of 1828 introduced the “spoils system” and the Democratic Party. In 1872 major parties split into competing factions amidst accusations of political corruption and calls for occupying troops to be withdrawn. The Electoral College was put to the test again when one of the candidates died before votes could be cast.
In 1912 the major parties split again allowing an underdog candidate to win. The 1928 election offered choices between prosperity and prohibition and was marred by anti-Catholic slurs. In 1948 war and foreign policy led to a four-party race with a surprise winner. In 1968 the incumbent withdrew amidst civil rights unrest and an unpopular war. The result was a three-party race that had the South no longer voting a straight Democratic Party ticket.
The exhibits in the Perkins Gallery have been sponsored in part by the E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation.