Long Island University will partner with the Museum of Democracy...

Long Island University will partner with the Museum of Democracy to designate LIU's Roosevelt School as a permanent home to a vast collection of American presidential history. The University received a $100,000 grant to assist with the development of the upcoming exhibit "Hail to the Chief! Electing the American President" that is scheduled to open in spring 2023. A sampling of some of the items is shown here. Credit: Museum of Democracy

Have you ever seen an “I’d give my shirt for Roosevelt" pin?

One can be found at The Museum of Democracy, which has a new home at Brookville’s LIU Post for its trove of American election memorabilia.

The 1.2 million items collected by Jordan M. Wright, the late New York City lawyer and magazine publisher, will be shown at the Roosevelt School, the university’s public policy school.

“This collection encompasses everything from the beginning of our democracy until now,” said Wright's son, Austin Wright, museum chairman. 

There are George Washington buttons with the initials of the first 13 colonies around the center slogan: “Long Live the President,” a Kellogg’s Corn Flakes box giving equal space to then-Republican presidential candidate Dwight Eisenhower and his Democratic rival Adlai Stevenson, and the red, white and blue paper dresses worn by Nixon campaigners versus the similarly hued “Kennedy is the Remedy” vest.

The Robert Lion Gardiner Foundation's $100,000 grant to LIU Post will go toward the "Hail to the Chief! Electing the American President" exhibit opening this spring.

Austin Wright, who spent years photographing and cataloging the trove, also singled out the torches that lit presidential election parades. Campaigners for William Henry Harrison, who became the ninth president in 1841, had torches that looked like black top hats impaled on stakes.

“You look at these things, you think they were used for battle, to go out and stab someone,” he said.

The torches that lit the way for John Adams, the second U.S. president,  inaugurated in 1797, are also part of the exhibit.

Few of those 1960s fragile frocks celebrating former presidents John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon survived, however.

“Those dresses are really special,” Wright said, as smoking was more common then. Stray ashes could spark flames.

Amusement aside, an election memorabilia show is “a window into the past,” according to Louise Mirrer, CEO of the New-York Historical Society, and almost invariably will spark parallels to current topics. She said: “Certainly around election times, we make sure to [display] as much of our collection as possible.”

“All these things tell you something about how people were thinking, not only about the candidate but how to persuade people to vote for whichever candidate was being touted,” she said.

Wright also found much to be gleaned beyond the humorous or curious, saying, “I absolutely think this is definitely one of those times when looking back on our history and reflecting on what past generations have done can help us understand how best to go from here.”

His father began collecting at 10. He continued until his death at 50 in 2008 — the same year he founded the museum and shortly before opening an exhibit with former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

Growing up first in Brooklyn and then Manhattan, “He found a button from John F. Kennedy when he was running for president and when he went to the Brooklyn headquarters ... [he] was like ‘Oh my gosh, this is so amazing, what else can I get?’ [and] so he started collecting.”

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