Fellow Citizens!

 

Welcome to the Albany Institute of History and Art! Let’s take a look and see what led to the broadsides to being here today. In 2017, Tom Keefe, an Albany Institute volunteer and recognized collector of early American political memorabilia was thrilled by what he found in the Dewitt Clinton broadside collection in the museum’s library. Keefe and fellow collectors believed there were few, if any, political campaign materials produced or collected prior to the 1824 election. The broadsides on display include rare examples from DeWitt Clinton’s 1812 run for U.S. President as well as a few broadsides from his collection that are not campaign-related. The second, larger gallery displays selected political broadsides from New York gubernatorial elections of 1789, 1792, 1795, 1798, and 1801. A broadside is a single sheet of paper printed with information on one side. Large numbers could be left in taverns, gathering spaces, and coffee houses making them ideal forms of communication that could reach wide audiences. They were used as sources of important information. After relaying the messages they were typically reused. 

And they became  frequently used in the gubernatorial elections dating back to 1789. 

Brief History of Dewitt Clinton 

Dewitt was born on March 2, 1769, to Major-General James (1736–1812) and Mary DeWitt Clinton (1737–1795),  and was one of thirteen children. His family originated in Little Britain which is now called Orange County, New York. Coming from Irish descent both Clinton’s father and uncle became important members of George Washington’s army during the War for Independence. Although never being part of the wealthy elite they were known for their military and political involvement. Dewitt Clinton was known for his arrogant attitude leading him to political enemies. He rose to serve as an of New York City off and on from (1803-1807). Clinton believed in prison, hospital, and education reforms and the abolition of slavery. He served on many boards of several societies. He even ran for president believing he could win over both the Democratic-Republicans and Federalists.  In his last election in 1817, he convinced the legislatures to provide $7,000,000 to build the Erie Canal. Dewitt Clinton died on February 11, 1828, from heart failure owing to multiple creditors. And next is the portrait of him in 1818(oil on canvas).

The other broadsides showcased are key points in history that were pamphlets and where relevant news such as The Speech of the Right Honorable The Earl of Chatmain. Which showed the tension between the British and the Americans resulting in the battle of 1775 at Lexington and Concord setting of the Revolutionary War. Also, the Manifesto and the Proclamation written by the British to try to convince the American citizens to not rebel and show themselves as having good faith. The smaller pamphlets shown in the showcase such as Aaron Burr and American Roast Beef were used in the election as political advertising. For example, Aaron Burr’s pamphlet showed him as being sexually promiscuous. And the song was supposed to celebrate Thomas Jefferson’s win. 

The Elections

The broadsides on display portray the elections of 1789, 1792, 1795, 1798, and 1801from Clintons collection himself. Even though there were previous elections before 1789 was the first election with gubernatorial broadsides. In the early 1790s, New York was rapidly changing socially, economically, and politically. And during this time in 1797 Albany had become the center of trade, population, and transportation in upstate New York. In the 1790s the political parties were split between Federalists and the Democratic-Republicans. The Federalists were led by Alexander Hamilton who received support from merchants, lawyers, and large landlords and advocated for strong national governments and weak state governments. Democratic-Republicans were led by George Clinton who received support from typically middle/lower class and believed that all voters should have equal rights and free markets not just the rich.

 

Junior Interpreter, Amaya