It’s time for match two in our new Tag Team Review series, and if you’re a glutton for book punishment, you’ve come to the right place because Jordan M. Wright’s recent Campaigning for President: Memorabilia from the Nation’s Finest Private Collection (Smithsonian Books) bleeds a rainbow. (To view other Tag Team photos, click here.)
Contender No. 1: Dennis Seese, a reference librarian at the Jefferson-Madison Regional Library in Charlottesville, VA, responded to my call for Xpress Reviewers last summer. He can tackle anything from French symbolist poetry and cubism to the Arab-Israeli conflict and heavy metal. A man this well rounded has no mercy for rectangular objects.
The final stop of my library-school career was an internship at the Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library, a large complex in Staunton, VA, consisting of the house where the 28th president was born and a small museum in which reproductions of his campaign buttons were sold as souvenirs. One afternoon, I was working in the museum and a man bought a handful of buttons. When I remarked how much I liked them, the man tossed me one and said, "Enjoy." I was struck by the button’s sharp red, white, and blue simplicity—Peace, Prosperity and Preparedness it yelled from my jacket.
Jordan Wright had a similar experience at age ten with an RFK button, which subsequently inspired a life spent collecting the multitudinous forms of campaign memorabilia he documents in this visually stimulating catalog. His tone is snarky but entertainingly informative; some choice pieces of arcana unearthed here include the original appearance of Alfred E. Newman, beloved Mad magazine mascot, as a caricature of doltish FDR supporters on an anti-Roosevelt poster and the creepy "soap babies" packaged in a tight, coffinlike box advertising the 1900 campaign. Do your politically minded and just plain curious patrons a favor and put this eminently browseable collection on display.
Contender No. 2: Director of library services at Ottawa University’s Myers Library in Ottawa, KS, Gloria Creed-Dikeogu also signed on as an Xpress Reviewer in 2007. Whatever I throw at her—mystery, education, or history—she susses it out with the grace and ferociousness of a true Tag Teamer. Bow down, illustrated hardcover!
My husband’s favorite pastime these days is following the campaign trails of presidential hopefuls. Unfortunately, he didn’t get a chance to peruse Jordan Wright’s new book with me, but, then again, I didn’t need his company to enjoy the hodgepodge of colorful historical artifacts. President Washington’s specially designed coat buttons, a Cleveland chamber pot with McKinley-Bryan soap baby dolls, and a Blaine & Logan campaign shaving razor—with curios like these, it’s easy to lose track of time in the pages of this book, which feels very much like visiting a museum. Our tour guide, Wright, a lawyer by trade, knows his stuff.
Until this book, his million-plus-piece collection had never been shown before; it is being made ready for permanent public display at Wright’s Museum of Democracy in New York City, but it can also be viewed at the Museum of the City of New York from June 8 through Election Day. Libraries, no matter if they’re located in blue or red states, should get their hands on this eye candy for the people.