In the early formation of our nation’s political party system, if you wanted a souvenir from a public event you pretty much had to be there. Long before red baseball hats, bumper stickers, and small round buttons for your lapel could be ordered online, political ephemera was often made from textiles.
One of the earliest examples is a silk handkerchief promoting the Whig Party presidential candidate William Henry Harrison from 1840. It’s currently housed in the Helen Louise Allen Textile Center collection in the School of Human Ecology at UW-Madison.
Ribbons were also handed out by political parties complete with safety pins so they could be attached to your garments. The question then and now is what to do with these performative objects once the party is over?
Natalie Wright is a PhD Student in the Design Program at UW-Madison. Her focus is Design History. In this edition of Radio Chipstone, Wright tells contributor gianofer fields that while researching historic political ribbons from early in our Wisconsin history, she stumbled across something…“crazy.”
About the Host:
gianofer (JON nah fer) fields is an Art Historian and Material Culture contributor and curates the Radio Chipstone series. The project is hosted by the School of Human Ecology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and funded by the Chipstone Foundation; a decorative arts foundation whose mission is preserving and interpreting their collection, as well as stimulating research and education in the decorative arts.
About the Guest:
Natalie Wright is a Design History PhD student in SoHE’s Design Studies department at UW-Madison. Her doctoral research uncovers the long overlooked history of clothing designs by, with, and for users with disabilities. Prior to joining UW–Madison, Wright was the Charles Hummel Curatorial Fellow at The Chipstone Foundation in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where she collaboratively curated a wide variety of exhibits.
Image: “Crazy Quilt” from the Helen Louise Allen Textile Collection, photographed by Dakota Mace for the CDMC.