Exploring the collections of the Mercantile Library:

Getting Out the Vote at the Mercantile Library
Efforts to get Americans to vote are documented almost from the nation’s first presidential elections. The materials used to encourage voting range from mass-produced door hangers and postcards to works of art inspired by the artist’s passion for a cause. American artist Ben Shahn (1898-1969) designed this dramatic poster for the CIO (Congress of Industrial Organizations) in 1946. Shan’s involvement with labor unions started when he tried to organize an artists’ union in the 1930s, and culminated in his accepting the position of chief artist for the graphics division of a political action committee of the CIO where he worked throughout the 1940s. This print from the Feldacker Labor Art Collection is equally at home among items in the Shopmaker American Political Collection, illustrating the frequent connections between art and politics.
Dramatic and appealing graphics aren’t restricted to the recruitment of voters. Once citizens have cast their ballots they are traditionally rewarded with an “I Voted” sticker that became popular in the 1980s. Although these ubiquitous items most often have the classic flag and “I Voted” text, the Shopmaker Collection continues to collect voting stickers with unique designs reflecting the spirit of the state that printed them. Two examples include a Georgia peach voting sticker and one from New York with the Statue of Liberty. This very special voting “thank you” card was distributed at polling stations in St. Charles, Missouri, by scouts from Troop 794 of the Girl Scouts of Eastern Missouri. These little cards uniquely combine both the recruitment and thanking of voters; these young scouts witnessed the process of voting and took part in acknowledging the importance of this civic duty, which may have contributed to their becoming more actively engaged voters themselves.

These are just two examples from the Shopmaker American Political Collection; see more by browsing the Collection online in the Digital Library here. Whether you voted early or are reading this standing in line at the polls, we thank you for voting!
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