Politics resonates in our stacks, in numerous weighty works like Locke on civil government or Hamilton & company of The Federalist, but mostly in loud and contentious pamphlets, broadsides, newspapers and prints–from revolution and restoration in 17th century England, to the flood of pamphlets and cartoons of Pennsylvania politics of 1764-65, through the Stamp Act crises and the American Revolution to the issues of the early Republic and to the tremendous outpouring charting rising sectionalism and civil war.
In early America there was no such thing as a nonpolitical newspaper, and Library Company holdings are strong in local newspapers from colonial beginnings through the Civil War. We hold a large collection of political prints from the 18th and 19th centuries in addition to campaign broadsides, particularly strong in the Civil War era.
But pamphlets were the most important medium of political discourse and our collection is vast. We began taking note of them in the wake of the Stamp Act crises and ensuing Revolution and the founding of the early political system. Mostly they were gifts of their creators or passed on to us by their original owners. Thus they are not only instructive but also evocative, perhaps still bearing the fingerprints of their authors and original target audience.
Books and pamphlets are fully represented in our online catalog, where you will also find records and descriptions for over 300 political cartoons. Digital images of many of these cartoons can be found at the Library of Congress’s website. Newspapers are not yet fully represented online, but will be in the near future.
Bernard F. Reilly, Jr. American Political Prints, 1766-1876: A Catalog of the Collections in the Library of Congress. Boston, MA: G.K. Hall & Co., 1991.
Frank Weitenkampf. Political Caricature in the United States. New York: New York Public Library, 1953.