Museum Educational Site Licensing 
Project: Content Selection Working Group

MESL Content Selection
Library of Congress

Second Distribution Description

The second collection offered by the Library of Congress in the MESL program is titled American Political Prints, 1766-1876. The collection includes 759 items. A published catalog exists: Reilly, Bernard. American Political Prints, 1766-1876. Boston: G.K. Hall, 1991.

This collection includes only individually issued prints, as opposed to works appearing in books and magazines from the period. The time frame covers the meaningful life span for this genre. Included are items from the holdings of several Library of Congress divisions: the Rare Book and Special Collections Division, the Music Division, and (the chief contributor) the Prints and Photographs Division.

The collection draws together a wide range of prints created in the service of American politics from 1766 to 1876. During this period, political strategists, editors, activists, and legislators employed the medium of printmaking as a tool for promoting their ideas and causes. Others, with equal relish, seized upon caricature and satire as a means of undermining the the public images and efforts of such parties. On a more practical level, American artists and printsellers were quick to find political a patriotic subjects a marketable commodity in a democratic society intensely absorbed with its own governance. The remarkable array of prints generated by this milieu convey a sense of political thought and trends in the United States during this period, and the evolution of artistic means to express them. One might even view these prints, the caricatures, allegories, banners, certificates, and so on, as the remnants of an ongoing public dialog on government and civic life in the early years of the nation.

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Last Modified: Monday, 06-May-1996 22:03:09 EDT