The Elect

From the weeks running up to Election Day until the inauguration in January, a group of recently acquired photographs on view in the Annex adopts various angles on democracy and electioneering.

Thirty-seven snapshots, dating from the 1910s to the 1960s, depict the American flag playing roles that include weathervane, float decoration, and portrait backdrop.In one remarkable image dating from World War I, a young woman holds a folded flag to her chest and places a wreath on an honor roll of names representing over a dozen ethnicities.

Another populist note is struck in John Gutmann’s 1938 photograph of a slogan-covered automobile in San Francisco. The car served as a rolling billboard for the “Ham & Eggs” movement, which advocated for an old-age pension plan that was defeated that year in a state initiative election.

The power of the people is evoked more directly in three other photographs. Winston Churchill is seen flashing a victory sign to an exuberant crowd as he emerges from his polling station in South Kensington, London, in the 1950 general election, which swung power back to his Conservative party. Life photographer Yale Joel portrays a tense young John F. Kennedy, confetti in his tousled hair, on the night of his 1952 promotion from House to Senate. And Bob Adelman offers a moving study of the 1964–65 New York World’s Fair, where the steeply configured “People Wall” of the IBM pavilion turned throngs of visitors into a living and harmonious display of American diversity.



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