Barrel-style Secret Ballot Box
Black with White Lettering
Artifact Collection, California State Archives.
Presidential election campaigns sweep across the United States, touching every person in some fashion. When citizens participate in a presidential election, they help decide the fate of our nation for the next four years. Each individual's vote, and through them each state in the Union, plays an important role in determining the direction in which the country will proceed. Some states, however, through sheer weight of population, are capable of having greater impact upon the outcome of presidential elections than other areas of the country. California is one such state.
California's citizens first took part in a presidential election in 1852. The Golden State had only entered the Union two years prior, and its population, although bolstered by the influx of Gold Rush hopefuls, was small in comparison to other states along the East Coast and in the Midwest. As a result, at that time California had only four Electoral College votes and was a minor player on the presidential stage. This circumstance changed greatly over the next 150 years. The Golden State's influence in national politics has grown in tandem with its skyrocketing population. Today, California has 55 votes in the Electoral College, more than any other state in the Union. Presidential nominees must carefully court the Californian populace, or risk losing a large chunk of the votes required to attain the highest office in our nation.
This exhibit highlights the manner in which various presidential contenders (some of them Californians themselves) have attempted to capture California's vote. Explore how political campaign techniques evolved from nineteenth century ballot tickets to the massive media campaigns of recent years, as illustrated in a broad selection of photographs, documents, and political ephemera from the varied collections of the California State Archives.