Harry S. Truman Presidential Library & Museum

Election Memorabilia, Posters, Cartoons
Kay Barnes
US History
Time Frame:
2-3 days
Grade Levels:
8, 9, 10, 11, 12

Classroom/Homework Activity to be performed:

This lesson is to examine political symbols and how they have been used and continue to be used in political campaigns.  Students will do individual research of memorabilia, posters, and cartoons using books provided as well as the internet.  They will then create their own piece of memorabilia, poster, or cartoon using at least one symbol.

  • Students have a basic understanding of symbols.  However, they might not be aware of political symbols and how they are used.  This project will give them an understanding of these symbols.  It will also make them aware that they have been used throughout the history of the United States.  Most students will be aware of signs, posters, or cartoons; however, most will be unaware of political buttons and other memorabilia.  By doing individual research, they will gain an understanding of the variety of items that have been used throughout the years.
  • The research concerning the candidate for the item chosen will enable them to put a face/name with the item and place him in history.
  • Their finished project will help them use symbols.

Secondary materials (book, article, video documentary, etc.) needed:

*   Packaging Presidents:  200 Years of Campaigns & Candidates by Frederick Voss

*   Campaigning for President BY Jordan Wright

*   The Race for the 2008 Democratic Nomination:  A Book of Editorial Cartoons by Eric Appelman

*  The Race for the 2008 Republican Nomination:  A Book of Editorial Cartoons by Eric Appelman

*   The Encyclopedia of U. S. Presidential Elections by David C. Saffell

*   Presidential Campaign Memorabilia from the Duke University Special Collections Library - online

*   Adventures of Cyberbee:  Political Memorabilia at cyberbee.com

Full description of activity or assignment.

*  Begin this activity with a discussion of symbols.  In small groups, students will make a list of symbols that are used in everyday life and what they represent.  As a class, have students share their symbols and discuss how and why they are used.  The small groups will then make a list of political symbols and their meanings.  As a class discuss the symbols and meanings.  Important symbols are the elephant, donkey, Statue of Liberty, White House, Dollar Sign ($), American Flag, Uncle Sam, and olive branch.  Show images of each of these if the groups did not list these and discuss them.  Then discuss how these symbols are used in political campaigns.  Discuss election memorabilia, posters, political cartoons, and other ways symbols are used in campaigns.


*  Students will then do individual research on types of memorabilia, posters, cartoons, etc. using the internet and other resources provided.  They are to choose one example that contains at least one symbol and decide whether the item is an effective representation for the candidate.  They will then research information concerning the presidential candidate and his election.  Information to be found includes the candidate, running mate, political party, year of election, whether he won, and two facts about his election and/or platform.


*  Students will create their own memorabilia, poster, or cartoon using information related to the 2016 presidential election.  They must include at least one symbol.  They will share their project with the rest of the class.


* Teacher will guide the discussion of symbols.  Direction will be given to students as they complete each step of the project.

Full explanation of the assessment method and/or scoring guide:
  • Evaluation will be based on oral discussion.
  • Students will also receive points for research information:  10 points
  • Students will also receive points for final project:  15 points