Kennedy vs. Nixon - The First Televised Presidential Debate
By 1960, television was fast becoming the primary means by which to reach people. That year, Senator John F. Kennedy introduced a powerful new factor into American political campaigning when he challenged Vice President Richard M. Nixon to debate the issues in a series of joint television appearances. Knowing that he was the front-runner, Nixon’s advisers cautioned him against accepting the challenge, but Nixon, confident of his debating skills did accept. The political confrontations that followed were the most historic since the Lincoln-Douglas debate of 1858.
Approximately 70 million Americans- at the time the largest political audience in U.S. history- watched on the night of September 26 as the candidates for the Presidency faced each other on television for the first time.
Image: First televised Presidential debate with candidates Senator John F. Kennedy and Vice President Richard Nixon, broadcasted from the WBBM television studio in Chicago, Illinois. 9/26/60.
-from the JFK Library
"The Right Drink for the Conservative Taste"
During the 1960s, campaign advertising appeared on some unusual consumer products. This can of “Gold Water” was made in support of Republican Candidate Barry Goldwater.
The Democrats also had cans of “Johnson Juice” for Lyndon B. Johnson.
-from the Truman Library
Obit of the Day: He Got Us to “Like Ike”
In 1948, when General Dwight D. Eisenhower was sitting in retirement after successfully leading the U.S. military to victory in Europe during World War II, there was already a stirring for him to become president. One enterprising reporter from Pittsburgh went to A.G. Trimble and his son, Richard, to create a campaign button as a way to encourage Eisenhower to run. The reporter was frustrated, telling the Trimbles, “I can’t come up with a slogan, but I do like Ike*.”
A.G. Trimble, who had made campaign buttons beginning in 1920, told the young man, “That’s your slogan.” Richard Trimble set to work to design the now iconic “I Like Ike” button that would first be produced in 1948 and then take off in 1952 when Ohio Senator Bob Taft recruited General Eisenhower to run for the Republican nomination in 1952. (Eisenhower would win in 1952 and again in 1956)
Richard Trimble wasn’t supposed to be in the family business. He was trained as a chemical engineer at Carnegie Tech (now Carnegie Mellon University) but was severely poisoned in 1944 while working on a project for the war. After taking a year to recover he found himself working at the side of his father and would spend his career at A.G. Trimble Company.
On November 28, 2012, two days after his 91st birthday, Richard Trimble passed away. He ran the company from 1972 until he handed over the reigns to his son, current president Rick Trimble, in 1988.
Random note: A.G. Trimble, the company’s founder, who died at the age of 102 in 1983, was born on election day 1880. Because of that, his father wanted to name him Garfield Arthur Trimble for the winning Republican ticket of James Garfield and Chester A. Arthur. His mother interceded and decided Arthur Garfield was better. A.G. Trimble was such a staunch supporter of the G.O.P. that he refused to manufacture campaign buttons for Democrats until Richard convinced him to make a Truman button in 1948.
(Images: Top left, www.loriferber.com; bottom left, www.conservapedia.com; bottom right, www.affordablepoliticalitems.com. I could not determine which button was the original created by the Trimbles.)
* “Ike” was a nickname that evolved from Eisenhower.
Some of the wildest campaign slogans come from the 1940 Presidential campaign:
FDR’s Republican opponent in 1940 was Wendell Willkie, a business leader with no experience in political office. Willkie and the Republicans focused considerable criticism on Roosevelt’s attempt to win a third term.
While there was no constitutional barrier to a third term in 1940, no president had ever exceeded the two-term precedent established by George Washington. The fifteen Willkie campaign buttons seen above include many with a “third term” theme. There are also buttons aimed at Eleanor Roosevelt—reflecting the First Lady’s high profile in Washington.
Despite this chapter in their political history, Wilkie and FDR went on to become allies!
You can read more about their strange story on the blog of the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library.
Image: Campaign buttons, FDR Presidential Library.