Memorabilia on Andrew Jackson from local collector on display at City Hall

Sep. 29—Visitors to Keene City Hall can stroll back in time via a recently installed display of political memorabilia, including a rare broadside, or poster, targeting Andrew Jackson during his successful 1832 presidential re-election campaign.

Lest anyone think discourse was more civil or genteel in those days, Jackson, the seventh president of the United States, was displayed as a misguided and dangerous authoritarian.

Titled "King Andrew The First," a drawing shows him wearing a crown and robe, holding a scepter in one hand and a scroll marked "veto" in the other while standing on a torn document labeled "Constitution of the United States."

The text calls him, "A King who has placed himself above the laws, as he has shown by his contempt of judges.

"A King who would destroy our currency, and substitute Old Rags payable by no one knows who, and no one knows where, instead of good Silver Dollars.

"A King who, while he was feeding his favourites out of the public money, denied a pittance to the Old Soldiers who fought and bled for our independence."

Keene resident Bruce DeMay, retired director of the N.H. Economic and Labor Market Information Bureau, has been acquiring pieces like this for 55 years from antique stores, flea markets, shows, auctions, hobby organizations, websites and friends. He lent part of his collection to the exhibit at City Hall.

DeMay grew up near Rochester, N.Y., and has lived in Keene since 1980. He began his collection when he was 15 years old after developing an interest in politics through dinnertime conversations about current affairs. Some of the first items he collected were campaign buttons from the 1964 presidential race between Barry Goldwater and Lyndon Johnson.

His teacher gave him some buttons for 1928 presidential candidate Al Smith and 1936 presidential candidate Alf Landon.

He found the anti-Jackson broadside 20 years ago . The item was in remarkably good condition.

"I remember seeing it in a textbook or another history book when I was a teenager," he said Thursday. "There was just something about it that appealed to me so much. It was a fantastic item, and I always hoped to acquire one.

"It would have been tacked up someplace on what we might think of as a message board or on the side of the building."

He's also quite proud of four ballots he has from 1860. The candidates were Abraham Lincoln, who won; John Breckenridge of the Democratic Party (Southern), John Bell of the Constitutional Union Party and Stephen Douglas of the Democratic Party.

"People didn't necessarily have secret ballots back in that day," DeMay said. "They were pre-printed and you would be given one by a local active politician, and some of them could be clipped out of newspapers."

Also on display are political ribbons, including one for slavery opponent John Fremont, an American explorer, military officer and 1856 presidential candidate.

He's also fond of a pair of redware mugs bearing the names of the 1884 presidential candidates.

The City Clerk's office reached out to DeMay about setting up the exhibiter.

Keene City Clerk Patty Little called the collection amazing and said DeMay has been a pleasure to work with. Her office reached out to him about setting up the exhibit as something that would be of interest to the public with the midterm election approaching.

She is hoping that some of the people who come to City Hall to look at the items from previous elections may have an interest in volunteering for the one coming up on Nov. 8.

Polls will be open that day from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. for a general election that will include races including U.S. senator, state legislators, the N.H. Executive Council and a variety of local contests.

"During state and federal elections when voter turnout can exceed 60%, the City of Keene enlists the help of citizen volunteers to support the voting process," her office said in a news release. "Any resident interested in volunteering can sign up by going to the City of Keene homepage (www.keenenh.gov) and clicking on the link to election information."

Rick Green can be reached at rgreen@keenesentinel.com or 603-355-8567.