From simple, 19th-century woodcut broadsides to modern color lithographs, posters have long been a staple of political campaigns around the world. In the United States, posters for Franklin Delano Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy are widely collected, while some of the most famous international political posters feature the images of leaders such as Stalin and Mao.

Most political posters advertise campaigns for presidential candidates or are produced as propaganda for dictators. There are also general political posters that encourage voting, as well as other prints that champion particular causes or initiatives.

Some collectors covet a certain candidate, like Roosevelt, or a lesser known candidate such as George Francis Train, a millionaire who ran for President in 1872. Others may focus on a particular political party, be it a mainstream one like the Democratic Party or the Republican Party, or lesser-known extinct parties like the Know Nothing Party or George Wallace’s American Party.

Other collectors accumulate posters for specific causes, such as women’s rights (think Rosie the Riveter) and civil rights. On the opposite end of the spectrum are posters that are anti-something. Some famous examples of those are anti-New Deal posters in the 1930s and ’40s.

Political posters are not as widely collected as political buttons, due in large part to their size—it is hard to collect and display a great many of them. Political posters are also sometimes confused with war posters, which are often more graphically interesting and explicit—political posters are often simply depictions of a candidate above or below a catchy slogan.

There are two main types of collectible political posters. Posters that came as newspaper or magazine supplements were often kept by libraries and remain fairly easy to get your hands on. Then there were real campaign posters, posted on fences, telephone poles, and in yards. These were often designed as jugates—two portraits, normally the presidential and vice-presidential candidates, side-by-side—and are considerably more coveted than publication inserts.

Part of the fun of collecting political posters in the United States is the fact that they have been around since essentially the country’s founding. As such, they track its hist...

In the early 20th century, photography began to be used on campaign posters. President Warren Harding’s 1920 election poster, for example, featured a photograph of the republican from Ohio. Still, illustrated posters continued to be popular in the 1920s and ’30s. One famous poster artist of the day was John Doctoroff, who made jugates for Calvin Coolidge and his running mate Charles G. Dawes in 1924 and Herbert Hoover and his Vice-President Charles Curtis in 1928. These were simple pencil sketches of the candidates’ busts with their names written below—no slogan or motto.

One of the busiest producers of photographs for campaign posters was Bachrach, which has photographed almost every president since Lincoln. The company is probably most famous for Louis Fabian Bachrach’s portrait of John F. Kennedy.

Campaign posters that show signs of creativity—from a clever slogan to a nickname for the candidate—tend to be more sought than those that merely show a candidate’s face and name. Posters from the 1950s, for example, that identify Dwight D. Eisenhower as “Ike” rather than by his full name are considered prizes.

Another form of collectible vintage political poster is the foreign propaganda poster. Most oppressive regimes, from Hitler’s Nazi Germany to Stalin’s USSR, have used aggressive propaganda to influence citizens. Hitler not only championed his vicious war causes with posters, he also used posters to castigate U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt and U.K. Prime Minister Winston Churchill. The Hoover Institute, a political think-tank on the campus of Stanford University, houses and archives about 100,000 such political posters, including many infamous despots.

In recent years, political posters have become more popular than ever. In fact, 2008 marked something of a renaissance for the genre when Shepard Fairey released his famous poster of then-candidate Barack Obama. Based on a newswire photo, the red, white, and blue sheet featured a posterized image of the candidate above a single word, “HOPE.”

About our sources | Got something to add?

▼ Expand to read the full article ▼

Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

London Transport Museum Posters

London Transport Museum Posters

A must-see collection of 5,000 vivid, colorful British posters from the early 1900s onward. Browse by artist (over … [read review or visit site]

Fillmore and Avalon Collection

Fillmore and Avalon Collection

Wish you'd visited San Francisco in the late 1960s? Get a quick hit with this comprehensive collection of psychedel… [read review or visit site]

USSR Posters

USSR Posters

Ben Perry's Flickr photoset showcasing almost 1500 Soviet propaganda, advertising, theatre and movie posters from 1… [read review or visit site]

New York Public Library

New York Public Library

The New York Public Library's impressive Digital Gallery offers free access to over 500,000 historical images inclu… [read review or visit site]

The American Memory Project

The American Memory Project

This amazing Library of Congress site includes about a hundred photo and document collections (see complete list) o… [read review or visit site]



Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

8.5" X 11" 1960 John F Kennedy Campaign Poster To See And Hear In Harrisburg Pa.Kennedy Johnson Presidential Poster Vintage Official Campaign Jfk OriginalVery Unusual 1960 Nixon & Lodge Jugate Experience Counts Poster With Elephants1960 Nixon & Lodge Scarce Experience Counts R/w/b Poster By Posters Inc. Phila.Ike Presidential Poster Eisenhower Vintage Official Campaign Ike Nixon Presidential Poster Eisenhower Vintage Official Campaign Clinton/gore Blue Dog Poster Signed And Numbered By George RodrigueScarce Thomas E Dewey For New York State Governor PosterVintage John Kennedy And Lyndon Johnson Campaign Posters- 10x16 InchesRepublican Rally Poster Bellows Falls Opera House Vermont Vt Early 1900'sVintage Black Light Poster Sunset Political Rat Man & Bobbin Nixon Agnew 1970sEdward Ted Kennedy For Senator 1962 Campaign Rally Flyer Poster Everett, Mass.Hillary Clinton 2016 Dnc Convention Official Potus Candidate Placard Rally SignOrig. 1970 Black Panthers Revolutionary Angela Davis "i Am Innocent" Poster 9 X 12 1960 John F Kennedy Campaign Poster Vivid Full ColorUnusual 14" X 21" 1968 Humphrey & Muskie Poster--great President, Great VpUncommon 1980 14" X 22" Help Drafted Kennedy Poster Columbia Adv. Jamaica Ny Limited Edition 1972 George Mcgovern Believe Him Poster 26" X 32" 533/1000(10) Hillary Clinton Dnc 2016 Official President Candidate Placard Rally SignsJohn J. Ingalls Senator Kansas "ad Astra" Political Ribbon Republican 1873-1891Large Eisenhower And Nixon 1952 Jugate Campaign Headquarters PosterHillary Clinton 2016 Dnc Convention Official Potus Candidate Placard Rally SignVintage 1960-70's Embroidered Red, White, & Blue Sew On Peace Sign Patch1930's Japanese Postcard Election Poster Art Vintage Antique Sun Flag Japan OldHillary Clinton Dnc Democratic National Convention Philly Floor Used Sign -4ft !1984 Mondale Ferraro Presidential Campaign Poster 16 X 20 Afl-cioOriginal Giancarlo Impiglia 1982 Protest Poster -new York March And Rally- Cool!Fdr Churchill Jugate Wwii Poster United For Victory Democracy Shall Not DieQuite Different Colorful Nelson Rockefeller 20" X 24" Pop Art PosterHillary Clinton 2016 Dnc SignTrump Brochure & Poster & Flyer- Handout With Stickers & Buttons & Signs & Hats(20) Hillary Clinton Dnc 2016 Official President Candidate Placard Rally Signs1943 Ww2 Axis Anti Usa Britain Churchill Roosevelt War Flag Propaganda PosterBernie Sanders 2016 Dnc Rally SignUnited States Presidents 1846 Poster Polk Washington Adams Jefferson Dec. Of IndUs Congressman Wwii Veteran John Marsh Campaign Poster Democrat Winchester VaTake Your Country Back Ross Perot For President 1992 Campaign Poster OriginalOriginal Vintage French Political Poster 'la Pelle De Stockholm' Michat 19501974 Vintage Rare Venice Beach Nudes Poster (hippie/counterculture Interest)Gerald Ford Bob Dole Campaign PosterMondale Ferraro1984 Democratic Presidential Campaign Vintage Poster Nice! Look!Romania - Orthodox Patriarch In Communist Election Poster 60 X 42 CmPresident Richard Nixon's The One Huge Orig Vintage 1968 Campaign Banner PosterU.s.s.r. Russian Soviet Communist Lenin Propaganda Political Military Poster AdAuthentic Autographed By Al Gore Sign Gore Lieberman 2000 No Reserve11" X 17" 2004 Bush Cheney Jugate PosterDonald Trump Yard Sign 26"x16" Double-sided 2016 "make America Great Again" Ross Perot, 1992 Presidential Campaign Sign/ PosterPeace Sign Fingers PatchVintage 60's 70's Hippy Bed Sheet Bedspread Peace SignVintage Photograph Poster Board Jfk Rfk Brothers John Robert Kennedy JacquesOriginal 1964 Johnson Humphrey Campaign Poster Democratic National ConventionUncommon 19.5" X 25" 1992 Clinton Don't Stop Believing Poster, Seattle Wash.Jfk Calendar Poster 1964 Large Whig Democrat Republican Federalist Holyoke MassPosters Vladimir Lenin Communism Soviet Realism Art 1985 Ussr No Reserve2008 Presidential Election John Mccain/ Sarah Palin Campaign Poster24 X 36 "be The Change" Fairey Limited Edition Barack Obama Inauguration PosterRoss Perot And James Stockdale, 1992 Presidential Campaign Sign/ Poster