With the presidential election coming up next month, we thought it might be fun to highlight an item in our collection from the presidential election of 1860. While we might still use phrases like the "party ticket" or "split-ticket voting," we are no longer talking about actual printed tickets. But tickets were once just that: paper slips listing all of a political party's candidates. These tickets, often handed out at polling stations or printed in and clipped from newspapers, effectively functioned as ballots. In an era before state-printed election ballots listed candidates from all political parties on a ballot, party leaders could insure straight ticket voting by supplying voters with these tickets, which voters then placed in ballot boxes for their vote. Massachusetts, one of the earlier adopters of state-printed ballots, did not implement the practice until almost twenty years after the 1860 election, with the passage of "An Act to Preserve the Purity of Elections" [PDF] in 1879.
Pictured here - and available at our Digital Collections website - is the Massachusetts Republican Party's ticket for Worcester County for the 1860 presidential election, held on Tuesday, November 6, 1860. Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865) tops the ticket, along with Vice Presidential candidate Hannibal Hamlin (1809-1891). At the bottom of the ticket is Velorous Taft (1819-1890), of Upton, Massachusetts, running for on one of three County Commissioner seats for Worcester County.
Lincoln, of course, was elected President in 1860, but what about Velorous Taft? He was an incumbent, up for re-election in 1860 and, like Lincoln, he and was also victorious in 1860. Taft, in fact, served as one of the Worcester County Commissioners from 1858-1875.
If you like this document, be sure to check out the Library & Archives Digital Collections website where, in addition to a rich collection of Scottish Rite documents, Masonic certificates, and lots of other important documents related to the history of Freemasonry, we also have some other election-related material, like this advertising pamphlet featuring presidential candidates for the year 1884, a campaign letter from Richard Nixon from 1960, as well as a broadside promoting the Antimasonic Republican ticket for the 1835 Massachusetts state election.
For a couple of quick reads about the use of tickets as ballots during nineteenth-century elections, check out the following:
University of California, San Diego's Library blog, "That’s the Ticket: Voting in the 19th Century"
The Lincoln Financial Foundation Collection blog, "That’s the Ticket! Getting Out the Vote in the 1860s"