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Hats in the Ring: An Illustrated History of American Presidential Campaigns Hardcover – September 12, 2000
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One of the most significant achievements of American democracy is that it has held a presidential election every four years, without a single interruption, since the nation's inception. Hats in the Ring chronicles each one of these elections in separate chapters, featuring prose by Evan Cornog and illustrations selected by Richard Whelan. The text is concise (eight or nine pages for each campaign) and generally provides a good summary of why the voters chose as they did. But the best parts of this book are the images. As the authors write in a short introduction, these have been selected "to embody the remarkable amalgam of serious purpose and carnival spirits that has characterized the process of choosing a President." Among the highlights are a poster from 1804 revealing that negative ads aren't recent inventions: it compares Thomas Jefferson unfavorably to Washington. A political cartoon from 1880 portrays James Garfield and Chester Arthur, both future presidents, as ballerinas. And there's a hilarious photo of Calvin Coolidge campaigning in 1924, wearing the massive feathered headdress of a Sioux Indian--and looking terrifically uncomfortable.
There are plenty of serious illustrations, too: many of the 19th-century figures are shown in handsome portraits, and the 20th-century pols are the subject of photographs (there are especially good pictures of William Jennings Bryan and Theodore Roosevelt). There are a few odd choices: there's only one picture of Dwight Eisenhower in the two chapters devoted to his elections, and it isn't very good. (Adlai Stevenson, the man Ike beat both times, gets a pair of photos.) And it must be said that Cornog's discussion of the 1988 election is partisan in a way many Republicans would find objectionable. Yet Hats in the Ring, by and large, is a capable volume--worth reading and even more worth looking at. --John J. Miller
From School Library Journal
Adult/High School-This wonderful history of United States presidential elections looks at the candidates, their parties, and their campaign strategies. Portraits, photographs, leaflets, cartoons, campaign buttons, and other memorabilia grace the pages along with election statistics, charts, and texts. The short sidebars about various topics such as constitutional changes and third parties add greatly to the presentation. This book can be read from cover to cover or individual chapters can be read alone and used for research. The text is witty and the inclusion of material about other issues and problems in the nation contribute to understanding an election within the context of the times. Students will learn how voters chose a president and will realize that they make their choices for many reasons, and not merely because of a candidate's particular stand on important issues or what may be best for the greater good of the country. No matter what one's political leanings may be, Hats offers an objective tour through the presidential history of America.-Linda A. Vretos, Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, Alexandria, VA
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
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Each Presidential election from 1789 to 1996 is covered by a separate chapter. The individual chapters provide information about the character and personalities of American political figures, historical and political context for the Presidential election being covered, the major issues raised during each Presidential election, the manner in which political figures and political parties approached each election, and the results of the Presidential election. The text is supplemented by illustrations and photographs of American political figures, political cartoons, campaign memorabilia, and campaign events. The book also has many examples of colorful political nicknames, campaign slogans, strong political insults, and frequent partisan reporting that show American politics has often been raucous, with gritty, down-to-earth aspects.
One flaw with the book is its uneven use of opinion: sometimes the authors' opinions are expressed in terms that are clearly identifiable as their opinions and not historical facts; other times, the authors' opinions are embedded in words and phrases that superficially appear to be factual, but actually reflect the authors' opinions more than the historical facts. A completely dispassionate discussion of the history of American political issues would be very difficult, if not impossible, to achieve. But, this book would have been better if the authors had been more consistent in using language that would make it clear to readers when the authors are expressing their personal opinions and when the authors are engaged in historical writing not based on their personal opinions.
The book is written in a style that is suitable for members of the general public, and high school and college students. The book gives a basic look at American Presidential elections for readers interested in a brief, introductory look at the subject. But, anyone interested in more detailed, more scholarly descriptions and analyses of American Presidential elections should look for other pertinent books.
I think the author could have picked some other pictures or visuals to make the book more appealling, and could have written in more depth about the campaigns.
Nevertheless, the book is a nice book and is a book that could be used as a reference in some respects.