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Augusta County Historical Society exhibit highlights voting history

The Augusta County Historical Society exhibit, The Verdict of the People: The Evolution of Elections in Augusta County and the Nation, provides a detailed look at the evolution of elections and voting, across the nation, in Virginia, and right here in Augusta County.

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The display presents collected campaign information, paraphernalia, and political cartoons to demonstrate how elections, and how we see them, have changed over the centuries.  The public is invited to attend the opening reception at the Wayne Theatre Exhibit Gallery Thursday, June 8, from 5:00 – 7:00pm, Sue Simmons, ACHS Board member and co-curator of the exhibit, will introduce the exhibit at 5:30pm.

The exhibit shows how, during the post-colonial years, elections in the new United States were reserved for the elite, and voting was restricted to white male property owners. Slowly and with great effort, immigrants, African Americans, women, Native Americans and eighteen-year-olds gained the right to vote. Elections evolved to embrace the secret ballot, and the concept of referendum appeared to give voters a say directly on major issues.

The new exhibit features several prints by Augusta County native George Caleb Bingham.  A nationally-known artist in the mid-19th century, his most important works revolved around elections with his painting “Verdict of the People” capturing the quintessential character of the unruly local election. Fannie Bayly King, another local native, was also an important figure in the statewide passage of the 19th Amendment that gave women the vote.

The exhibit also features political cartoons by Jim McCloskey, an award-winning editorial cartoonist who worked for the Staunton newspaper and donated his collection to ACHS. His creative and striking work frequently focused on campaigns and elections.  Some of the more recent included the 2008 Obama-Clinton primary contest, and several on Senator Tim Kaine’s political career.

The ACHS was founded in 1964 to study, collect, preserve, publish, educate about, and promote the history of Augusta County and its communities. More information is available online at www.augustacountyhs.org.



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