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James Monroe Museum

If you need a break from Facebook this political season, but still want to enjoy the fine art of political satire, or be reassured that there is life after the presidential campaigns, make time to visit the James Monroe Museum and Memorial Library.

The museum’s recently opened exhibit, “Conduct in the Public Service: Artifacts of Politics and Government from the Collection of the James Monroe Museum” is a walk through presidential campaigns of the past, as seen through items that are part of the museum’s own collection.

Much of the collection was amassed by Laurence Gouverneur Hoes, the great-great-grandson of James Monroe. Hoes, who helped build the museum’s collection and led it during its early days, was an avid collector of political memorabilia.

1952 Political Cartoon

Image courtesy James Monroe Museum and Memorial Library

He purchased a collection of 114 political cartoons at an estate sale of former Washington Post Editor Andrew K. Reynolds. The cartoons, by various artists, date from the late 1800s through the 1960s. Many of them show how the Monroe Doctrine was invoked by leaders—aptly or not—during 20th century crises such as the Cuban Missile Crisis and the Vietnam War.

As you peruse the cartoons, you’ll hear a collection of presidential campaign songs playing in the background. Performed by Oscar Brand for Smithsonian Folkways, the collection includes James Monroe’s own campaign song, “Monroe is the Man.”

Other artifacts on display include a lock of Millard Fillmore’s hair, Warren G. Harding’s Wallet and the lucky penny he carried during the 1920 presidential campaign and a set of cocktail napkins designed by “New Yorker” cartoonist Richard Taylor lampooning both major-party tickets in the 1952 presidential campaign.

All of this comes as the museum and other Monroe-related properties prepare to mark the 200th anniversary of Monroe’s first inauguration, which took place March 4, 1817.

At that time, the U.S. Capitol building was still under construction, and at the museum, you can see a bronze plaque from the old brick capitol building where Monroe took the oath of office.

English transfer-printed creamware jug with James Monroe's image, circa 1820

Circa-1820 creamware pitcher with image of James Monroe. Image courtesy James Monroe Museum and Memorial Library.

The James Monroe Museum and Memorial Library holds the country’s largest collection of artifacts and documents related to the fifth U.S. president. It is located at 908 Charles St., on property that was owned by Monroe during his time in Fredericksburg, where he lived from 1786 until 1790.

The museum’s 29th Annual James Monroe Lecture will take place Nov. 10 at 7 p.m. at the University of Mary Washington’s Hurley Convergence Center Digital Auditorium. Dr. James H. Broussard, Professor of History at Lebanon Valley College, will discuss the evolution of the two-party political system in Monroe’s era. This lecture is free and open to the public.

In the mood for an election-themed tour of the Fredericksburg region?

Here are some other stops to consider:

10 Fredericksburg places where you can walk in presidents’ footsteps

Goolrick’s Modern Pharmacy was a campaign stop for George H.W. Bush during the 1992 campaign.

The University of Mary Washington campus drew a huge crowd for a campaign speech by Barack Obama during his first presidential campaign in 2008.

Don’t forget state and local government! Shiloh (Old Site) Baptist Church is one of the region’s most historic churches for many reasons. Its pastor for many years, the Rev. Lawrence A. Davies, was elected Fredericksburg’s first black mayor in 1976. At that time, he was one of only three African Americans to have been elected to the office of mayor in the state of Virginia.