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A History of the American Political Parties

Best described as a ?geopolitical compendium,? this rare and impressive poster features a profusion of large and small maps and charts. However, the absolute star of the show is a ?Diagram of the History of Political Parties in the?United States??occupying the top half of the image. This?chronological?diagram charts the evolution and interrelationships of American?political?parties, which are depicted them as rivers and streams flowing in to and out of one another (a visual technique pioneered, I believe, by Friedrich Strass?s 1803?Der Strom der Zeiten). For example, the Federalist ?stream? is shown merging with the Democratic-Republicans around 1820, though by the Election of 1828 the Republicans are shown diverging into Democratic and National Republican streams.

The message is unmistakable: Though we have come to think of the two-party system as fixed (in every sense of the word!), in the 19th-century it was fluid in the extreme, even as many of the tensions shaping American political life retained their force.

The diagram?s informational value is enhanced by captions highlighting the core principles, positions, and legislative accomplishments of America?s political parties. It is flanked above by portraits of each President and a list of their cabinets and congressional leaders, and below by the results of every Presidential election through that of Republican Benjamin Harrison in 1888.

The lower half of the poster includes several hemispheric maps on a variety of projections and small maps of Southern Africa, Nubia and Abyssinia (Ethiopia), Persia & Afghanistan, Central America and Alaska. Several smaller charts compare the sizes of the world?s major armies, the populations of major religious faiths, the tonnage of major navies, and even the the sizes of the world?s largest mountains and rivers. The verso features a map of the United States, though this is largely obscured by the backing linen applied at a very early date, perhaps at the time of issue.