Reconstruction era politics

We begin 2024 with an offering of Reconstruction era items, featuring another installment from the major collection of political exonumia we secured last fall, with many high grade and rare specimens. This period spans the presidencies of Andrew Johnson and Ulysses Grant, and the elections of 1868, 1872 and 1876.

After the war, the Democratic Party neared collapse at the national level, failing even to put forward a presidential candidate in 1872. The opposition to a Grant second term instead coalesced around newspaper editor and Republican Party founder Horace Greeley, truly one of the most eccentric men ever to seek the office. Despite dissension in his own ranks, Grant clobbered Greeley, who died shortly after his electoral defeat.

Grant's second term was beset with rampant corruption, and in 1876, Democrats seemed positioned to retake control of the executive. Nominating another New York governor as they had in 1868, the well-financed Samuel Tilden won the popular vote, but disputed electoral college returns from Florida, South Carolina and Louisiana left the result in doubt for months. In a compromise, the impasse was broken by awarding the presidency to Republican Rutherford Hayes in exchange for withdrawal of Federal troops from the South, ending Reconstruction and ushering in the era of Jim Crow.

For collectors of political items, the period of Reconstruction is accessible through the medals, ribbons and badges which circulated. Most are relatively uncommon, and many are very rare, especially in high grade.

sign up to our newsletter