“He Put His Thumb Up to His Nose, And Twirl’d His Fingers at His Foes”: Presidential Campaign Songs in 1844

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“He Put His Thumb Up to His Nose, And Twirl’d His Fingers at His Foes”: Presidential Campaign Songs in 1844

by Gavin James Campbell
Southern Cultures, Vol. 4, No. 1: Politics (1998)

"Local party organizers were undoubtedly embarassed when the pole fractured and had to be sent to the local blacksmith's shop for swift repairs."

On 17 August 1844, a Tennessee schoolteacher named Jason Niles joined a large crowd of spectators to watch the raising of a “Clay pole” celebrating the Whig party’s presidential ticket of Henry Clay and Theodore Frelinghuysen. Local party organizers were undoubtedly embarrassed when the pole fractured and had to be sent to the local blacksmith’s shop for swift repairs. Despite the loss of about forty-five feet, the pole went up successfully and there was “shouting and singing all night.” Not to be outdone, Democratic partisans carted in their own pole a week later “drawn by some 20 odd yoke of oxen,” on one of which sat a fiddler. After raising their pole without incident, observed Niles, Democrats “sung ‘Damn old Clay and Frelinghuysen.'” Two weeks later the Whigs responded with another rally and Niles again joined a large assembly of spectators, this time serenaded by “the music of an accordian, fiddle and sweet voices of some Whig singers.”

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