Contrary to our received notions on the newness of new media, the presidential campaigns of the late nineteenth century witnessed an explosion of media forms as advisers and technicians exploited a variety of forms promote their candidates and platforms, including the stereopticon (a modernized magic lantern), the phonograph, and the telephone. In the process, they set in motion not only a new way of imagining how to market national campaigns and candidates; they also helped to usher in novel forms of mass spectatorship. Analogies to presidential campaigns in the 21st century are inevitable—and will not be avoided. The presentation comes out of Charlie Musser’s new book, Politicking and Emergent Media: US Presidential Elections of the 1890s (University of California Press).
Charles Musser is professor of Film & Media Studies, American Studies and Theater Studies at Yale University. He is the author of numerous books, including the now-classic The Emergence of Cinema: The American Screen to 1907. His most recent documentary is Errol Morris: A Lightning Sketch (2014).