The typewriters and linotype machines were furiously clacking away… Cigarette smoke turned the air blue… The year was 1960, Nixon and Kennedy were running for President, and the cartoonists, layout staff, copy editors, and office runners of the Democratic Digest were working hard to beat a deadline and push out the next issue of irreverent, energetic political opinion, news, and satire.
You can examine the content being prepared for the 1960 campaign issue as well as many other issues from 1955-1961 in a Rubenstein Library collection, the Democratic Digest Records. The Washington, D.C. publication, headed by Sam Brightman, was the official monthly of the Democratic Party, and the 28 boxes of its records, acquired by the library in 1961, are filled with drafts of editorial columns, political cartoons and other original artwork, and reprinted articles and opinion pieces from pro-Democratic U.S. newspapers across the country.
The correspondence files house provocative and eloquent letters sent in from readers, critics, and Democratic Senators and Governors, addressing the many turbulent political issues of the day: McCarthyism, scandals and corruption, civil rights, labor issues, farm subsidies, the U.S. economy, nuclear weapons, and of course, elections. You’ll hear voices from ordinary citizens facing hard times: “Now that we have the D.D. [Democratic Digest],” writes one reader from Willifor, Arkansas in 1957, “I just don’t see how we could or ever did do without it. My work keeps me on the move and depend on getting it on the new-stands and believe under this new plan it will be easire [sic] done. While I have a wife and 7 children and not year round work, I will plan to get a Sub [subscription] or two for someone that will do something about it. They may do a good deed too.”
The materials in this collection cover a time of intense change and fragmentation in American society. Whether it’s a letter from a labor leader, cartoons featuring donkeys and elephants, or articles about big business being cozy with the government, the Democratic Digest files tell a fascinating tale of American politics and society.