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Object Name Novelty
Date 1868-1872
Description Political campaign novelty. Miniature metal coffin; a round opening near the top contains a portrait photograph of Ulysses S. Grant in uniform. Embossed inscription on the front of the coffin: "TALKED / TO / DEATH". Item measures 1.750 inches high x 1.125 inches wide x 0.375 inches deep.
Ownership and History Ulysses S. Grant was elected U.S. President in 1868 and re-elected in 1872.

The precise sentiment reflected in this item is unclear; the phrase "talked to death" or "this man was talked to death" appears in sources from the 1870s as a humorous attack on long-winded bores and was sometimes worn on a lapel pin. It was later used by supporters of William McKinley in the 1896 presidential campaign against William Jennings Bryan who was known as an orator. Grant, however, was not known as a skilled public speaker, so it is uncertain whether he is portrayed as the perpetrator or the victim of the metaphorical "death" implied by this item. It seems unlikely that the item relates to Grant's actual death in 1885 from a form of throat cancer, but more research is needed.
Earliest Date 1868
Latest Date 1872
Subjects Presidents
Presidential elections
Political campaigns
Lexicon Sub-category Advertising Medium
Associated People Grant, Ulysses S.
Catalog Number X97.2583
Support Acknowledgment Online Collections Database record made possible by the Efron family in memory of Dr. Meryl Efron, December 2015.
Legal Status Images and text in this database are copyrighted by the Staten Island Historical Society unless otherwise noted. Items represented here are from the collections of the Staten Island Historical Society. Materials reproduced for personal non-commercial use must credit the Staten Island Historical Society. Commercial licensing is available.