1960 Presidential Election

We stand today on the edge of a New Frontier, the Frontier of the 1960's, a Frontier of unknown opportunities and perils, a frontier of unfilled hopes and threats." — John F. Kennedy, Democratic Acceptance Speech, 1960

About the Exhibit

"A New Leader for the 60's" campaign poster

 After narrowly losing the vice presidential nomination in 1956, Senator John F. Kennedy sought the presidency in 1960. After hard-fought primary victories, JFK won his party’s nomination and faced-off against sitting Vice President Richard Nixon. This exhibit invites the public to relive one of history’s most exciting and energetic presidential campaigns by accompanying Senator John F. Kennedy as he crisscrosses the country bringing his message of a “New Frontier” directly to the voters during the 1960 run for the presidency.

The Museum recreates the sights and sounds of the 1960 Democratic National Convention and the main streets of America traveled by candidates Kennedy and Nixon. Listen as Senator John F. Kennedy accepts his party’s nomination at the 1960 Democratic National Convention. Walk down Main Street USA and feel the energy of the Kennedy campaign as Frank Sinatra sings campaign songs "High Hopes" and "All the Way!" Step back into a reproduction of the Chicago television studio where and see the television coverage of the first debate between JFK and Nixon. Stay up late with Walter Cronkite, David Brinkley, and Chet Huntley as they report election-night returns and reveal how close a race it really was.

In the hard-fought primaries prior to the Democratic nominating convention and in the general election campaign against Vice President Richard Nixon that followed, candidate Kennedy was assisted by his large and enthusiastic family, by a relatively young but seasoned team of aides and political operatives, and by countless volunteers across the country. Together they brought the message of “The New Frontier” to the voting public, making it possible for Senator John F. Kennedy to eventually claim victory in one of the closest presidential contests in American History.

Exhibit Highlights

On display is a recreation of a Kennedy Campaign office filled with campaign paraphernalia and a display of buttons, posters, and handouts which were produced during the course of the campaign. Also on display is the& original TelePrompter text used by Senator John F. Kennedy while delivering his acceptance speech at the 1960 Democratic National Convention, the actual audio control and television camera used by CBS affiliate WBBM-TV for the first televised Presidential debate between Kennedy and Nixon in 1960, and a map of the election return results.

'See and Hear Campaign' Poster

1960 presidential campaign flyer titled "See and Hear Senator and Mrs. John F. Kennedy at Glenwood Park" advertising Kennedy's appearance on April 26, 1960 at 7:30 pm. 

John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston, MA. Accession number MO 76.231.2


Democratic National Convention Tickets

Booklet of admission tickets to the 1960 Democratic National Convention held in the sports area in Los Angeles, California.

John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston, MA. Accession number MO 94.1908.25


Democratic National Convention Delegate Badge

Convention Floor Wyoming Delegate No. 6 Badge for the 1960 Democratic National Convention held in the Los Angeles Sports Arena.

John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston, MA. Gift of Jean Schoeck. Accession number MO 94.190.8.12


Democratic National Convention Coaster

Paper red, white, and blue Democratic National Convention coaster printed with a cartoon drawing of a donkey imposed over the United States Capitol building in the background.

John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston, MA. Accession number MO 94.190.8.13


Leadership for the 60's Campaign Button

Rectangular red, white, and blue 1960 Presidential campaign button with the slogan "Leadership for the 60's Kennedy*Johnson" printed across top and bottom edge and the faces of John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson in black and white in the center.

John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston, MA. Accession number MO94-1906-3


Donkey 'Vote Democratic' lapel pin

Although the Democrats have never officially adopted the donkey as a party symbol, they have used various donkey designs on campaign buttons to promote the Democratic party.

John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston, MA. Accession number MO 73.1575


'Kennedy for President' Campaign Button

Red, white and blue Kennedy for President campaign button with black and white profile of John F. Kennedy in center.

John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston, MA. Accession number MO 96.247.4


'Love Those Democrats' campaign button

1960 Campaign button in center reads "LOVE THOSE DEMOCRATS" against a psychedelic background.

John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston, MA. Accession number MO 73.1574


Campaign Headquarters

The 1960 Campaign Exhibit in the Museum recreates Senator John F. Kennedy's 1960 presidential campaign headquarters.


Kennedy for President, Leadership for the 60's Campaign poster

Through his oral history interview with the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library, the artist, Donald Wilson, shared his experience designing the Kennedy for President poster:

"President Kennedy was fascinated with pictures of himself and extremely critical of them and so the poster was of great interest to him. The big problem in the summer of 1960 was whether to have a serious, mature poster or a smiling poster. At that particular time one of the major arguments being made by the Republicans was that he was not experienced enough to become president, and therefore, this led a lot of people around him--and himself included--in the beginning to think that he should have a rather serious mature poster. I convinced him that he looked wonderful smiling, but it wasn't easy... The smiling one was produced in the millions and millions that appeared all over the United States."

John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston, MA. Accession number MO 95.77


'John Kennedy Our Next President' Campaign Button

Campaign button for the 1960 Presidential election with black and white photograph of the face of John F. Kennedy in center.

John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston, MA. Accession number MO 63.3801


PT 109 Tie Clip

Perhaps most popular campaign item was the tie-clasp replicating the form of PT 109, the boat captained by JFK during the Second World War. In an effort to quell public concerns about what some called candidate Kennedy’s "inexperience," the Kennedy campaign sought to publicize his heroic service in the Navy. In addition to the tie clasps, thousands of booklets retelling the events of the sinking of PT 109 and Kennedy’s efforts to save his crew in the days that followed were mailed to hundreds of thousands of homes across the country.

This tie clip was left by John F. Kennedy Jr. on his father's grave on May 29th, 1964, the anniversary of President Kennedy's birth.

John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston, MA. Accession number MO 67.235


1960 Presidential Election Returns

The 1960 Presidential race was too close to call until the final ballots were tallied.  Results were not official until noon the following day. In the end John F. Kennedy (D) had won with 303 electoral votes and 34,226,731 popular votes compared to Richard M. Nixon (R) 219 electoral votes and 34,108,157 popular votes.


"Kennedy Johnson/Leadership in the '60s" Campaign Button

White 1960 presidential campaign button for John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson. The button is inscribed in blue lettering "Kennedy Johnson with a red democratic donkey and red lettering "Leadership in the '60s" in the center.

John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston, MA. Accession number MO 98.109

 


"We Want, We Need Kennedy" Campaign Button

A 1960 Presidential campaign button for John F. Kennedy.  In the center there is a black and white image of John F. Kennedy flanked by red, white and blue lettering  that reads "We Want, We Need Kennedy."

John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston, MA. Accession number MO 65.11