Did You Know that Adlai Stevenson II’s Grandfather served as Vice President in the 1890s?

With the midterm election recently completed, we present an object lesson in U.S. political advertising using two lots from the 1892 presidential election offered in our December 2022 Tokens & Medals Collectors Choice Online Auction. These brass pieces, which look like several gold coins, showed their owners’ devotion to their chosen candidate, and their willingness to bet their “stacks” or “piles” on that candidate.

Interestingly, the Democratic vice presidential contender in 1892 was Adlai Stevenson I, grandfather of the Adlai Stevenson with whom many Americans are likely familiar, Adlai Stevenson II. Stevenson II was elected governor of Illinois in 1948 and was the Democratic Party’s presidential candidate in 1952 and 1956. One thing he is remembered for was that, while serving as ambassador to the United Nations during the Cuban Missile Crisis and faced with denial of the presence of Soviet weapons in Cuba, he told his Soviet opposite: “I am prepared to wait for an answer until Hell freezes over, if that is your decision. I am also prepared to present the evidence in this room.”

Stevenson II’s grandfather was a lawyer and politician who rose to prominence in Illinois in the mid-19th century. He served two terms in the House of Representatives and during Grover Cleveland’s first term served as assistant postmaster general. Cleveland’s second victory in the 1892 election elevated Stevenson to the vice presidency.

Stevenson compromised on his pro-greenback and pro-free-silver positions, backing Cleveland’s pro-gold standard platform. This stance proved out-of-step with Democratic politics of the era, as the party’s next presidential nominee, William Jennings Bryan, was such an ardent supporter of free silver that an entire class of exonumia, Bryan Money, arose commenting on his platform.

Several pieces of Bryan Money are also featured in our December 2022 Token & Medal Collectors Choice Online Auction.

Regarding the 1892 brass pieces in our upcoming CCO auction, the designs of the stacks themselves are fairly simple, depicting the presidential and vice presidential candidates surrounded by text on each side, which on a real stack of coins would be the obverse and reverse designs. Lot 82035 offers a brass coin box depicting Stevenson alongside Cleveland. The “stack” is meant to represent four gold coins; the box opens in the middle. Text reading “MY STACK ON CLEVELAND” implies that the coins were a bet on the candidate. “CLEVELAND & STEVENSON” arcs above Stevenson’s head. The edge of the “stack” is reeded, as on the edges of gold coins of the period.

Lot 82036 is a similar brass coin box, whose text reads “MY PILE ON HARRISON,” for those who supported the incumbent Republican, Benjamin Harrison. A collector interested in representing both sides of the 1892 presidential contest might consider buying both.

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