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The bobbleheads to commemorate this summer’s political conventions are unveiled

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

We're also following this very important news. The bobbleheads to commemorate this summer's Republican and Democratic national conventions are out. They are from the National Bobblehead Hall of Fame. And of course, they're red, white and blue, an elephant and a donkey.

LISA KATHLEEN GRADDY: The elephant and donkey have become a way to show your party affiliation in a very soft sort of nonconfrontational way.

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Lisa Kathleen Graddy is a curator at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History, and she says that the donkey image first appeared in political cartoons during Andrew Jackson's 1828 presidential campaign. The elephant showed up in Illinois in 1860 at the top of an announcement promoting an Abraham Lincoln rally.

INSKEEP: OK, but it was Harper's Weekly cartoonist Thomas Nast - really interesting character. Nast made the symbols popular in the years after the Civil War.

GRADDY: Nast draws the donkey criticizing Democrats who are against the Civil War in the North, who are making light of the death of Edwin Stanton, the secretary of war.

INSKEEP: OK, that was in 1870, so after the war. He drew the elephant four years later in a cartoon called Third-Term Panic.

GRADDY: It shows an elephant labeled The Republican Vote, sort of stumbling around, possibly going to fall through planks of party platforms and create a disaster.

MARTIN: But over time, the two parties embraced their mascots, focusing on each animal's positive traits. Lisa Kathleen Graddy, the Smithsonian curator, says the donkey represents the ordinary citizen with a fierce kick. And for the Republican mascot...

GRADDY: Elephants are strong. Elephants supposedly have good memories.

INSKEEP: By the mid-1900s, the donkey and elephant merchandise was mass-produced. And of course, as with all politics, there is a strategy behind all of this.

GRADDY: The idea is that if you can get someone to buy these products that symbolize either a candidate or a party, take them into their home, then you have that home now for life.

MARTIN: But, you know, people already have us in their home. They're - we're on the radio.

INSKEEP: Yeah, yeah. Come on.

MARTIN: But, you know, what about perhaps a MORNING EDITION bobblehead or four?

INSKEEP: Four of them. So the A Martínez bobblehead would be the one that I would want to have because...

MARTIN: And I would want the Leila bobblehead.

INSKEEP: Leila would be a great one. I want a Michel Martin bobblehead.

MARTIN: Oh, thank you.

INSKEEP: That'd be good. But I'm...

MARTIN: Set.

INSKEEP: ...Thinking A especially...

MARTIN: Discount for a set.

INSKEEP: ...Because A collects those figures, those superhero figures. So you could have an A Martínez superhero bobblehead.

MARTIN: But he won't let anybody play with them.

INSKEEP: Oh.

MARTIN: I would let you play with the bobblehead.

INSKEEP: Thank you, thank you.

MARTIN: You're welcome.

INSKEEP: Let's not interpret that line too much.

MARTIN: Oh. All right. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

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