This online exhibit highlights collections held at the Carl Albert Center Congressional Archives that reflect the careers of Republican Party senators and congressmen. Some of the collections are small, but together they represent a engaging aspect of U.S. history.


Founded in 1854 by anti-slavery activists and those who wanted free land in the West, the Republican Party held its first informal meeting in Ripon, Wisconsin. Two years later, the party became a national organization when John C. Fremont ran for president with the slogan of "Free soil, free labor, free speech, free men, and Fremont." Although Fremont was called a third party candidate, he garnered a third of the popular vote. In 1860, the Republicans won the White House with the election of Abraham Lincoln. Traditionally, the Republican Party affirms that individuals, not government, make the best choices; that everyone is entitled to equal rights; and that the best decisions are made locally.

Although Republican faithful refer to their party as the "Grand Old Party," presumably the original meaning of the GOP was "Gallant Old Party." Indeed, for a time during the early automobile craze, the GOP was said to mean "Get Out and Push." The symbol of the Republican Party is the elephant. Depicted in a Thomas Nast cartoon in 1874, the elephant characterized the Republican vote–not the party–which had been scared by the possibility of the Democratic Party seeking a third term for President Ulysses S. Grant. In time, other cartoonists used the elephant, which came to define the party.

For a century and a half, thousands of Republican men and women in elected offices have debated and compromised, fought battles and won, faced opponents and lost–all in a quest to ensure that their constituents' needs are met. "Celebrating the Grand Old Party" examines the careers of twelve former members of the United States Congress whose collections are housed in the congressional archives of the Carl Albert Center. Though some of these collections may be small and fragmentary, together they weave a fascinating story of U.S. history.

Copyright © 2008 Carl Albert Center at the University of Oklahoma
Last Modified 03/25/08
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