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19th century political infographic

2011 October 20

Here’s another cool item from my visit to the James Garfield historic site:

Chart of American political party evolution

Chart from 'Conspectus of the History of Political Parties and the Federal Government' by Walter R. Houghton

Click for a larger view, by all means, because this thing is just crazy. It almost looks more like a board game than an infographic. Information design was undoubtedly a bit different 131 years ago, though this is still eye-catching.

It probably has too much information, and I can’t quite figure out what it’s about, or at any rate what’s the significance of the central conceit of intertwining strands. I can see splitting and merging, but why are the Democrat and Whig parties braided around one another repeatedly in the mid-19th century? Beats me; perhaps it makes more sense if one has a better knowledge of what was going on at the time.

In any event, this is still a pretty cool little discovery. So I share it here, for history and/or infographic buffs.

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