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When Political Signs Become Art: Monument to the Unelected

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Though the election has been over for more than a month, yard signs still dot houses around the land. Trump/Pence. Clinton/Kaine. Humphrey/Muskie?

In November, the lawn in front of the Lefferts Historic House in Prospect Park, Brooklyn, looked a bit like it belonged to an extremely overzealous voter. In reality, Lefferts was the latest host of an art installation called “Monument to the Unelected,” a look at conquered candidates dating back to John Adams’s run against Thomas Jefferson in 1796.

Created by artist Nina Katchadourian, the 50-odd political signs have appeared in several locations around the country. Though many of the names are centuries old, the signs are designed to look fairly contemporary—Katchadourian creates them herself out of plastic sheets. That includes the latest addition to the collection, a blue sign emblazoned with “I’m With Hillary 2016.” And while you’d be forgiven for thinking the project is a response to the mania surrounding the 2016 election, Katchadourian created it in 2008 as a commission for the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art.

“Of course, it’s a project about politics and history, but it doesn’t take a position on who should win any given election,” Katchadourian told The New Yorker. The monument, rather, is “a statement of fact—it’s what we have collectively done, up until now.”

In an artist's statement, she added, “At a time when the country was preoccupied with the ‘fork in the road’ moment of a major national election, the piece presented a view of the country's collective political road not taken.”

“Monument to the Unelected” left Brooklyn shortly after the election, but will surely appear again in about three years. If you see an “Aaron Burr is my president” yard sign, you’ll know you’re in the right place.

[h/t: The New Yorker]

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politics
The Secret Procedure for the Queen's Death
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Chris Radburn—WPA Pool/Getty Images

The queen's private secretary will start an urgent phone tree. Parliament will call an emergency session. Commercial radio stations will watch special blue lights flash, then switch to pre-prepared playlists of somber music. As a new video from Half As Interesting relates, the British media and government have been preparing for decades for the death of Queen Elizabeth II—a procedure codenamed "London Bridge is Down."

There's plenty at stake when a British monarch dies. And as the Guardian explains, royal deaths haven't always gone smoothly. When the Queen Mother passed away in 2002, the blue "obit lights" installed at commercial radio stations didn’t come on because someone failed to depress the button fully. That's why it's worth it to practice: As Half as Interesting notes, experts have already signed contracts agreeing to be interviewed upon the queen's death, and several stations have done run-throughs substituting "Mrs. Robinson" for the queen's name.

You can learn more about "London Bridge is Down" by watching the video below—or read the Guardian piece for even more detail, including the plans for her funeral and burial. ("There may be corgis," they note.)

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Christie's Images Ltd. 2017
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History
Abraham Lincoln Letter About Slavery Could Fetch $700,000 at Auction
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Christie's Images Ltd. 2017

The Lincoln-Douglas debates of 1858, in which future president Abraham Lincoln spent seven debates discussing the issue of slavery with incumbent U.S. senator Stephen Douglas, paved the way for Lincoln’s eventual ascent to the presidency. Now part of that history can be yours, as the AP reports.

A signed letter from Lincoln to his friend Henry Asbury dated July 31, 1858 explores the “Freeport Question” he would later pose to Douglas during the debates, forcing the senator to publicly choose between two contrasting views related to slavery’s expansion in U.S. territories: whether it should be up to the people or the courts to decide where slavery was legal. (Douglas supported the popular choice argument, but that position was directly counter to the Supreme Court's Dred Scott decision.)

The first page of a letter from Abraham Lincoln to Henry Asbury
Christie's Images Ltd. 2017

In the letter, Lincoln was responding to advice Asbury had sent him on preparing for his next debate with Douglas. Asbury essentially framed the Freeport Question for the politician. In his reply, Lincoln wrote that it was a great question, but would be difficult to get Douglas to answer:

"You shall have hard work to get him directly to the point whether a territorial Legislature has or has not the power to exclude slavery. But if you succeed in bringing him to it, though he will be compelled to say it possesses no such power; he will instantly take ground that slavery can not actually exist in the territories, unless the people desire it, and so give it protective territorial legislation."

Asbury's influence didn't end with the debates. A founder of Illinois's Republican Party, he was the first to suggest that Lincoln should run for president in 1860, and secured him the support of the local party.

The letter, valued at $500,000 to $700,000, is up for sale as part of a books and manuscripts auction that Christie’s will hold on December 5.

[h/t Associated Press]

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