Kansas Museum Pays Homage to Presidential Runners-Up

Kansas Tourism via Flickr//CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
Kansas Tourism via Flickr//CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 / Kansas Tourism via Flickr//CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

History museums tend to focus on presidential nominees who won elections, but a quirky gallery in Norton, Kansas, called "They Also Ran" does the exact opposite: It pays homage to the ones who lost. Now, The Boston Globe reports, its curator is preparing to add a new portrait of either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton to the exhibition.

"They Also Ran" is more than 50 years old and sits above the tiny town’s First State Bank. A banker named William Rouse founded it in 1965 to commemorate Horace Greely, the founder and editor of The New York Tribune, who ran for president in 1872.

Greely lost the election, but Rouse appreciated the fact that, unlike many other presidential candidates, Greely had once visited Norton. The banker named the museum after a 1943 book called They Also Ran, written by biographer Irving Stone, that provides a historical look at 19 presidential hopefuls.

Sixty black-and-white photographs of past political losers line the exhibition’s walls. They begin with Thomas Jefferson, who lost America’s third-ever presidential race to John Adams in 1796, and end with Mitt Romney, who was defeated by Barack Obama in 2012. (George Washington had no real opponents running against him in the nation's first two elections.)

Winning a U.S. presidential election requires courage and stamina, but so does running for office.

“These guys deserve some recognition for having the guts to run for president," Roberta Ryan, a Norton city councilor, told The Boston Globe. "The president gets his due, and these guys were just left by the wayside. This is a gentle reminder that these fellas are part of our history. And a lot of them probably worked harder than the vice presidents.”

Not everyone is as fascinated with the memory of America’s potential past leaders as Norton's residents are. Only a few hundred people visit "They Also Ran" each year, and no presidential runner-up has ever seen the museum in person. (According to Time, Bob Dole, who hails from Kansas, once visited Norton and curator Lee Ann Shearer showed him a picture of the exhibit.)

“No one likes the guy who comes in second place,” Shearer told Time. “But we’re proud of the people who tried."

[h/t The Boston Globe]