Political holiday cards on display at University of South Carolina library

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COLUMBIA — President Jimmy Carter and First Lady Rosalyn sent a Christmas card with horse-drawn carriages arriving at a snowy 19th century White House. Bill and Hillary Clinton’s cats frolic under several White House Christmas trees. Two of former South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford’s cards display the smiling faces of his then-wife Jenny and their four sons without any holiday adornment at all.

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Herb Hartsook, director of S.C. Political Collections for the University of South Carolina library, points out Christmas cards from past South Carolina governors.  JEFFREY COLLINS/ASSOCIATED PRESS
JEFFREY COLLINS/ASSOCIATED PRESS
Herb Hartsook, director of S.C. Political Collections for the University of South Carolina library, points out Christmas cards from past South Carolina governors.

Holiday cards on display at the University of South Carolina’s Hollings library show a kinder, gentler side of politicians as they wish a season of good will toward all.

“We have hundreds and hundreds of cards,” says Herb Hartsook, director of the South Carolina Political Collections at the library, who organized the showing. “They are so much fun to look at, we decided to go ahead and share them. We think it will put people in the holiday spirit.”

Hartsook arranged the cards in four separate cases, and dubbed the show “Christmas on the Potomac.” They are arranged with presidential, congressional, gubernatorial and “hodge-podge” themes, the librarian said.

Hartsook said the library started exhibiting such cards about 18 years ago. All have been drawn from the collections of political papers donated to the library by some of the state’s most prominent politicians.

With little snow ever gracing the Palmetto State, several cards sent by South Carolina governors feature the historic white governor’s mansion, built in 1855 as a residence for a military academy. Others bear the state’s golden, oval state seal with mottoes, “While I Breathe, I Hope,” and “Prepared in Mind and Resources.”

The late Gov. Carroll Campbell and his wife Iris are pictured in an elegant horse-drawn carriage, piled high with golden-wrapped and beribboned gifts in front of the governor’s mansion. Mrs. Campbell sports a fancy white fur coat with matching fur hat, but no horses are in sight.

Campbell, who served as governor from 1987 to 1995, was known for his role in getting automaker BMW to build its first U.S. manufacturing facility in South Carolina.

Cards from presidents sent to members of the South Carolina congressional delegation reveal intimate, elegant White House scenes not normally on view for tourists, such as a twilight view of the Washington Monument seen from the upper level of the Truman Balcony.

“That’s one of my favorites,” Hartsook said.

Many of the presidential cards have been sent along by Sen. Lindsey Graham and Rep. Joe Wilson, Hartsook said.

Above the fireplace in the glittering State Dining Room, the portrait of a seated Abraham Lincoln gazes down in a card sent by President Ronald Reagan and wife Nancy.

President George W. Bush and wife Laura sent a cozy fireplace scene from the Red Room.

One of the most recent cards was sent by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton in 2010. It shows a glass sculpture of the globe, which the card says is displayed in the U.S. Embassy in Kuwait City and is part of a program to display art in U.S. embassies abroad.

After the Christmas break, the cards will remain on display at the library through Jan. 20.


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