CEDAR PARK, Texas (KXAN) — Before his 102-year-old grandmother’s passing, Cedar Park resident Sandy McNair visited her in Florida and sifted through a metal box full of old family letters when he discovered two documents. Unfolding them, he realized they were broadsides — political slander cartoons made against then-presidential candidate Andrew Jackson ahead of the 1824 election.
“I opened it up and just kind of thumbed through it just out of curiosity, and it’s a lot of letters and files and stuff, and I didn’t really know much of what it was,” he said. “And then I roll out some of these very large, like posters or what are called broadsides, and then I took a picture of them. I started doing a little bit of research and then realized oh, they’re really significant.”
Before her passing, McNair asked his grandmother about the broadsides and if she knew much about them. She had been born in 1916 and the metal box had been passed down through her mother’s side, likely having belonged to a great, great grandfather.
“She knew it was there but didn’t really know, didn’t really care what was in it,” he said, laughing. “She was just — you know, when I told her about it, was like ‘oh, that’s very interesting.'”
Going down a rabbit hole of research, he learned more about broadsides and their use as forms of political slander waged against opponents. McNair contacted The Hermitage– a historic museum and President Andrew Jackson’s former estate in Davidson County, Tennessee — to see if he could donate the items to the museum.
“I think she toned down her excitement because one of them is is extremely rare,” he said. “The other one is fairly rare, but there’s one in particular that — it’s not like these fall out of the sky every day.”
McNair, his wife Erin and their two children will make the drive up to The Hermitage on Columbus Day weekend to permanently donate the items to Jackson’s collection. He said finding a piece of American history buried with his own family history gave him a closer glimpse into his ancestors, their beliefs and their interests.
“When I contacted the Hermitage about the papers, I asked them why would my many, many, many great grandfather have these items? And she said, probably because he hated Andrew Jackson,” McNair said. “Because they’re political slanders, so he probably kept them because they’re mocking somebody that he didn’t like.”
While Jackson has since been regarded by some as a controversial figure in American history, McNair said these are still artifacts that need to be preserved so people can learn from, and improve upon, remnants of America’s past.
“Things like this are really great to be able to pass down so that you can learn from the past,” Erin said.