Like in the rest of the United States, politicians in Park City and Utah have often used political signage to promote interest in their campaigns and to gather support from Parkites. Political postering has shown itself to be a successful campaign strategy in the past. During the 2008 presidential election, one Parkite’s collection of campaign posters promoting Congressman Ron Paul’s presidential campaign won extensive coverage of the candidate in the Park Record, affording Paul’s local supporters space to promote Paul and criticize his (eventually victorious) primary opponent, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney.[i]
Because of how effective political signage in Park City can be, however, it’s faced extensive regulation by the city in order to prevent unfair campaigning, and political signs have sometimes been at the center of debates between different local politicians and their respective supporters. After the placement of political signs became a small issue in a 1991 campaign for City Council, it became a larger controversy the following year when some Park Record readers engaged in a prolonged debate over County Commissioner candidate Ruth Wagner’s campaign signs. An irate opponent of Wagner accused her of “blow[ing] what little credibility [she] had left” by violating county rules about the size of campaign signs in a letter to the editor, prompting one of Wagner’s supporters to author a responding letter which accused the supporters of Wagner’s opponents of vandalizing and removing many of Wagner’s signs, although Wagner did simultaneously announce that she had removed the signs which violated county rules.[ii] In another election two years later, Wagner’s signs were again targeted for removal by her opponent’s supporters, according to one of Wagner’s voters.[iii]
Controversies emerged after the turn of the century, as well. A number of presidential and congressional candidates in 2008, including the soon-to-become president-elect Senator Barack Obama, had their signs vandalized in Park City, showing how intense national political campaigns can sometimes become, even at the local level and even in Park City.[iv] The Park Record has reported on the illicit placement of signs during a number of election years in Park City, including in 2011 and 2012, with different variously violating city, county, and state rules, and which have prompted local authorities to remove offending signs and posters.[v] Authorities and the Park Record have regularly outlined rules regarding political postering to the public, in an attempt to prevent the emergence of new campaign spats over the issue.
Utahns have, moreover, sometimes contributed to the tradition of “the great American political poster.”[vi] In 1942, during the Second World War, a high school student from Utah won a national competition to design a poster for the government’s wartime “Meat and Victory” campaign, offering a small contribution to the United States’ war effort.[vii]
The Park City Museum is hosting a traveling exhibit on American political posters from 1844 to 2012 titled “Sign of the Times.” It is open until April 30.
[i] Patrick Parkinson, “Some Basin Residents Back Ron Paul,” Park Record, January 26, 2008, 5, https://newspapers.lib.utah.edu/ark:/87278/s66m6w86.
[ii] Bob Olson, letter to the editor, Park Record, October 1, 1992, 17, https://newspapers.lib.utah.edu/ark:/87278/s6z9346s; Larry J. Kilby, letter to the editor, October 8, 1992, 17, https://newspapers.lib.utah.edu/ark:/87278/s6tn12wc; Ruth Wagner, letter to the editor, October 8, 1992, 17, https://newspapers.lib.utah.edu/ark:/87278/s6tn12wc.
[iii] Bob Haedt, letter to the editor, Park Record, November 10, 1994, 19, https://newspapers.lib.utah.edu/ark:/87278/s6vx4791.
[iv] “Police Blotter,” Park Record, October 29, 2008, 6, https://newspapers.lib.utah.edu/ark:/87278/s64b6ps2.
[v] Jay Hamburger, “Make Sure Your Signs are Legal,” Park Record, October 10, 2011, 1, https://newspapers.lib.utah.edu/ark:/87278/s6q56c5t; Jay Hamburger, “Put Up a Sign, Legally,” Park Record, October 3, 2012, 2, https://newspapers.lib.utah.edu/ark:/87278/s6v44hr7/22613222.
[vi] “Sign of the Times: The Great American Political Poster, 1844–2012,” ExhibitsUSA, accessed February 3, 2022, https://eusa.org/exhibition/sign-of-the-times-the-great-american-political-poster-1844-2012/.
[vii] “Meat and Victory Campaign Poster,” Park Record, July 16, 1942, 2, https://newspapers.lib.utah.edu/ark:/87278/s62z2836.