Susan Schulten has a new blog called Mapping the Nation, which is a companion to her new book of the same name, forthcoming from University of Chicago Press. In a recent post, she highlights Walter Houghton’s mesmerizing timeline called “Conspectus of the History of Political Parties,” made in 1880. You can see an image of it below, but there are more detailed images on Susan’s blog. It was an attempt to show all the key details of the federal government in its first century. (I have a copy up on my office wall.)

The details are great, but one of the things that stands out to me is that the idea of a government permanently divided between Republicans and Democrats was a pretty new concept at the time this was drawn up. Parties had come and gone, with the major ones usually only lasting a few decades. That the parties warring for power in 1876 would be the same ones (more or less) doing so in 2012 would likely have seemed pretty remarkable to political observers at the time.

[Cross-posted at Mischiefs of Faction ]

Seth Masket

Seth Masket is an associate professor of political science at the University of Denver.