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Basic Information

The Locofocos were a faction of the Democratic Party which existed from 1835 to the mid-1840s. Originally called the Equal Rights Party, its detractors called them the "Loco-focos" after a popular brand of sulfer-tipped matches.

The Equal Rights Party was a radical wing of the Democratic Party which opposed the financial interests which dominated the party. They were generally opposed to state banks, monopolies, tariffs, and other financial policies they felt antidemocratic and catering to special privilage; which put them in opposition to the powerful Tammanny Hall organization of the New York Democratic Party.

At one political meeting, the Tammanny men tried to break up the meeting by shutting off the gas to the hall, extinguishing the lights. The dissidents, however, were armed with matches, which they used to light candles and continued with their meeting. Because of this incident, their oppenents called them "Loco-focos" in derision, but the party adopted the name with pride.

They supported Martin Van Buren, who incorporated Locofoco positions into his platform, in the 1840 election. In the mid-1840s, however, the group lost influence due in part to it's support of Abolitionism, which put it out of the political mainstream of the time.

Prominent supporters of the Locofocos included Ralph Waldo Emmerson, James Fenimore Cooper, and Walt Whitman.


2. Hell No! I Am a Loco-Foco — additional background and parallels to present-day politics

Game and Story Use

  • A Time Travel or Historical campaign set in the early 1800s might encounter members of the Locofocos
    • Tammany Hall make for pretty good villains - their natural opponents might make good allies or patrons.
  • They could be used as a model for a fringe political party
    • And could provide some interesting values dissonence if the organization has goals which to modern sensibilites seem laudible, but which the prevailing culture of the setting finds wacko.
  • Political groups and movements can have peculiar nicknames —especially when their opponents get to pick the names.
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