Blaine and Jay Gould


 “A Job Lot”
  Cartoonist:  Thomas Nast
  Source:  Harper's Weekly
  Date:   October 25, 1884, p. 695

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Complete HarpWeek Explanation:
In the final weeks of the election, cartoonist Thomas Nast played up Republican nominee James Blaine's connection to wealthy financier Jay Gould, who had an unsavory reputation. In 1868, Gould joined forces with Jim Fisk in a hostile takeover of the Erie Railroad Company, for which Gould served as president (1868-1872). In 1869, Gould and Fisk tried to corner the gold market, resulting in the "Black Friday" crisis which left some investors and businesses in financial ruin. Meanwhile, the "Erie Ring" became notorious for brazenly bribing members of the New York state assembly and judiciary in return for legislation and rulings favorable to their interests. Gould was also affiliated with Tammany Hall during the height of the Tweed Ring corruption. In 1872, Fisk died, reformers broke the Erie Ring, and Gould lost his position with the company. He moved to the West to invest his considerable fortune in railroads with Jay Cooke. Later, Gould returned to New York City, purchased the New York World newspaper, and sat on the board of the Western Union Telegraph Company, of which he was a major stockholder.

During the 1884 campaign, Nast portrayed Gould as the corrupt and mighty manipulator of Blaine. Here, Gould explains to Blaine (using a quote from the Mulligan letters) how the success of the nominee will make him even more useful to the financier than his former (and now deceased) partners, Fisk and Tweed. Blaine, with his salesman's satchel open, agrees to the plan, with the stipulation that he, too, gets a piece of the action. Notice that Blaine wears a knee patch to cover the hole worn from begging for votes. A ticker-tape machine runs on the left.

Between portraits of Fisk (left) and Tweed (right) is a list of the "Fort Boodle Co." personnel, including Blaine; Gould; Congressman William Walter Phelps of New Jersey; Cyrus Field, father of the Transatlantic telegraph and owner of New York City's elevated railroad; Collis Huntington, president of the Central and Southern Pacific Railroad; Stephen Elkins, West Virginian coal and railroad magnate who served as Blaine's campaign manager; and Senator Stephen Dorsey of Arkansas and Thomas Brady, the former second assistant postmaster general, both implicated in 1881 in the Star Route scandal.

In February 1881, Blaine wrote President-elect Garfield to warn him of "cunning preparations being made by a small cabal to steal half a million a year during your administration." Garfield ordered a vigorous investigation, which found that $4,000,000 of taxpayers' money had been stolen through fraudulent mail route contracts ("star routes"), but no charges were proven in court. In this and other cartoons carrying the phony Blaine campaign poster, Nast links the Republican nominee to the scandal's perpetrators.













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