The message of this cartoon is that the 1892 Democratic national ticket is as politically dead as ancient Egyptian mummies, which no amount of electricity from “campaign enthusiasm” can revive. The image is based on Thomas Nast’s famous caricature of Samuel J. Tilden as a mummy (in a sarcophagus), which appeared 15 times in Harper’s Weekly between 1877-1884. The symbol ridiculed the age and political irrelevancy of the former Democratic presidential nominee of 1876, as well as his involvement in that election’s “Cipher Telegrams” scandal.
Here, the 1892 presidential nominee, Grover Cleveland (right), and his vice-presidential running mate, Adlai Stevenson (left), are mummies leaning against the “Political Catacombs” wall and connected to electrodes. The respective sarcophagi are dated when they lost elective office: Stevenson failed to retain his congressional seat in 1880 and Cleveland lost his presidential reelection bid in 1888. Decorating the Cleveland case is a British flag labeled “Free Trade Humbug” and “Anglo-Mania” in reference to his stance in favor of tariff reform. Republicans equated the Democratic position of tariffs-for-revenue-only with free trade, claiming that the abandonment of high tariffs would leave American industry helpless against British manufacturers.
In the background are the sarcophagi of two Democratic has-beens. Lying prone are the remains of Thomas Hendricks, the U.S. vice president who died in 1885 during the first year of President Cleveland’s first term. Tilting against the column is James Campbell, former Democratic governor of Ohio (1890-1892), whose reelection loss in the fall of 1891 to Republican William McKinley ended any chance of his nomination for president. On the left are leading Democrats (left-right): Charles Fairchild, former treasury secretary (1887-1889) during Cleveland’s first term; Henry Watterson, editor of the Louisville Courier-Journal; Senator John Carlisle of Kentucky, who would serve as treasury secretary in the second Cleveland administration (1893-1897); and William C. Whitney, former secretary of the Navy during Cleveland’s first term (1885-1889) and his campaign manager in 1892.
The use of “The Tombs” in the title and on the signpost above Fairchild may also have been meant to suggest the prison in New York City of that nickname.