Taft and Bryan Compared


 “Why Not Introduce a Little Novelty Into the Campaign?”
  Cartoonist:  J. S. Pughe
  Source:  Puck
  Date:  August 12, 1908

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Complete HarpWeek Explanation:
In 1896, Democrat William Jennings Bryan became the first major-party presidential nominee in American history to commit most of the post-convention campaign to a national speaking tour. He did the same in 1900, and was preparing to embark on his third energetic national campaign when this Puck cartoon was published in August 1908. Republican William Howard Taft, however, was planning to conduct a traditional, restrained “front porch” campaign, whereby groups of supporters were transported to the candidate’s home to hear him speak.

Cartoonist J. S. Pughe suggests injecting “a little novelty into the campaign” by having both nominees campaign together. In the central image, Bryan (left) and Taft (right) debate jointly from the back of a train. Other shared activities include (clockwise from upper left): kissing babies, wooing Filipinos (the Philippines were under American control at the time), shaking hands, judging livestock at a county fair, exercising, and riding in a parade. In the bottom-center scene, “Muldoon’s Rest-Cure” refers to the Muldoon Hygienic Institute in Purchase, New York, an athletic training camp and health spa run by champion wrestler William Muldoon.

This cartoon was partly prophetic because in September Taft decided to forego the front-porch tactic and follow Bryan’s example. The Republican traveled 1800 miles and delivered 400 speeches. Although they did not travel together, it was the first time in American history that the two major-party presidential nominees participated in campaign speaking tours.













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