The military battlefield was a common visual metaphor for presidential elections, particularly in the final weeks of the campaign. In this Harper’s Weekly cartoon, the Russo-Japanese War serves as an analogy for the 1904 presidential contest. The war originated in competition between the two nations for dominance in the Far East, particularly over Manchuria and Korea. On February 8, 1904, Japan attacked and laid siege to Russian-controlled Port Arthur on the Manchurian peninsula. In March, Japan conquered Korea and by late May had cut off Port Arthur from Russian troops in Manchuria. Japan continued to score victories over the summer and into the fall. A Russian counteroffensive in the fall proved ineffective. President Theodore Roosevelt encouraged the warring nations to declare a ceasefire and negotiate a settlement, which they finally did in the summer of 1905. The next year, Roosevelt won the Nobel Peace Prize for his role in helping end the conflict. He was the first American to win a Nobel Prize in any category.
Here, Democratic presidential nominee Alton B. Parker is Czar Nicholas atop his “Safe and Sane” hobbyhorse (the Democratic Donkey), declaring he is heading for the combat front. Democratic National Committee Chairman Thomas Taggart is General Alexei Kuropatkin, commander of the Russian troops in Manchuria. He responds to Czar Parker that the Democrats/Russians are retreating in the face of the Republican/Japanese enemy. Identifiable figures in the front row of Democratic/Russian soldiers are (left-right): William F. Sheehan, former lieutenant-governor of New York (1892-1894); financier August Belmont Jr., Parker’s campaign treasurer; vice-presidential nominee Henry G. Davis; David B. Hill, Parker’s campaign manager; and Senator Arthur Pue Gorman of Maryland. Lying on the ground behind Taggart/Kuropatkin is Congressman William Bourke Cockran of New York. In the second row, the soldiers are (left-right): DeLancey Nicoll, district attorney for New York County; Charles F. Murphy, boss of Tammany Hall political machine; Patrick H. McCarren, boss of the Brooklyn Democratic machine; and businessman Thomas Fortune Ryan. In the third row is James Smith Jr., former U.S. senator from New Jersey (1893-1899).
Leading the charge of the Republicans/Japanese are (left-right): businessman Cornelius Bliss, treasurer of the Republican National Committee, carrying a moneybag with the “sinews of war,” as the campaign fund was called; President Roosevelt on his “Big Stick” hobbyhorse; and 42-year-old Senator Albert Beveridge of Indiana as the drummer boy. In the row behind them are (left-right): Governor Franklin Murphy of New Jersey; Secretary of War William Howard Taft; Republican National Chairman George Cortelyou; Elihu Root, former secretary of war (1899-1904); and Secretary of State John Hay. The GOP soldiers in the back row are (left-right): Governor Benjamin Odell Jr. of New York; Senator Thomas C. Platt of New York; vice-presidential nominee Charles Fairbanks carrying his block of ice; and Clarence Mackay, multi-millionaire president of the Postal Telegraph-Cable Company. In its November 12, post-election review, Harper’s Weekly acknowledged Mackay as the one among the new faces in Republican national politics who had “accomplished [the] most in an unobtrusive but effective manner….”
In the background is a fort holding the war correspondents: perhaps New York World publisher Joseph Pulitzer waving the “Charge” banner and possibly Louisville Courier-Journal editor Henry Watterson looking through a spyglass.