HarpWeek presents “The
Presidential Elections: 1860-1912” as a free, public service to
provide an informative and entertaining look at a central aspect
of the American democratic system of government: the quadrennial
political contest for the nation’s highest office.
The Elections: Items related to each of the 14
elections on this website are divided into four sections:
- Overview: A narrative of events that includes a
summary of the previous years, the nomination process,
the campaign for the presidency, and the election
- Cartoons: An average of 50 cartoons and prints per
election, most of which have been scanned from leading
illustrated periodicals of the day. This collection of
19 publications ranges from major journals, such as
Harper’s Weekly, Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper,
Puck, and Judge, to rare humor and
satirical magazines and newspapers, such as The Comic
Monthly, Fun, and Southern Punch. Also
included are campaign banners and political prints from
the Library of Congress collection. The cartoons and
prints are accompanied by commentary explaining their
historical context and meaning.
- Biographies: Brief narratives of the public lives of
presidential and vice president nominees and other
leading political figures.
- Events: An annotated timeline of important events
over the four-year period culminating in the election
under review (e.g., “Events” for the 1896 election
covers the years 1893-1896). The 1860 “Events” span an
11-year period beginning with 1850.
Issues: Many political questions of the
period are discussed in the Overview and Cartoon sections.
However, the “Issues” section of the website explains a select
group of recurring concerns that are featured in several
elections: Reconstruction; nativism; civil service reform;
public money for religious schools; the money question (gold v.
silver and paper currency); tariffs; and trusts (business
Campaigning: Aspects of the electoral
process in the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries,
including Parties and Voting, Politics as Entertainment,
Mudslinging, Presidential Campaigning, October Elections,
Campaign Finance, Print Media, Polling, and Women’s Roles.
Note on Monetary Conversion: Several of
the election overviews and cartoon commentaries parenthetically
note the relative value of monetary amounts from the period in
2002 dollars. For example, the 1912 Overview states, “The GOP
treasury collected about $1 million dollars ($18.3 million in
2002 dollars)…” The 2002-dollar amounts are based on the
monetary conversion mechanism provided by Economic History
Services. The CPI (consumer price index) was selected for most
conversions, except when making salary comparisons, for which
the “Unskilled Wage Rate” was used. This helpful mechanism can
be found at:
Contributors: Dr. Robert C. Kennedy of
HarpWeek compiled, edited, and wrote commentary for this site.
Greg Weber and Richard Roy of HarpWeek designed the website, and
Caesar Chaves provided the artwork. HarpWeek wants to express
appreciation to the Library of Congress for the use of selected
political prints on this site, and to Bernard F. Reilly Jr., who
catalogued and annotated them. Draper Hill, former editorial
cartoonist of the Detroit News, provided important
research on Thomas Nast and the 1872 election. HarpWeek also
wants to thank Richard West of Periodyssey for providing the
original Puck and Judge cartoons for use on this
If you have questions or comments, please feel
free to e-mail Dr. Kennedy at firstname.lastname@example.org.
John Adler, Publisher