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 results.
  • 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 monopoly).

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 website.

If you have questions or comments, please feel free to e-mail Dr. Kennedy at

John Adler, Publisher










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