Three presidential campaigns were held in the United States during the 1840s. With the growth of political sectionalism, economic turmoil resulting from the Panic of 1837, the country’s westward expansion and the controversial topic of slavery, these elections led to intense rivalries between candidates and their political parties.
While it was more the rule than the exception during this time period for newspapers to openly support a particular candidate or political party, the “regular” newspapers’ political content was supplemented by extreme and short-lived campaign newspapers. Typically published for just a few months, spanning from before the election to just after, the campaign press focused on rallying support for the political candidates and platforms of their chosen political party. These papers did not shy away from harsh criticism of their opponents, as is evidenced by their sometimes inflammatory titles.
This collection features five campaign newspapers representing each presidential election from this decade:
- Log Cabin, from Dayton, Ohio, published from March to October 1840. It supported Whig candidate William Henry Harrison who would defeat the Democratic incumbent, Martin Van Buren. Harrison was the first Ohioan to serve as president of the United States, and also the first president to actively campaign for office. Along with employing the slogan “Tippecanoe and Tyler Too”, he was called “the log cabin and hard cider candidate.” This “common man” image helped him win the election against Van Buren, who was often blamed for the economic crisis and was accused of being out of touch with the people by his Whig detractors.
- That Same Old Coon, from Dayton, Ohio, published from April to November 1844. This Whig paper supported candidate Henry Clay, whose nickname “Ol’ Coon” was intended to give him rustic appeal and reference his Kentucky roots, echoing Harrison’s “Log Cabin” campaign of 1840.
- Ohio Coon Catcher, from Columbus, Ohio, published from August to November 1844, and Coon Dissector, from Dayton, Ohio, published from May to November 1844. These papers supported Democratic candidate James K. Polk, who would ultimately win the election. Both feature raccoon illustrations which emphasized their goal of defeating Henry Clay.
- Reserve Battery, from Cleveland, Ohio, published from July to November 1848. This paper supported Whig candidate Zachary Taylor, a hero from the Mexican-American War, who beat his Democratic opponent, Lewis Cass, by only 36 electoral votes.