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Republicans Tie Cleveland to British Interests and Tammany Corruption in this Rare Broadside from the Election of 1888
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This rare, perhaps unrecorded, political cartoon broadside depicts President Grover Cleveland flanked by John Bull and the Tammany Tiger. Cleveland had been an early champion of civil service reform during his first term in office, beginning in 1885. He had also advocated Free Trade, devoting the bulk of his December 1887 State of the Union Address to that subject. In this satiric illustration, Cleveland holds a document, upon which the Tiger hungrily focuses, entitled ‘Official Patronage’; John Bull holds several notes from the Bank of England. The text reads, “I place myself in the hands of my friends.” and “Peace and Plenty long shall reign, Ere these three shall meet again.

[GROVER CLEVELAND]. Lithograph Broadside. “Reciprocal Trade.” [1888?], [New York?]. 1 p., 8½ x 11 in.

Inventory #24687       Price: $750

Historical Background

Like most Democrats, Cleveland opposed the high tariffs Republicans had implemented since the Civil War to protect American industries. When Cleveland ran for reelection in 1888, Republicans charged that Cleveland was pro-British because lower tariffs would aid British manufacturers in selling their products in the United States. British ambassador Lionel Sackville-West also reinforced the impression that Britain favored Cleveland. Newspaper editorials condemned British meddling in American elections, and Cleveland insisted that Sackville-West be recalled. When the British prime minister in London requested more information, Cleveland expelled the ambassador just before the election.

When Cleveland defied political corruption as governor of New York from 1883 to 1885, he earned the hostility of the Tammany Hall organization in New York City. In the 1884 presidential election, the close contest between Grover Cleveland and Republican candidate James G. Blaine depended on critical states like New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, and Indiana. Tammany Hall decided to support a Democrat they disliked rather than a Republican who would do nothing for them, but Cleveland’s supporters turned the opposition of Tammany Hall into an asset. At the nominating convention, one supporter said the people admired Cleveland for his honesty and integrity, “but they love him most of all for the enemies he has made,” the foremost being the Tammany machine. Cleveland carried New York and the other close states and won the presidency. As president, Cleveland rejected the traditional spoils system and refused to fire Republicans who were doing good jobs or appoint Democrats solely on the basis of party service.

Four years later, Republicans attempted to tie the corruption of Tammany Hall to Cleveland, and this broadside reflects that attempt. It was successful. Cleveland lost his reelection bid to Senator Benjamin Harrison of Indiana. Although Cleveland garnered 90,000 more popular votes nationwide, Harrison won twenty states with 233 electoral votes to Cleveland’s eighteen states with 168 electoral votes. Cleveland even lost his home state of New York by fewer than 15,000 votes. In 1892, Cleveland regained the presidency from Harrison in a reversal of the results of the 1888 election and became the only president to serve two non-consecutive terms.

Not in Weitenkampf, Reilly, or on the online sites of OCLC, the Library of Congress, the New York Public Library, AAS, or the New York Historical Society as of November 2018.


Very good

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