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Posters and Election Propaganda

A blog dedicated to the examination of communications in election campaigns, with a focus on posters

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Posted by Steven Seidman at 1:46PM   |  Add a comment
Bernhard Gillam, "Phryne Before the Chicago Tribunal” (Puck, 1884)

James Blaine (Republican candidate for U.S. president in 1884) was shown covered with tattoos in cartoons that ran during the election campaign that year (even though he didn't have any tattoos, according to Skin&Ink magazine, supplied by Joe Philips).

Bernhard Gillam attacked Blaine in a series of cartoons that were published in Puck, a weekly magazine. Each tattoo represented a scandal in which Blaine was allegedly involved. These cartoons might well have been the difference in a very close contest between Blaine and the Democratic candidate, Grover Cleveland, who won despite exposure, during the campaign, of his premarital affair that had resulted in the birth of a child, and paying a substitute to serve in his place when conscripted for military service in the Civil War.

The election results: Cleveland 48.85%; Blaine 48.28%; John St. John (Prohibition Party) 1.5%; Benjamin Butler (Greenback Party) 1.33%. The difference in New York State, in which these cartoons were widely disseminated, was only one-tenth of 1%, or about 1,100 votes out of over one million cast, according to the excellent Atlas of U.S Presidential Elections (which also supplied the national percentages).

Which politicians actually did have tattoos? Apparently, Barry Goldwater had a crescent-shaped, snake-bite pattern tattoo on his wrist, and Sarah Palin may have a Big Dipper on her ankle and a lipstick liner tattooed on her, as well, according to Celebrity Tattos.


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