Footrace, Pennsylvania Avenue. Stakes $25,000
The race for a $25,000 prize (the president's salary) is a metaphor for the 1844 campaign. The favored contender here is Henry Clay. The other runners are James K. Polk and John Tyler, while commentaries are offered by a farmer, vice presidential candidate Theodore Frelinghuysen, and Whig stalwart Daniel Webster. The print probably appeared before Tyler officially withdrew as a presidential candidate on August 20. Henry Clay is in the lead, about to pass the half-mile marker to the White House. The Capitol appears in the distance. Clay holds an American flag in one hand and a document in the other, and begins to ascend the steeply inclined final stretch. Behind him Democratic nominee James K. Polk stumbles and falls, his foot in a pothole. Clay: "Clear the Road for Old Kentuck!" Polk: "Oh! Lord I've slipped up! I've got fundamental objections to this mode of coming down." Frelinghuysen: "Ha! Ha! Dan there goes Polk! that Tariff grease that I put there has done the business slick!" Support for a tariff was a plank in the Whig platform which was extremely popular in the Northeast. Webster replies: "Why Theodore, Harry [Clay] is a going it in fine style. He'll take the Purse & not half try!" A third contestant, incumbent President John Tyler, notices a woman traveling down another road toward Texas. The woman is elegantly dressed, and holds a parasol which obstructs the view ahead of her. Tyler questions a farmer standing nearby, "I say my friend who is that going down the road yonder . . ." The farmer replies "Oh! thats the Gardeners Daughter that lives in yon house there down the road!" "Well thats the road for me," Tyler continues, "I am used up in the Race. So I'm off! tell them Gentlemen that they must excuse me."
Entered . . . 1844 by J. Baillie.
Litho. & pubd. by James Baillie 118 Nassau St N.Y.
Signed: H. Bucholzer.
The Library's impression of the print was deposited for copyright on August 23, 1844.
Title appears as it is written on the item.
Weitenkampf, p. 79.
Forms part of: American cartoon print filing series (Library of Congress)
Published in: American political prints, 1766-1876 / Bernard F. Reilly. Boston : G.K. Hall, 1991, entry 1844-41.
Polk was born in North Carolina. He later lived in and represented Tennessee. A Democrat, Polk served as the Speaker of the House of Representatives and Governor of Tennessee. Polk was the dark horse candidate for president in 1844, defeating Henry Clay of the rival Whig Party by promising to annex the Republic of Texas. Under President Polk vast areas were added to the United States. During his 1845–49 presidency, Polk led the nation to a victory in the Mexican–American War, seizing nearly the whole of what is now the American Southwest. He threatened war with the United Kingdom over the issue of Oregon Country ownership, eventually reaching a settlement in which the British were made to sell the portion that became the Oregon Territory. He built a treasury system that lasted until 1913, oversaw the opening of the U.S. Naval Academy and of the Smithsonian Institution, the groundbreaking for the Washington Monument, and the issuance of the first United States postage stamp. True to his campaign pledge to serve only one term as President, Polk left office and returned to Tennessee in March 1849. He died of cholera three months later. "One great object of the Constitution was to restrain majorities from oppressing minorities or encroaching upon their just rights."
Glimpses of U.S. political campaigns in magazine covers and satire.