"The Undecided Political Prize Fight" cartoon, 1860, zoomable image

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Library of Congress
Sized, cropped, and adjusted for use here by John Osborne, Dickinson College, June 30, 2010.
Depicted ContentElection of 1860
Image type
Courtesy of
Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division
Original caption
The Undecided Political Prize Fight
Source citation
American Cartoon Prints Collection, Library of Congress
Source note
The Election of 1860 mirrored the divided nature of the United States both in the presidential candidates and the voting results. The four major candidates represented three parties, a result of sectional discord: Stephen Douglas (northern Democratic party), John Breckinridge (southern Democratic party), Abraham Lincoln (Republican party), and John Bell (Constitutional Union party). This pro-Breckinridge political cartoon shows Douglas (on the left) and Lincoln (on the right) duking in out in a boxing ring, while Breckinridge points towards the White House with one hand and thumbs his nose (a sign of disrespect) at the boxers with the other. The boxers’ coaches reflect the stereotypical perception of their constituency: an Irishman backs Douglas, reflecting the northern Democrats, while a black man coaches Lincoln, the antislavery-Republican candidate. According to the artist, who may have published this cartoon in Cincinnati, Breckinridge could slip into the White House while Douglas and Lincoln were preoccupied with their “political prize fight.” Although the cheering line of gentlemen on the path to the White House would reflect the lower-Southern states’ unanimous support of Breckinridge, the split nature of the Democratic party helped enable Lincoln’s electoral victory. (By Rebecca Solnit)
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