Benjamin Harrison’s 1888 presidential campaign gives The Whole Story In A Nutshell

THE WHOLE STORY IN A NUTSHELL! Harrison’s Ideas! … Cleveland’s Ideas! New York: Yale Publishing Co., 1888.
Broadside, 20 ¾”h x 14”w at sheet edge, original wash color. Some minor soiling and repairs to margins. Gently toned, a bit of spotting, and expert restoration to upper and lower margins.

The Whole Story In A Nutshell is a rare and striking cartographic broadside favoring Republican Benjamin Harrison’s 1888 bid for the Presidency against Democratic incumbent Grover Cleveland.

The broadside features two persuasive maps of the United States, the upper with Harrison’s image superimposed, the lower with Cleveland’s. Captions on the maps and flanking columns of text summarize their positions on international trade, expansion of the union, and economic and political reform. The overall effect is to present Harrison as a protectionist guardian of American industry and agriculture and a candidate with broad national appeal; Cleveland, on the other hand, is presented as a hostage to Southern agricultural interests and British Free Traders, a friend to Mormonism, and a shameless hypocrite.

“A political broadside from the 1888 presidential campaign, not attributed to either side but obviously the work of the Harrison campaign. The central issue in the election was trade policy. The Democratic candidate, Grover Cleveland, attacked high tariffs as a burden on consumers; the Republican, Benjamin Harrison, supported them as a benefit to labor and industry….


“The broadside communicates Harrison’s message in a variety of ways, subtle and not. The text describing him is upbeat: “Protection to American Labor – Encouragement to American Commerce – Reduction of Letter Postage – Pensions for Union Soldiers!” For Cleveland, just the opposite: “British Ships and British Laborers to Dredge New York Harbor! – Destruction to Wool Growers, Miners and Manufacturers – Tobacco Growers Crippled.” Harrison’s portrait is light and benign; Cleveland’s is dark and scowling. All of the states in the Harrison map of the U. S. are in pastel tones; half of those in the Cleveland map are in ominous dark grey.


“An interesting footnote relates to the Cobden Club, a London-based private group supporting free trade. Part of the “Republican Campaign Text-Book for 1888” asserted that the elitist Cobden Club had spent “an immense amount of British gold” in support of the free trade position in the elections of 1880 and 1884, and “we may be sure that British gold in unlimited amount will be forthcoming in the supreme effort now being made to break down the Republican American Policy of Protection to the American manufacturer, farmer, and laborer.” Following the “Text-Book,” [at lower left] the broadside attacks the Cobden Club and calls out prominent members from the Cleveland administration. (PJ Mode)

The admission of Western territories to the Union was also very much on the table in 1888, and here Cleveland is presented as favoring the admission of “Democratic Mormon” Arizona, New Mexico and Utah, while resisting the admission of northern-tier Dakota, Idaho, Montana, Washington and Wyoming. Regarding the hypocrisy charge, the broadside reprints Cleveland’s letter accepting the 1884 Democratic presidential nomination, in which he comes out strongly “in favor of an amendment to the Constitution disqualifying the President from re-election.”

In 1888 the American economy was prosperous and the nation at peace, and Cleveland gained a plurality of the popular vote (48.6% to Harrison’s 47.8%). However he failed to win his native New York State and thereby lost to Harrison in the Electoral College. The vote in New York was almost as close as the national vote, and it’s certainly possible that campaign propaganda such as The Whole Story In A Nutshell helped tip the balance toward Harrison.

OCLC #783857640 (Boston Public and Library of Congress), #1039519912 (Boston Public again), and #84679088 (Library Company of Philadelphia), as of Oct. 2020. Persuasive Maps: PJ Mode Collection, #1096.