Harper’s Weekly – April 13, 1872

Greeley was nominated on May 21, 1872 at a convention in Cincinnati. About a month before the convention, Nast depicted it in a classic scene from The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens; he was about to illustrate that novel for Harper & Bros. and also had used short tales by Dickens in a series of five annual almanacs he published from 1871-1875. Notably, he was one of 200 attendees at an exclusive farewell dinner for Dickens after his American lecture tour ended four years earlier; Greeley was the master of ceremonies.

Five days after Liberal Republican Senator Carl Schurz’s January 24th call for a convention, Greeley had editorialized: “The Cincinnati Convention may prove a fiasco, or it may name the next President.” Subsequently the World, published by Democrat Manton Marble, had suggested an alliance between Liberal Republicans and Liberal Democrats as the only way to beat President Grant.

In a prescient parody, Nast picked up on both pronouncements. Greeley as Samuel Pickwick, Esq. “mounted the Windsor chair on which he previously had been seated, and addressed the club he himself had founded.” Both political factions wanted reconciliation with the South; accordingly Jeff Davis, Andrew Johnson, and Copperheads Horatio Seymour and Fernando Wood were at the table passively listening.

Supreme Court Justice David Davis was among the leading candidates likely to attend, so Nast put him at the head of the table, his hands protesting what he was hearing. George Francis Train, an unconventional, self-promoted wild-card candidate, was seated between Justice Davis and Senator Reuben Fenton. Other Senators included Frank Blair (Dem, MO) and Liberal Republicans Thomas Tipton (NE) and Lyman Trumbull (IL). Opposite, Gratz Brown, back to the viewer, had a “We Want the Nomination” sign in front of him.

Nast’s little touches were notable. Greeley abhorred liquor and tobacco, so his cup contained water in contrast to wine glasses for others; Schurz and Blair smoked up a storm next to him. A sign on the door referred to the Pope’s 1869 Declaration: “Investigate everything and everybody but us (The Liberal Infallibles).”

Unlike the other candidates Davis, Trumbull and Brown, Greeley did not attend the convention. He was well represented by Whitelaw Reid whom he had installed as his chief deputy to run the Tribune four years earlier. Reid now served as his campaign manager as well, and made a deal with Brown that facilitated Greeley’s nomination. From Reid’s standpoint, having his boss as the nominee would keep him out of the Tribune office and pave the way for Reid’s takeover of the paper regardless of how the election turned out.

During negotiations on May 2, Brown withdrew and backed Greeley, thereby gaining Greeley’s endorsement for Vice President in return. Greeley squeaked in by eight votes on the sixth ballot after the Illinois delegates abandoned Davis and Trumbull, their home-state candidates.

After Gratz Brown was selected as Greeley’s running mate, Nast couldn’t immediately locate either of his two carte de visite photographs, and hastily drew him as a tag on Greeley’s white coat. That symbol of insignificance was so successful that Nast used the tag, or occasionally an animal’s tail, to demean Brown 41 times; subsequently, he appeared in the flesh only three other times, two of them thoroughly inebriated in accordance with his reputation and Greeley’s abhorrence of liquor.