The Research Desk column from Aug. 8, 2016, Weekly issue of
The story of American presidential elections offers fascinating
also-rans, candidates defeated in hard-fought elections who then
receded from public memory. Noteworthy are two 19th century Democratic
standard-bearers whose stories are remembered largely through campaign
and celebratory medals of 1868 and 1893.
The first Democratic candidate to run for president after the Civil
War was New York’s 18th governor, Horatio Seymour. He and other Democrats urged
reconciliation with the defeated and occupied South, then undergoing
Reconstruction and the social upheavals that followed Emancipation of
the black population.
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Seymour and running mate, is Gen. Frank P. Blair of Missouri, were defeated
by Republican war hero Ulysses S. Grant, in part because of the
unabashed rascist tone of their campaign. This is unmistakable on the
30-millimeter medal by Peter H. Jacobus (DeWitt 1868-5, Century of
Campaign Buttons 1789 - 1889 by J. Doyle DeWitt) with its plea
for the RESTORATION OF CONSTITUTIONAL LIBERTY, WHITE MEN TO GOVERN.
The first reasonable stand was overshadowed by the racist tones of the
second cry, which helped defeat the ticket.
A mixed-purpose Democratic medal is the 45-millimeter white metal
piece of 1893 (DeWitt GC 1892-3) celebrating Grover Cleveland’s second
presidential victory and honoring party founders Jefferson and Jackson.
Somewhat more startling was its inclusion of a small roundel bust of
also-ran Samuel J. Tilden of New York, who won the
popular vote in the bitterly disputed 1876 election almost 20 years
before. Famed as a political reformer, Tilden was deprived of victory
by Republican manipulation of the Electoral College. The electoral
votes of several Southern states still under U.S. Army occupation,
were accepted and tipped the balance for Republican Rutherford B.
Hayes. Tilden had to discourage outraged supporters who urged an
uprising if necessary to send him to the White House.
No 1876 medals hailing Tilden’s renunciation were issued, but the
1893 Cleveland medal reverse looked back with his bust and the
downright claim ELECTED AND COUNTED OUT.
No other candidate could make this statement and this was the only
medal recording the shabby outcome of this vigorously contested