Called by some scholars the "most forgotten election in American history," the 1880 presidential election brought out few major issues. Despite the lack of focus on memorable issues, the election saw high voter turnout (78%) and marked partisanship. One of these banners shows portraits of the Democratic candidates for president, Union general Winfield S. Hancock (1824-1886), and vice president, William H. English (1822-1896). The lithographer hedged his bets and also produced textiles in the same style and colors for the Republican ticket of James A. Garfield (1831-1881) and Chester A. Arthur (1829-1886), also shown here. Both presidential candidates were Freemasons, but their membership in the fraternity was not discussed during the campaign. In the end, the election was extremely close. Garfield won by less than 10,000 votes, only to be assassinated a few months later.
Before the 1900s, candidates did not control the messages and images that souvenir makers and textile designers presented during campaigns. In this case, the designer added a canal boat and combination sail and steampship under the Republican candidates to represent Garfield's interest in trade. On the Democratic version, soldiers and a Southern landscape under the portraits highlight Hancock's service as a Union general during the Civil War.