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"One Of The Earliest and Most Complex Attempts" to Graph An American Presidential Election

Detailed set of Political Maps, prepared to illustrate an article by T. Campbell-Copeland regarding the Presidential Election of 1888. 

The article title is The Battle-Ground of the Presidential Election.  Illustrated in a Series of Charts Showing The Political Complexion of the United States, and the Doubtful States By Counties, published as a Supplement to the October 6, 1888 edition of Harper's Weekly Magazine.  The author takes a meticulous look at the impact of voting on a county by county and regional basis within states. The maps illustrated include:

  • United States
  • Illinois
  • New Jersey
  • Connecticut
  • New York
  • Michigan and Upper Peninsula
  • California
  • Nevada
  • West Virginia

As noted in "Counting up votes" (Leventhal Map Library Digital Exhibition)

Since the late 19th century, map makers have experimented with various graphic techniques for displaying presidential election results. This map is one of the earliest and most complex attempts, published in anticipation of the 1888 election between Republican Benjamin Harrison and Democrat Grover Cleveland.

The stack of bars in each state each represent a prior election year (1872, 1876, 1880, 1884, and 1888) and each is colored to show which party held the presidential majority (black for Republican, red for Democratic). The last bar in each state represents 1888, the year the map was published, and the legend suggests that the reader can fill in each bar with the correct color once the returns are completed.

In addition to the colored bars, this map uses dots to convey even more information. The black and red dots above the bars indicate which party holds the Governor’s seat; the dots below the bars show which party holds the majority in the State Senate and House. The dots with another smaller dot on top are to indicate the party affiliation of the current state senators, and state representatives are indicated by colored dots in the northeast corner of each state boundary.

The author compiles in graphic form a set of comparative charts analyzing elections dating back to 1872, as a means of "calculating probabilities," for the upcoming elections.  He also makes observations concerning the problems with the underlying data upon which he relies and explains that he made best efforts to use only reliable data.

In a Section entitled "Disputes as to the Count," the author summarizes the results in 1876, where the ballot counts in the states of Florida, Louisiana and South Carolina were contested and the outcomes apparently reversed.

The author spends several paragraphs noting the election histories of the various states, discussing at length his observations at a number of local levels.

This is fine example of the obsessive use of statistical and graphic analysis for political prognostication -- and one of the earliest extent statistical/graphic deep dives into American presidential politics.