From Log Cabin to White House: Presidential Campaign Biographies
For almost 200 years, the campaign biography has been a staple of the American political process. As one commentator has observed, these books (and pamphlets) bring forth "out of the raw material of the candidate's real life the biography of the ideal citizen of the Republic." That such often borders on the mythical is no concern, for if nothing else, campaign biographers are image makers, and if this is true in favorable terms for those whom they support, it is equally true in the unfavorable for those whom they oppose. Authors have ranged from the now well known (Nathaniel Hawthorne, Life of Franklin Pierce, 1852; William Dean Howells, Lives and Speeches of Abraham Lincoln and Hannibal Hamlin, 1860) to anonymous scribblers and obscure hack writers. In 1884, campaign biographies were true to form: they noted their subjects' families, circumstances of birth, the admirable traits of their parents, an education befitting a man of the people, and their engagement in occupations beneficial to the public as a whole. If such works seem to stretch reality or overlook fact at times, it is only because their sole purpose is to promote.
Included here are two "anti" biographies. One is a spoof, a four-page folder with two blank pages between title page and "the end," a stark contrast to the more substanial public record of Blaine's own book, Twenty Years of Congress. The other, Life of Grover Cleveland: A Record of Incompetency, Demagoguery and Mediocrity is a Republican hatchet job.