In a race between the railroad and the telegraph the "telegraphic candidates," Lewis Cass and William O. Butler, are first to the White House. The artist ridicules Zachary Taylor for his hazy stance on major campaign issues and manages a jibe at the "dead letter" affair as well. (See "The Candidate of Many Parties," no. 1848-24.) Other presidential candidates Henry Clay, Martin Van Buren, and a third (possibly John P. Hale) are also in the race, traveling in a small boat, on a horse, and in a wheelbarrow respectively.
Taylor and his running mate Millard Fillmore ride a locomotive "Non-Comittal. No Principles." along a track toward the White House (left).
Taylor (seated on the engine): "Why Fill, my boy, we must be on the wrong track!"
Fillmore (in the cab): "Yes, but if you hadn't dealt so much in the Mail line, it would have been all right!" The "Mail line" is a reference to the dead letter affair.
Above them, Cass and Butler walk across telegraphic wires to enter a window of the White House. Cass, holding a sword (a memento of his 1812 military service), declares "I seek the people's eternal happiness!" Butler, holding onto Cass's coattail and thumbing his nose, yells back to Taylor "Zack, for old acquaintance sake I should like you to have been on the right side." Butler, like Taylor, served as a general in the Mexican War.
Butler also taunts Van Buren, who ambles along on a scrawny horse at the far right, "O, Marty how are greens?"
Van Buren (in a mock-Dutchman's accent): "O, mine got! Shonny! we pe a great deal mush pehind our time!"
To the right of the train is a wheelbarrow from which protrude the legs and arms of another contestant, probably Liberty party candidate John P. Hale. A black man, representing abolitionism, lies on the ground beside the cart.
Hale: "You d--d lazy niger get up and push along or we shall never get there!"
Abolition: "De lor bless us all, me satisfy I go sleepey!"
Henry Clay, in a sinking boat on the left, laments, "A pretty pass affairs have come to!"
Samuel F. B. Morse had installed the first telegraphic line, linking Baltimore and Washington, in 1844. While still a novelty in 1848, the line may have a metaphorical significance in "The Telegraphic Candidates--&1as the symbolic path between Baltimore, where Cass and Butler were nominated, and Washington.
The print must have appeared in the summer of 1848, between the May convention, which nominated Cass and Butler, and Hale's withdrawal from the race in August. Weitenkampf cites a version of the print in the New York Historical Society with the title "Popular Conveyances, or Telegraphic Dispatches for the White House."