These two woodcuts were produced in support of William Henry Harrison (1773-1841) during the presidential campaign of 1840. They are illustrations from a pamphlet called The contrast, or, Plain reasons why William Henry Harrison should be elected President of the United States, and why Martin Van Buren should not be re-elected.
The woodcuts are entitled "Harrison and Prosperity" and "Van Buren and Ruin." Each woodcut measures 8.5 by 5 inches (21.6 by 12.7 cm).
Historians have described the 1840 campaign as the first modern political campaign. Harrison broke with tradition and campaigned actively for president on the Whig ticket. The log cabin became the symbol of Harrison's campaign when his Democratic opponents ridiculed him, saying he would be content to spend his days in a log cabin drinking hard cider. Harrison's supporters turned this insult around to portray Harrison as a man of the people.
William Henry Harrison (1773-1841) was a member of a prominent Virginia family who made a career of the army where he served as aide-de-camp to Mad Anthony Wayne during the Battle of Fallen Timbers. After moving to Ohio, he became secretary of the Northwest Territory and served as the territory's first representative to Congress. In 1801, Harrison became governor of the Indiana Territory and served in that position for 12 years. As governor, one of Harrison's major responsibilities was to obtain title to Indian lands to accommodate white settlement. Harrison achieved his greatest fame during the Battle of Tippecanoe in 1811. He was planning an attack on an Indian settlement known as Prophet's town. Instead, the Indians attacked Harrison's camp on the Tippecanoe River. Harrison's troops repulsed the Indians, but suffered almost 200 dead and wounded. During the War of 1812, Harrison commanded the Army of the Northwest and attained the rank of brigadier general. In 1813, he defeated the combined forces of the British and Americans Indians at the Battle of the Thames, where chief Tecumseh was killed.
Harrison resigned his commission in 1814 and returned to Ohio. He entered politics and served in both houses of the U. S. Congress and the state senate. Supporters suggested Harrison as a possible candidate for vice president in 1836, but he swore he would never accept that office and campaigned for president. Because there were three Whigs running for president, Democrat Martin Van Buren won the election. Still, Harrison gained enough support to make him a viable candidate for the 1840 election. Harrison won the election, but contacted pneumonia and died after only one month in office.