Sep 27, 2018 - Sale 2486

Sale 2486 - Lot 110

Price Realized: $ 4,000
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Estimate: $ 2,000 - $ 3,000
(PRINTS--CARTOONS.) Political "Blondins" Crossing Salt River. Hand-colored lithograph, 13 1/2 x 18 inches; moderate foxing and dampstaining, mount remnants on verso. New York: Currier & Ives, 1860

Additional Details

A satire of the 1860 political race, in support of the Constitutional Union Party. The four presidential candidates each try to navigate the hazardous river crossing between North and South with their distinctive approaches to the slavery question. Lincoln teeters atop a rail supported only by Horace Greeley and "Abolition Rock," complaining "Confound Greeley! he told me that it was not necessary for this end of my rail to rest on anything, as long as he sat on the other end, and I believed, and am lost!" The Northern Democrat Stephen Douglas and the Southern Democrat ticket of Breckinridge and Lane struggle with the tightropes of non-intervention and slavery extension, respectively. Only Bell and Everett of the Constitutional Union Party have a reliable route across the symbolic river, the "Constitutional Bridge . . . built by Washington, Jefferson and the Patriots of 76." Despite the efforts of this cartoon, the Constitutional Union candidates finished a distant fourth in the popular vote.
None of this quite explains the title to the modern viewer. Charles Blondin was a famous French tightrope walker, and the phrase "going up Salt River" was a common 19th-century metaphor for the road to electoral defeat--the approximate political equivalent of today's "jumping the shark."