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Election  of  1876


Not only did Grant's popularity plummet during his second term, the nation's economy went south as well. The railroad boom, which emerged immediately after the Civil War, collapsed in 1873. This started a domino effect, which caused banks to close, stock markets to dive, and unemployment rates to soar.

Hayes Ferrotype Hayes Ferrotype From the collection of Ernie Wentrcek
Grant Open to a Third Term

Grant, appearing out of touch with political reality, let it be known that he was available for a third term, but Congress voted against such an idea. From all this chaos, the Democratic Party began their return to political relevance.

The Republicans Select a Dark Horse
The early front runner for the Republican nomination was James G. Blaine of Maine. Others receiving consideration were Oliver Morton of Indiana, and Roscoe Conkling of New York.

Hayes-Wheeler Hayes-Wheeler Jugate
From the collection of Ernie Wentrcek

In the background stood Rutherford Hayes, Governor of Ohio, but he was thought of more as a running mate for either Conkling or Blaine. However, when the dust settled in the Republican nomination process, it was the dark horse, Hayes, who rose to the top of the ticket. The Republicans favored Hayes for several reasons.

  • He had a strong marriage.
  • Hayes graduated from Harvard as a lawyer.
  • He had served as a Union army general during the Civil War.
  • He supported the right to vote for blacks in Ohio, as well as in the south.
  • Hayes had served three successful terms as the governor of Ohio.
Tilden-Hendricks Tilden-Hendricks Jugate
From the collection of Ernie Wentrcek

Democrats Nominate Tilden
At their convention in St. Louis, the Democrats quickly settled on Samuel J. Tilden, who was govenor of New York, as their standard bearer. Tilden was a confirmed bachelor who had become rich as a corporate lawyer and resided in a large mansion near Gramercy Park in Manhattan.

The Democratic Platform
During the campaign season of 1876, Tilden put forth a plan to return the country to "Jeffersonian democracy." The nation's bankers and factory owners were pleased with Tilden's ideas, but rural farmers and common working folk saw little hope in Tilden's candidacy.

The Republican Platform
On the other hand, Hayes, under the Republican platform, called for the nation to embrace the following ideas.

  • Endorse civil service reform as a way of cleaning up the scandalous mess in Washington.
  • Protect the nation's public schools from Catholic meddling.
  • Return the rights to all citizens as a way of bringing back social peace in the South.

Problems at the Voting Booth
On election night it appeared that Tilden had won a close race, but Republicans questioned the voting processes in Louisiana, South Carolina, and Florida, claiming that Democrats in those states had intimidated Republican voters to keep them away from polling places. Each of the three states submitted two "certificates of election" which conflicted. Hayes needed all three of the questionable states to win the presidency, but Tilden needed only one.

Election Results - Hayes Declared the Winner
Hayes became convinced he was the winner and fought hard to prove it. Tilden, too, thought he was the rightful winner, but eventually he began to falter in his efforts. On March 2, 1877, after months of legal wrangling and back room political deals, Rutherford B. Hayes was declared the winner. He received the news while traveling by train to Washington.


1876 Campaign Items From the collection of Ernie Wentrcek - Click on the images to see a larger photo and description.
Rutherford B. Hayes and William A. Wheeler - Republican Party
1876/Hayes ~ Wheeler Newspaper Jugate from The Chelsea Post of Chelsea, Vermont - 2 September 1876
1876/Hayes - Cardboard
1876/Hayes - Cardboard
1876/Hayes - Cardboard
1876/Hayes-Wheeler - Cardboard
1876/Hayes-Wheeler - Ferrotype
1876/Hayes Cabinet Card

Samuel J. Tilden and Thomas A. Hendricks - Democratic Party
1876/Tilden Cabinet Photo
1876/Tilden - Cardboard
1876/Tilden - Ferrotype
1876/Tilden-Hendricks Cardboard
1876/Tilden-Hendricks - Ferrotype
1876/Samuel J. Tilden cardboard pin
1876/Tilden Cabinet Photo

Presidential Candidate Vice Presidential Candidate Party Popular Votes Electoral Votes
Rutherford B. Hayes William A. Wheeler Republican 4,036,298 185
Samuel J. Tilden Thomas A. Hendricks Democratic 4,300,590 184
Peter Cooper Samuel F. Cary Greenback 81,737 0
Green Clay Smith Gideon Tabor Stewart Prohibition 9,522 0
James B. Walker Donald Kirkpatrick American 2,636 0

Source:  Historical Statistics of the United States, 1789-1945, By United States. Bureau Of The Census, p. 289.