Features: History & Social Studies
The great presidential puzzle / J.A. Wales

An EDSITEment Reference Guide

Electing America’s Presidents

Every four years American citizens make one of their most serious decisions when they vote for president. EDSITEment has lessons plans about some of the most important and dramatic presidential elections in the early decades of the republic, including the contests between John Adams and Thomas Jefferson; John Q. Adams and Andrew Jackson; Martin Van Buren and John Tyler; and Abraham Lincoln and Stephen A. Douglass. The story is brought up to date with the equally historic election of President, Barack Obama in 2004.

These lessons not only give students opportunities to read significant primary sources authored by the candidates and others but also the path to a better understanding of the historical context of these races.

For presidential elections from the late 19th century to the first decades of the 20th century, we recommended a selection of digitized newspaper articles from Chronicling America that provide primary source material on these important but less well-known contests.

In addition, we have highlighted some of the best reference sites for understanding elections and the presidency, including online state encyclopedias supported by NEH.

Legend: (F) Feature | (W) Websites | (L) Lessons

General Reference

The Presidency

EDSITEment Lessons

Revolution and the New Nation
Expansion and Reform
Civil War and Reconstruction
Contemporary United States

Chronicling America: Primary Newspaper Sources for Presidential Elections (W)


J.A. Wales, “The Great Presidential Puzzle,” Puck (March 1880). Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, Washington, D.C.

The cartoon features Senator Roscoe Conkling playing a puzzle game with potential Republican candidates for the 1880 presidential election. James A. Garfield, a Republican and the eventual winner, was a dark horse candidate who emerged only on the 36th ballot at the national convention and does not appear here.