Monday, September 11, 2017

"A Study in Hats": William Jennings Bryan and the Presidential Campaign of 1896

“A Study in Hats: William Jennings Bryan Campaign Event, 1896″ | Illinois During the Gilded Age | NIU Digital Library
While his Republican competitor William McKinley conducted a studied “front porch campaign” bringing hand-picked groups of supporters to his Canton, Ohio residence, the 1896 Democratic and Populist presidential nominee William Jennings Bryan set out on a grueling speaking tour. This photograph depicts Bryan (standing at center of platform) at an unknown event on that tour. A powerful orator, Bryan emphasized the inflation of the national currency, principally by the monetization of silver, in his campaign. Many Americans in debt believed that this policy would benefit them because it would make the currency in which they paid what they owed less valuable than the currency they had borrowed. Many creditors supported a currency backed by gold, which they believed stood to retain its value, for the same reason. McKinley defeated Bryan in 1896 by a margin of 271 electoral votes to 176. The Republican found his greatest support in the northeast and Great Lake States, while Bryan swept the South and West, with the exception of Oregon and California. Historians have often characterized the election of 1896 as one of the most pivotal in American history. McKinley’s assassination in 1901 made Vice-President Theodore Roosevelt his successor, and the Republican Party did not cede the presidency until Woodrow Wilson’s victory in 1912.

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