Tidbit 8

Great Leaders and National Issues of 1896

The presidential election of 1896 was one of the most exciting in U.S. History. It was also one of the first modern elections that involved the entire country with politicians and their allies campaigning all over. The central issue was the money supply. An economic depression had started in 1893 and both parties were soon announcing their plans to end it. The Democratic Party actually split over the issue between those who favored the gold standard and ones who favored free silver. Most Republicans and Democrats supporting Grover Cleveland were in favor of the gold standard which backed all paper currency with gold. Free silver supporters found their champion in the person of William Jennings Bryan. They wanted paper currency to be backed by both gold and silver. More money would be placed into circulation and the economy would improve.

The Election of 1896 was one of the first elections in which financial contributions played a major role. Big business donated millions of dollars to back McKinley and the Republican Party. Although Bryan swept the South and most of the west, William McKinley carried the North and Pacific West becoming the first presidential candidate to win a popular majority since 1872. McKinley defeated Bryan in the Electoral College 271 to 176. This election would also mark the end of the Gilded Age.

This book featured in the above picture as Tidbit 8 is an example of the campaign literature put into print to explain the election to voters of the day. It described past elections, presidents and modern political leaders of 1896. The book also explained the platforms of each party and how they were different. It was published by J.C. Winston & Company on January 1, 1896 and is 644 pages in length.


Presidential Election of 1896 | United States Government | Britannica






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