Under an 1853 act, depositors could no longer have their metal struck into half dollars.
William Jennings Bryan carried on the shoulders of delegates after giving the speech
John Jay Knox, photographed by Mathew Brady
Congressman Richard P. Bland
Senator John Sherman shepherded the bill through Congress.
The Chicago Coliseum
The standard silver dollar was abolished by the Coinage Act of 1873.
Former Iowa Governor Horace Boies was a major contender for the Democratic nomination for president in 1896.
Medal (by Chief Engraver William Barber) struck for the 1873 Assay Commission. The casket on the reverse honors Philadelphia Mint Assayer Jacob Eckfeldt, who had recently died.
In a 1900 engraving, former Massachusetts Governor William E. Russell is shown preceding Bryan in addressing the convention.
The Trade dollar, intended for use in the Far East, became controversial when circulated in the U.S.
The 1896 Democratic National Convention
The gold standard triumphant: a caricature from Puck magazine, 1900.
Judge magazine criticized Bryan for sacrilege in his speech. He is shown with crown and cross, but trampling the Bible.
The arrows by the date of this half dollar show that it is one made after the Coinage Act increased its weight to 12.5 grams.
Bryan campaigning on stage a few months after the speech
A "Bryan dollar" issued by his opponents to illustrate the difference between the size of a silver dollar and the amount of bullion that could be purchased with a dollar.

The Coinage Act of 1873 eliminated the standard silver dollar.

- Cross of Gold speech

The free silver movement reached its height with the 1896 campaign of former Nebraska representative William Jennings Bryan, who won the Democratic nomination for president after his Cross of Gold speech, which decried the gold standard, electrified the 1896 Democratic National Convention.

- Coinage Act of 1873
Under an 1853 act, depositors could no longer have their metal struck into half dollars.

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Republican campaign poster of 1896 attacking free silver

Free silver

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Major economic policy issue in the United States in the late 19th-century.

Major economic policy issue in the United States in the late 19th-century.

Republican campaign poster of 1896 attacking free silver
"The free silver highwayman at it again" in 1896
Cartoon from Puck showing a silverite farmer and a Democratic donkey whose wagon has been destroyed by the locomotive of sound money
1896 editorial cartoon equating the free silver movement with Frankenstein's monster.
Entitled, "A down-hill movement" by C.J. Taylor in 1896

Free silver was the central issue for Democrats in the presidential elections of 1896 and 1900, under the leadership of William Jennings Bryan, famed for his Cross of Gold speech in favor of free silver.

The debate over silver lasted from the passage of the Fourth Coinage Act in 1873, which demonetized silver and was called the "Crime of '73" by opponents, until 1963, when the Silver Purchase Act of 1934, which allowed the U.S. President and U.S Department of Treasury to regulate U.S silver, was completely repealed by Public Law 88-36.

Croeseid bimetallic equivalence: 1 gold Croeseid of 8.1 grams was equivalent in value to 10 silver Croeseids of 10.8 grams.

Bimetallism

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Monetary standard in which the value of the monetary unit is defined as equivalent to certain quantities of two metals, typically gold and silver, creating a fixed rate of exchange between them.

Monetary standard in which the value of the monetary unit is defined as equivalent to certain quantities of two metals, typically gold and silver, creating a fixed rate of exchange between them.

Croeseid bimetallic equivalence: 1 gold Croeseid of 8.1 grams was equivalent in value to 10 silver Croeseids of 10.8 grams.
Achaemenid bimetallic equivalence: 1 gold Daric was equivalent in value to 20 silver Sigloi. Under the Achaemenids the exchange rate in weight between gold and silver was 1 to 13.
1896 Republican poster warns against free silver.

Bimetallism was effectively abandoned by the Coinage Act of 1873, but not formally outlawed as legal currency until the early 20th century.

Bryan, the eloquent champion of the cause, gave the famous "Cross of Gold" speech at the National Democratic Convention on July 9, 1896, asserting that "The gold standard has slain tens of thousands."

William McKinley

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The 25th president of the United States, serving from 1897 until his assassination in 1901.

The 25th president of the United States, serving from 1897 until his assassination in 1901.

McKinley, aged 15
Rutherford B. Hayes was McKinley's mentor during and after the Civil War.
McKinley in 1865, just after the war, photograph by Mathew Brady
Ida Saxton McKinley
Katherine McKinley
Representative McKinley
'Judge' magazine cover from September 1890, showing McKinley (left) having helped dispatch Speaker Reed's opponent in early-voting Maine, hurrying off with the victor to McKinley's "jerrymandered" Ohio district
Even after his final run for president in 1884, James G. Blaine was still seen as a possible candidate for the Republican nomination. In this 1890 Puck cartoon, he is startling Reed and McKinley (right) as they make their plans for 1892.
McKinley's close friend and adviser, Mark Hanna
Louis Dalrymple cartoon from Puck magazine, June 24, 1896, showing McKinley about to crown himself with the Republican nomination. The "priests" are Hanna (in green) and Representative Charles H. Grosvenor (red); H. H. Kohlsaat is the page holding the robe.
Before the 1896 convention, McKinley tried to avoid coming down on one side or the other of the currency question. William Allen Rogers's cartoon from Harper's Weekly, June 1896, showing McKinley riding the rail of the currency question.
William and Ida McKinley (to her husband's left) pose with members of the "Flower Delegation" from Oil City, Pennsylvania, before the McKinley home. Although women could not vote in most states, they might influence male relatives and were encouraged to visit Canton.
A Man of Mark 1896 Homer Davenport cartoon of McKinley as Hanna's creature, from William Randolph Hearst's New York Journal
1896 Electoral vote results
Editorial cartoon intervention in Cuba. Columbia (the American people) reaches out to help oppressed Cuba in 1897 while Uncle Sam (the U.S. government) is blind to the crisis and will not use its powerful guns to help. Judge magazine, February 6, 1897.
Signing of the Treaty of Paris
Annexation of the Republic of Hawaii in 1898
American soldiers scale the walls of Beijing to relieve the siege of the International Legations, August 1900
1900 reelection poster with the theme that McKinley has returned prosperity to America
McKinley, (right of center) flanked by Georgia Governor Allen D. Candler (front row to McKinley's right) and Gen. William Rufus Shafter, reviewing the Atlanta Peace Jubilee parade, December 15, 1898
McKinley ran on his record of prosperity and victory in 1900, winning easy re-election over William Jennings Bryan.
McKinley entering the Temple of Music on September 6, 1901, shortly before the shots were fired
Artist's conception of the shooting of McKinley
The official Presidential portrait of William McKinley, by Harriet Anderson Stubbs Murphy
Chief Justice Melville Fuller swears in William McKinley as president; outgoing President Grover Cleveland at right
McKinley's tomb in Canton, Ohio
William McKinley Monument by Hermon MacNeil in front of the Ohio Statehouse, Columbus
McKinley Monument by Alexander Phimister Proctor in front of Buffalo City Hall, Buffalo
McKinley on the $500 bill
Louisiana Purchase Exposition stamp (1904) honoring McKinley, who had signed a bill authorizing a subsidy for that upcoming event
McKinley Monument in front of Lucas County Courthouse, Toledo

The United States had effectively been placed on the gold standard by the Coinage Act of 1873; when silver prices dropped significantly, many sought to make silver again a legal tender, equally with gold.

The silverites took control of the 1896 Democratic National Convention and chose William Jennings Bryan for president; he had electrified the delegates with his Cross of Gold speech.

Former Washington, D.C. residence (center) of Richard P. Bland

Richard P. Bland

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American politician, lawyer, and educator from Missouri.

American politician, lawyer, and educator from Missouri.

Former Washington, D.C. residence (center) of Richard P. Bland
Illustration from The Chicago Chronicle of the Bland campaign's convention headquarters at the Auditorium Annex

The Panic of 1873 and Coinage Act of 1873 hit Missouri and other Midwestern farmers particularly hard, leading to foreclosures and closing of businesses dependent on agriculture.

By this time, the full impact of Bryan's Cross of Gold speech began to be felt and understood by the delegates.