Republican campaign poster of 1896 attacking free silver
William Jennings Bryan carried on the shoulders of delegates after giving the speech
"The free silver highwayman at it again" in 1896
Congressman Richard P. Bland
Cartoon from Puck showing a silverite farmer and a Democratic donkey whose wagon has been destroyed by the locomotive of sound money
The Chicago Coliseum
1896 editorial cartoon equating the free silver movement with Frankenstein's monster.
Former Iowa Governor Horace Boies was a major contender for the Democratic nomination for president in 1896.
Entitled, "A down-hill movement" by C.J. Taylor in 1896
In a 1900 engraving, former Massachusetts Governor William E. Russell is shown preceding Bryan in addressing the convention.
The 1896 Democratic National Convention
Judge magazine criticized Bryan for sacrilege in his speech. He is shown with crown and cross, but trampling the Bible.
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.

In the address, Bryan supported bimetallism or "free silver", which he believed would bring the nation prosperity.

- Cross of Gold speech

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.

- Free silver
Republican campaign poster of 1896 attacking free silver

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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.

In 1792, Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton proposed fixing the silver to gold exchange rate at 15:1, as well as establishing the mint for the public services of free coinage and currency regulation "in order not to abridge the quantity of circulating medium."

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

He was president during the Spanish–American War of 1898, raised protective tariffs to boost American industry, and rejected the expansionary monetary policy of free silver, keeping the nation on the gold standard.

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.

William Jennings Bryan

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American lawyer, orator and politician.

American lawyer, orator and politician.

Bryan's birthplace in Salem, Illinois
Attorney Mary Baird Bryan, the wife of William Jennings Bryan
A young Bryan
"UNITED SNAKES OF AMERICA" "IN BRYAN WE TRUST" political satire token of 1896, known as "Bryan Money"
Bryan campaigning for president, October 1896
1896 electoral vote results
The United States and its colonial possessions after the Spanish–American War
Conservatives in 1900 ridiculed Bryan's eclectic platform.
1900 electoral vote results
William J Bryan in 1906 as Moses with new 10 commandments; Puck 19 sept 1906 by Joseph Keppler. Tablet reads: l-Thou shalt have no other leaders before me. II—Thou shalt not make unto thyself any high Protective Tariff. Ill—Eight hours, and no more, shalt thou labor and do all thy work. IV—Thou shalt not graft. V—Thou shalt not elect thy Senators save by Popular Vote. VI—Thou shalt not grant rebates unto thy neighbor. VII—Thou shalt not make combinations in restraint of trade. VIII—Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's income, but shall make him pay a tax upon it. IX—There shall be no more government by injunction. X—Remember Election Day to vote it early. P.S.— When in doubt, ask Me.
Bryan speaking at the 1908 Democratic National Convention
Presidential Campaign button for Bryan
1908 electoral vote results
Bryan attending the 1912 Democratic National Convention
Bryan served as Secretary of State under President Woodrow Wilson
Cartoon of Secretary of State Bryan reading war news in 1914
Villa Serena, Bryan's home built in 1913 at Miami, Florida
Charles W. and William J. Bryan
At the Scopes Trial, William Jennings Bryan (seated, left) being questioned by Clarence Darrow (standing, right).
Statue of Bryan on the lawn of the Rhea County courthouse in Dayton, Tennessee

At the 1896 Democratic National Convention, Bryan delivered his "Cross of Gold" speech which attacked the gold standard and the eastern moneyed interests and crusaded for inflationary policies built around the expanded coinage of silver coins.

Under an 1853 act, depositors could no longer have their metal struck into half dollars.

Coinage Act of 1873

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General revision of laws relating to the Mint of the United States.

General revision of laws relating to the Mint of the United States.

Under an 1853 act, depositors could no longer have their metal struck into half dollars.
John Jay Knox, photographed by Mathew Brady
Senator John Sherman shepherded the bill through Congress.
The standard silver dollar was abolished by the Coinage Act of 1873.
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.
The Trade dollar, intended for use in the Far East, became controversial when circulated in the U.S.
The gold standard triumphant: a caricature from Puck magazine, 1900.
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.

The matter became a major political controversy that lasted the remainder of the century, pitting those who valued the deflationary gold standard against those who believed free coinage of silver, an inflationary policy, to be necessary for economic prosperity.

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.

Economist Edward Kellogg was an early advocate of fiat money.

People's Party (United States)

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Left-wing agrarian populist late-19th-century political party in the United States.

Left-wing agrarian populist late-19th-century political party in the United States.

Economist Edward Kellogg was an early advocate of fiat money.
Charles W. Macune, one of the leaders of the Farmers' Alliance
People's Party candidate nominating convention held at Columbus, Nebraska, July 15, 1890
1892 People's Party campaign poster promoting James Weaver for President of the United States
1892 electoral vote results
In 1896, the 36-year-old William Jennings Bryan was the chosen candidate resulting from the fusion of the Democrats and the People's Party.
People's Party campaign poster from 1904 touting the candidacy of Thomas E. Watson

In the Rocky Mountains, Populist voters were motivated by support for free silver (bimetallism), opposition to the power of railroads, and clashes with large landowners over water rights.

Meeting later in the year, the 1896 Democratic National Convention nominated William Jennings Bryan for president after Bryan's Cross of Gold speech galvanized the party behind free silver.