William Jennings Bryan carried on the shoulders of delegates after giving the speech
Bryan's birthplace in Salem, Illinois
Congressman Richard P. Bland
Attorney Mary Baird Bryan, the wife of William Jennings Bryan
The Chicago Coliseum
A young Bryan
Former Iowa Governor Horace Boies was a major contender for the Democratic nomination for president in 1896.
"UNITED SNAKES OF AMERICA" "IN BRYAN WE TRUST" political satire token of 1896, known as "Bryan Money"
In a 1900 engraving, former Massachusetts Governor William E. Russell is shown preceding Bryan in addressing the convention.
Bryan campaigning for president, October 1896
The 1896 Democratic National Convention
1896 electoral vote results
Judge magazine criticized Bryan for sacrilege in his speech. He is shown with crown and cross, but trampling the Bible.
The United States and its colonial possessions after the Spanish–American War
Bryan campaigning on stage a few months after the speech
Conservatives in 1900 ridiculed Bryan's eclectic platform.
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.
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

The Cross of Gold speech was delivered by William Jennings Bryan, a former United States Representative from Nebraska, at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago on July 9, 1896.

- Cross of Gold speech

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.

- William Jennings Bryan

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Nominees Bryan and Sewall

1896 Democratic National Convention

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Nominees Bryan and Sewall
The convention was held at the Chicago Coliseum
Seating arrangement for delegates at the convention
Former Representative William Jennings Bryan of Nebraska
Former Representative Richard P. Bland of Missouri
Former Governor Robert E. Pattison of Pennsylvania
Senator Joseph Blackburn of Kentucky
Governor Horace Boies of Iowa
Newspaper Publisher John R. McLean of Ohio
Governor Claude Matthews of Indiana
Former Governor Sylvester Pennoyer of Oregon
Former Governor William E. Russell of Massachusetts
Senator John W. Daniel of Virginia
Former Representative Joseph C. Sibley of Pennsylvania
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President of the Maine Central Railroad Arthur Sewall of Maine
Former Representative George F. Williams of Massachusetts
State Associate Justice Walter Clark of North Carolina
Representative Nominee J. Hamilton Lewis of Washington (Ineligible, not yet 35 years of age)
Former Representative George W. Fithian of Illinois
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The 1896 Democratic National Convention, held at the Chicago Coliseum from July 7 to July 11, was the scene of William Jennings Bryan's nomination as the Democratic presidential candidate for the 1896 U.S. presidential election.

Bryan's keynote "Cross of Gold" address, delivered prior to his nomination, lambasted Eastern monied classes for supporting the gold standard at the expense of the average worker.

1896 United States presidential election

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The 28th quadrennial presidential election, held on Tuesday, November 3, 1896.

The 28th quadrennial presidential election, held on Tuesday, November 3, 1896.

McKinley/Hobart campaign poster
Bryan's famous "cross of gold" speech gave him the presidential nomination and swung the party to the silver cause
The National "Gold" Democratic Convention
Palmer/Buckner campaign button
Conservatives said that Bryan (the Populist snake) was taking over (swallowing) the Democratic Party (the mule). Cartoon from "Judge" magazine, 1896.
Bryan's imposing voice and height made a deep impression on many who thronged to hear him.
Bryan traveled 18,000 miles in 3 months, concentrating on the critical states of the Midwest.
The National "Gold" Democratic Party undercut Bryan by dividing the Democratic vote and denouncing his platform.
Map of presidential election results by county
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Results by county, shaded according to winning candidate's percentage of the vote
Map of Republican presidential election results by county
Map of Democratic presidential election results by county
Map of "other" presidential election results by county
Cartogram of presidential election results by county
Cartogram of Republican presidential election results by county
Cartogram of Democratic presidential election results by county
Cartogram of "other" presidential election results by county
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Former Governor William McKinley, the Republican candidate, defeated former Representative William Jennings Bryan, the Democratic candidate.

Bryan, an attorney and former Congressman, galvanized support with his Cross of Gold speech, which called for a reform of the monetary system and attacked business leaders as the cause of ongoing economic depression.

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 defeated his Democratic rival William Jennings Bryan after a front porch campaign in which he advocated "sound money" (the gold standard unless altered by international agreement) and promised that high tariffs would restore prosperity.

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.

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

The Populist Party emerged in the early 1890s as an important force in the Southern and Western United States, but collapsed after it nominated Democrat William Jennings Bryan in the 1896 United States presidential election.

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.

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.

1884 cartoon illustrating the decline of the "Democrat Bourbonism" (represented as an empty jug) by Joseph Keppler

Bourbon Democrat

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Term used in the United States in the later 19th century to refer to members of the Democratic Party who were ideologically aligned with conservatism or classical liberalism, especially those who supported presidential candidates Charles O'Conor in 1872, Samuel J. Tilden in 1876, President Grover Cleveland in 1884, 1888, and 1892 and Alton B. Parker in 1904.

Term used in the United States in the later 19th century to refer to members of the Democratic Party who were ideologically aligned with conservatism or classical liberalism, especially those who supported presidential candidates Charles O'Conor in 1872, Samuel J. Tilden in 1876, President Grover Cleveland in 1884, 1888, and 1892 and Alton B. Parker in 1904.

1884 cartoon illustrating the decline of the "Democrat Bourbonism" (represented as an empty jug) by Joseph Keppler
President Grover Cleveland (1837–1908), a conservative who denounced political corruption and fought hard for lower tariffs and the gold standard, was the exemplar of a Bourbon Democrat

Southerner Woodrow Wilson made a deal in 1912 with the leading opponent of the Bourbons, William Jennings Bryan: Bryan endorsed Wilson for the Democratic nomination and Wilson named Bryan Secretary of State.

Harnessing the energy of an agrarian insurgency with his famous Cross of Gold speech, Congressman Bryan soon became the Democratic nominee for president in the 1896 election.

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

William Jennings Bryan, who also favored bimetallism, won the Democratic nomination on the fifth ballot and went on to lose to Republican William McKinley in the 1896 presidential election.

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

Mark Hanna

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American businessman and Republican politician who served as a United States Senator from Ohio as well as chairman of the Republican National Committee.

American businessman and Republican politician who served as a United States Senator from Ohio as well as chairman of the Republican National Committee.

Hanna's birthplace
Hanna as a boy
Mark Hanna, around 1877
Before McKinley, Hanna tried to make John Sherman president.
Joseph B. Foraker
William McKinley in the 1870s
Although McKinley did not run in 1892, the Duke Tobacco Company considered him a presidential possibility that year and issued a card for him.
A photograph taken of Mark Hanna after his election as Chairman of the Republican National Committee.
William Jennings Bryan, seen during the 1896 campaign.
Bryan's whistle-stop tour during the 1896 campaign was unprecedented. Here he addresses a crowd in Wellsville, Ohio.
McKinley (center) with a delegation in front of the famous front porch
An 1896 cartoon by Homer Davenport depicting McKinley as being firmly in Hanna's pocket.
In addition to giving speeches from his front porch in 1896, McKinley (lower right) gave orders for the conduct of his campaign from the library of his Canton home.
1896 Puck cover showing Hanna (left) and McKinley's Thanksgiving dinner—carving up the presidency.
A promotional button from Mark Hanna's U.S. Senate campaign.
Although the currency question was not as prominent in 1900 as in 1896 this Judge magazine cover shows it still played its part in the campaign.
Theodore Roosevelt, President of the United States (1901-1909)
January 1904 political cartoon depicting Hanna hiding from presidential candidacy
A photo of Senator Hanna taken roughly a year before his death.
Statue of Mark Hanna by Augustus Saint-Gaudens, University Circle, Cleveland
"As they go to the polls" 1900 Homer Davenport cartoon suggesting a cozy relationship among Hanna, McKinley, and the trusts.

The Democrats nominated former Nebraska Congressman William Jennings Bryan, who ran on a bimetallism, or "Free Silver", platform.

Bryan stampeded the convention with what came to be known as the "Cross of Gold speech", decrying the gold standard, which he believed disproportionately hurt the working classes.

Stevenson c. undefined 1892

Adlai Stevenson I

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American politician who served as the 23rd vice president of the United States from 1893 to 1897.

American politician who served as the 23rd vice president of the United States from 1893 to 1897.

Stevenson c. undefined 1892
Stevenson's home in Metamora
Congressman Stevenson
Mary, Julia and Letitia Stevenson
Stevenson's house in Bloomington
Cartoon of Stevenson from the pro-Republican Judge magazine, 10 Sep 1892.
A campaign poster for "Cleve and Steve"

In 1900, he ran for vice president with William Jennings Bryan.

Stevenson, 60 years old, received a smattering of votes, but the convention was taken by storm by a 36-year-old former representative from Nebraska, William Jennings Bryan, who delivered his fiery "Cross of Gold" speech in favor of a free silver plank in the platform.

Benjamin Tillman

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American politician of the Democratic Party who served as Governor of South Carolina from 1890 to 1894, and as a United States senator from 1895 until his death in 1918.

American politician of the Democratic Party who served as Governor of South Carolina from 1890 to 1894, and as a United States senator from 1895 until his death in 1918.

Martin Witherspoon Gary
Harper's Weekly cartoon decrying the Hamburg massacre
Wade Hampton III
Tillman in 1892
Edgefield monument to the governors and lieutenant governors from there, including Tillman and his second lieutenant governor, Washington H. Timmerman. Seen in 2020.
The side of Tillman's grave marker mentions his role in the foundings of Clemson and Winthrop. Seen in 2020.
Senator Matthew C. Butler
Benjamin Tillman as a senator
This 1896 political cartoon suggests that though Tillman's speech might outrage President Cleveland (center), it was just what westerners (center right) wanted to hear.
Harper's Weeklys conception of what the Supreme Court would look like under Bryan. Tillman sits center with pitchfork in hand, to the left of Illinois Governor John Peter Altgeld (rising).
Chicago Tribune cartoon, published November 27, 1906, just before Tillman gave a speech there, wondering whether Tillman will act the part of "Pitchfork Ben" or a dignified senator
Tillman in 1906
Tillman (center left) with Woodrow Wilson
Tillman in 1918, shortly before his death
Tillman's grave, Trenton, South Carolina. Seen in 2020.
Clemson University's Tillman Hall

The stinging oratory of the South Carolina senator brought him national prominence, and with the 1896 Democratic National Convention in Chicago likely to be controlled by silver supporters, Tillman was spoken of as a possible presidential candidate along with others, such as former Missouri representative Richard P. Bland, Texas Governor Jim Hogg, and former Nebraska congressman William Jennings Bryan.

His Cross of Gold speech won him the presidential nomination.