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The Election of 1896 - Gold or Silver?

Ohio Content Standard: Grade 11, History 4; Grade
12, History 3; Grade 12, Economics 7

Duration of Lesson: 2 class periods

Learning Objectives:

  • Students will understand the issues behind the Election of
  • Students will be able to describe the positions of William
    McKinley and William Jennings Bryan.
  • Students will analyze editorial cartoons supporting
    McKinley's candidacy and evaluate the effectiveness of the cartoons.
  • Students will create editorial cartoons supporting Bryan and explain their cartoons.

Summary: This lesson is designed to explore the
Election of 1896 and how editorial cartoons were used to support the
candidates. Students will analyze cartoons supporting McKinley's candidacy and
create cartoons supporting the candidacy of Bryan. Students will determine the
effectiveness in persuading the public's vote.

Materials needed:

for Teacher:

for Students:

Pre-Assessment: Review with students the Election of
1896. A fact sheet is attached to this lesson if needed. A reading may also
be made available to students or assigned from a text book to provide some
background information on this important election.

Instructional Steps:

Day 1

  1. Complete pre-assessment
  2. Provide students with a copy of
    the four attached editorial cartoons and a Cartoon Analysis worksheet.
  3. As a class, assign a number to
    each of the cartoons so that as students complete the Cartoon Analysis
    worksheet, they complete the cartoons in the same order.
  4. Allow students time to analyze
    each cartoon and complete the Cartoon Analysis worksheet.
  5. As a class discuss the
    students' findings. Students will likely point out that these cartoons are all
    in support of McKinley. Ask students who they would vote for after analyzing
    these cartoons and why. Discuss the effectiveness of the cartoons.

Day 2

  1. Review discussion from day 1.
  2. Students prepare their own
    political cartoon in support of Bryan.

Post-Assessment: Students present their political
cartoons, explaining their use of symbolism and the message of the cartoon.

Extension Activities:

  • Students will write a summary of the political cartoon
    they created.
  • Students will write summaries of the two candidates'
    political positions.

"Bryan is the Ablest Worker for Sound Money"

"Shoulder to Shoulder"


"The Deadly Parallel"