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Puck Vol. 40, No. 1015
August 19, 1896
The 1896 election pitted Republican William McKinley vs. Democrat William Jennings Bryant. McKinley was a Civil War veteran, and used that heritage to help him secure victory in 1896. Bryan was a political unknown and rather young, still in his thirties. Bryan's main platform was the free coinage of silver, outlined in one of the most famous speeches of the late 19th century, "Cross of Gold." His points were viewed by some as naïve and unsettling, the trademarks of rash youth. Bryan's campaign was conceived by opponents as being sectional and regional, pitting the rural, the poor, and the immigrant against the urban, native, and the middle-class/rich. This cartoon is imploring the two main classes, Business and Labor, to stand against the onslaught of the tantrum-throwing William Jennings Bryan. The interests they are protecting are the problems that would arise from switching to silver coinage. The imposed inflation would decrease the real value of wages and other standard incomes, like life insurance payouts, and business debts. Consider, however, if business was willing to make corresponding wage increases, then labor would actually benefit from Bryan's system. This cartoon ignores that step, and instead places the two classes side by side in common effort.
The Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum at Ohio State University