Sandburg's Hometown

October 27, 2014

Presidential Election of 1896 Democratic Poster - William Jennings Bryan (Pres) & Arthur Sewall  (VP)

The Election of 1896

by Barbara Schock

In the fall of 1896 Charles “Frenchy” Juneau and Carl Sandburg went to see William Jennings Bryan get off the train and speak from a platform on Mulberry Street near the Q Depot. When Bryan visited Monmouth, the boys road the cowcatcher of a Q engine to and from the city on a cold October night so they could hear him speak again.

Bryan was running for president on the Democratic ticket. He had been nominated after giving a resounding speech at the convention in Chicago on July 7th. It later became known as the “Cross of Gold” speech and was reprinted in most of the newspapers of the day.

Sandburg read it several times, as well as the other speeches Bryan gave during the campaign. He was convinced Bryan spoke for ordinary people, told the truth and had the best ideas for bringing the nation up from the depths of the depression which had begun in 1893.

Bryan took his message to the people by traveling the network of railroads in the country. From September 11, 1896 until two days before the election on November 3rd, Bryan traveled from town to city to countryside speaking twenty or thirty times a day. The people were interested in the campaign and had read about his speeches in the newspapers. They knew his arguments, but wanted to see and hear him in person.

William Jennings Bryan traveled to twenty-seven of the forty-five states and gave an estimated six hundred speeches to some five million listeners. It was expected that he would win the South, the Rocky Mountain states and rural sections of the Midwest.

William Jennings Bryan at the CB&Q Depot, Galesburg, IL, 1901

The Democratic Party raised about half a million dollars for the Bryan campaign. Their opponents in the Republican Party raised $3.5 million (more than $96 million in today's money and a larger percentage of the national economy than any campaign since).

The economic problems caused by the Panic of 1893 increased political division. Many farmers could not repay their loans. Unemployment was near twenty percent. Women and children were forced to go to work to help support their families, but their wages were half those of men. Nearly twenty percent of children between the ages of ten and fifteen were forced to find jobs in the factories, mills and other places where labor was dirty and strenuous.

Carl Sandburg even had nerve enough to argue with his father about the campaign. He had studied the newspapers and discussed the issues with his friends so he was familiar with the arguments. August Sandburg voted with the Republicans as he always had.

William McKinley, the Republican candidate, sat on his front porch in Canton, Ohio, and greeted the people who came to see him. His wife served cool water to the crowds. McKinley won the election with 7,204,779 votes and 271 electoral votes. Bryan received 6,502,925 votes or 46.7 percent of the popular vote. He carried twenty-two of the forty five states.

Next week: The campaign of William McKinley.


Sandburg's Hometown
Date Title
October 27, 2014 The Election of 1896
October  24, 2014 The Rissywarn
October 20, 2014 The Parlor Stove
October 13, 2014 Ashes to Ashes
October 6, 2014 Jesse James
Sept. 29, 2014 Lester T. Stone, Public Servant
Sept. 22, 2014 It's Who You Know
Sept 15, 2014 Mother of the Illinois Flag
Sept 8, 2014 The Scissors Grinder
Sept 1, 2014 Baseball
August 25, 2014 Howard K. Knowles, Capitalist
August 18, 2014  Alcoholic Beverages
August 11, 2014 Soda Water
August 4, 2014 Sweet Corn
July 28, 2014 Marching Through Georgia
July 21, 2014 The Knox County Fair
July 14, 2014 The Panic of 1893
July 7, 2014 The Rev. T. N. Hasselquist
June 30, 2014 The Knox County Courthouse
June 23, 2014 The Family Photograph Album
June 16, 2014 Parades
June 9, 2014 Lingonberries
June 2, 2014 Where We Live
May 26, 2014 Old Main
May 19, 2014 Rhythms of the Railroad
May 12, 2014 Spring Tonic
May 5, 2014 The Milkmen
April 28, 2014 Gray's "Elegy..."
April 21, 2014 Off to War
April 14, 2014 Swedish Easter
April 7, 2014 A Father's Face
March 31, 2014 Secret Societies
March 24, 2014 George A. Murdock, Merchant
March 10, 2014 Trade Cards
March 3, 2014 The Demorest Medal
February 24, 2014 Rip Van Winkle
February 17, 2014 Cabbage Soup
February 10, 2014 Lincoln's Birthday
February 3, 2014  The Colonel
January 27, 2014 The Lincoln Penny - A Little History
January 20, 2014 Walking to Work
January 13, 2014  A Small Abode
January 6, 2014 Birth of a Poet
December 30, 2013 Christmas 1880
December 23, 2013 Swedish Christmas
December 16, 2013 The Reporter Sees Santa
December 9, 2013 The Coming of Christmas
December 2, 2013 The Fire Boys Talk
November 25, 2013 Galesburg Will Feast on Turkeys and Cranberries - Thanksgiving 1893
November 18, 2013  Mary Sandburg Johnson
November 11, 2013 Carl Sandburg's Bicycle
November 4, 2013  Lace Curtains 
October 28, 2013 The Front Room
October 21, 2013 A Warm Breakfast
October 14, 2013 Marion D. Shutter
October 7, 2013 Cigars and Consumption
September 30, 2013 Forrest F. Cooke & August Sandburg
September 16, 2013 Forrest F. Cooke, Mayor
September 9, 2013 Dusty Streets
September 2, 2013 Typhoid Fever
August 26, 2013 Coffee and Water
August 19, 2013 A Horse! A Horse!
August 12, 2013 Gaddial Scott
August 5, 2013 The Racetrack
July 29, 2013 John Peter Algeld - Part II
July 22, 2013 John Peter Altgeld - Part I
July 15, 2013 Tramps, Tramps, Tramps
July 8, 2013 Lady Liberty
July 1, 2013 Galesburg's Fourth
June 24, 2013 John H. Finley
June 17, 2013 The World's Columbian Exhibition
June 10, 2013 Fruit Short-Cake
June 3, 2013 Horatio Alger, Author
May 27, 2013 Memorial Day, 1887
May 20, 2013 Professor Jon W. Grubb
May 13, 2013 Beginnings of Lombard University
May 6, 2013 Young Sandburg’s View of Lombard College
April 29, 2013 Thinking
April 22, 2013 Robert Colville, Master Mechanic
April 15, 2013 The Galesburg Opera House
April 8, 2013 Grocery Stores and Sample Rooms
April 1, 2013  A Hearty  Breakfast 
March 25, 2013  The Lost Wallpaper Legend 
March 18, 2013 Martin G. Sandburg
March 4, 2013 The Edison Talking Machine
February 25, 2013 Joe Elser, Civil War Veteran
February 18, 2013 Remember the Maine...
February 11, 2013 Lincoln's Birthday
February 4, 2013 Curiosity