Texas Joins the Battle
Cartoon, Houston Daily Post, March 30, 1896

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The Grand Cake Walk

Monetary policy was the major economic issue of the 1890s. "Sound money" advocates believed the United States should adhere to the gold standard in backing U.S. currency. Others believed that currency deflation had been ruinous for farmers and pressed for unlimited coinage of silver money to create inflation. The Farmer's Alliance was firmly in the silver camp. In 1890, they backed James S. Hogg in his successful campaign to become the first progressive to be elected governor of Texas.

The more militant members of the Alliance were dissatisfied with Hogg and launched the Populist Party in 1891. Especially after the Panic of 1893, interest in the party grew. In the election of 1894, the Populist candidate for governor drew 36 percent of the vote, and the party elected two senators and twenty-two members of the Texas House. The zenith of the movement came in 1896. As this cartoon shows, while the silver and gold factions of the Democratic Party are wooing voters, the Populist is walking away with the cake. The woman as symbol of Democracy was an ironic choice, since women were not permitted to vote in Texas.

The Populist candidate for Texas governor received 44 percent of the vote. On the national level, the Democratic Party nominated a Populist, William Jennings Bryan, for president. Bryan received 46 percent of the vote. It would prove to be the high-water mark for the Populists. With Bryan's defeat and economic recovery, the Populist Party had withered by the end of the century.

Cartoon, Houston Daily Post, March 30, 1896. Prints and Photographs Collection, Texas State Library and Archives Commission. #1981/132-23.

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Page last modified: August 24, 2011