Friday, November 04, 2016

Campaign collectibles from a calmer time: McKinley and Bryan, a study in contrasts

Today's campaign collectible from a calmer time takes us all the way back to 1896 -- my oldest collectible! -- and a study in contrasts.

Ohio Gov. William McKinley squared off against Democrat William Jennings Bryan.

McKinley raised $3.5 million, which at the time was a staggering amount of money, spending five times more than his challenger.

McKinley also didn't leave his home much, conducting a "front porch" campaign, with more than 500,000 people heading to Canton.

Bryan went completely in the opposite direction. He criss-crossed the nation by train appearing before millions of people. He was a famously gifted speaker and it was a novelty for people to see a presidential candidate in person.

He gave more than 500 speeches, including 36 in one day.

McKinley won in a fairly close election, with 51 percent of the vote, though it was pretty decisive in the Electoral College.

McKinley's running mate was Garret Hobart of New Jersey, who, in 1899, became the sixth vice president to die in office. That paved the way for Theodore Roosevelt to be added to the ticket the following year.

Bryan lost to the McKinley-Roosevelt team in 1900, and lost again to William Howard Taft in 1908.

I know the McKinley pin is from 1896 because it includes Hobart, and is actually a stud, designed to fit in a button hole. It's the oldest campaign treasure in my collection.

I can't tell which election the Bryan pin is from, though the color makes me suspect it's one of the later contests.

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