Arts / Elections / History / Politics

Digitized history says people were just as anxious about the 1896 election

Check out this very, very cool project by the Brooklyn Public Library.

Important moments through the years. (Images via Brooklyn Public Library)

The headlines of the day in the Brooklyn Eagle on Nov. 3, 1896 were the following:

  • INDICATIONS OF AN ENORMOUS VOTE: Reports from All Over the Country Indicate Unprecedented Interest
  • CANDIDATES GO TO THE POLLS: Major McKinley Declines an Escort to the Voting Booth, Bryan Votes at Lincoln, Neb.
  • BRISK WORK AT THE POLLS: The Vote in Brooklyn was Surprisingly Early, Two-Thirds Cast by Noon

Spoiler alert: McKinley won.

Spoiler alert: McKinley won. (Screenshot)

Thanks to a terrific project by the Brooklyn Public Library called Newsstand, readers can go back to any date in history and read restored, digitized copies of the Brooklyn Eagle, from its start in the antebellum days of 1841 up to present. If that weren’t enough you can also peruse the Brooklyn Life.
On a day like today, with Trump and Clinton dominating the news, we thought we’d take a trip back in time to see how other years’ elections felt. The only thing that was different was the copy.

From Maine to California the dispatches forecast that this is the banner presidential election in the history of the country so far as the number of ballots is concerned—chances for an early decision.

The 1896 election was between Republican William McKinley and Democrat William Jennings Bryan. In the election, McKinley was favored by the wealthy, businessmen and professionals, and was popular in the East Coast and New England and in California. Bryan was a fiery populist, who believed the elites kept small farmers and rural, poor Americans down by their insistence on a tight monetary policy.
Jennings Bryan’s “Cross of Gold” slogan became a rallying cry for his supporters, who wanted to move off the gold standard and favored some inflation. According to David Frum in the Wall Street Journal, Bryan used his “Communication skills to upend well-established political hierarchies. … He was only 36, but his gorgeously theatrical oratory captured the imagination of Democratic audiences, who seethed against the conservative economic policies imposed by a Democratic president, Grover Cleveland.”
In the end, McKinley won. The electoral college map of the day didn’t look too different than it has in recent years.
The library’s archives are a joint partnership between it and Newspapers.com. In them, you can save articles, share clips and just browse your face off.
Also, for what it’s worth, Cleveland lost the 1896 baseball championship that year, too. They got swept by the .401 hitting Hughie Jennings and his Baltimore Orioles.

Companies: Brooklyn Public Library
Series: Brooklyn

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