1899 Gillam Political Cartoon Mocking Populist and Free Silver Election Losses

A Great Joke - Bryan Carried Such a Little Bit. - Main View

1899 Gillam Political Cartoon Mocking Populist and Free Silver Election Losses


Ridicules the supporters of free silver for winning only one election in 1898 - for governor of Nebraska.


A Great Joke - Bryan Carried Such a Little Bit.
  1899 (dated)     12.5 x 19 in (31.75 x 48.26 cm)


This is an 1899 Victor Gillam political cartoon ridiculing the paltry election returns for supporters of William Jennings Bryan and the free silver movement in the elections of 1899, published in Judge magazine. Here, William Jennings Bryan is dressed in a traditional harlequin outfit (a favorite way of depicting him in Judge) and is being lectured by the Republican boss and Senator Mark Hanna about the losses suffered by candidates who supported free silver in the 1899 elections. Other major figures in the Republican party, including President William McKinley, Vice President Theodore Roosevelt, and Senator Thomas Platt of New York, are illustrated enjoying mocking the fool and his belief in free silver.
Free Silver in the United States
Free Silver began as a political issue in 1873 with the passage of the Fourth Coinage Act, which abolished the use of silver as legal tender in the United States. Supporters of free silver wanted to reestablish a bimetallic system and the use of silver dollars at a fixed 16-to-1 ratio against dollar coins minted with gold. The issue reached its peak from 1893 to 1896, when the Panic of 1893 created serious economic problems and high levels of debt for the poorer parts of American society. Free silver advocates believed that access to silver would allow individuals with high levels of debt (mostly farmers) to more easily pay off their loans and lighten the credit burdens.

William Jennings Bryan of Nebraska was a major supporter of free silver and was the Democratic nominee for president in 1896 and 1900, when he ran on a Free Silver platform. He was soundly defeated in both elections, as were other candidates who supported free silver. After the 1896 election, the United States officially moved to the gold standard, making the support of free silver outdated at best. By Bryan's presidential campaign of 1900, free silver as a political issue had become even more of a nonstarter than it had been. Democratic unpopularity, which partially spawned from this issue, led to Republican successes in presidential elections until Woodrow Wilson won the election of 1912.

This cartoon was drawn by Victor Gillam and published in the December 2, 1899 issue of Judge.


Frederick Victor Gillam (c. 1858 - January 29, 1920) was an American political cartoonist, best known for his work in Judge magazine. His work was also published in The St. Louis Dispatch, Denver Times, New York World and New York Globe. He was born in Yorkshire, England and his family immigrated to the United States when Gillam was six year old. His older brother Bernhard Gillam (1856 - 1896) was a famous cartoonist as well, leading Gillam to sign his work 'Victor' or F. Victor' until his brother's death. He was also a member of the New York Press Club and New York Lotos Club. Gillam died in Brooklyn, New York on January 29, 1920. Learn More...


Gillam, V. 'A Great Joke - Bryan Carried Such a Little Bit.' Judge Vo. 37 No. 946, December 2, 1899 (New York: Judge Publishing Company).    


Very good. Even overall toning. Wear along original centerfold. Small closed tears along centerfold professionally repaired on verso. Text and cartoons on verso.