This is an 1899 Grant Hamilton political cartoon reducing William Jennings Bryan, the Democratic nominee for President in 1896 and in 1900, to the role of a jester. Dressed in a traditional harlequin outfit, Bryan is wilting under the constant heat applied by the Republican party and the economic resurgence of 1897-1899. Since the main platform of the Democratic Party in 1896 and in 1900 was Free Silver, an economic upswing was not beneficial to the campaign strategy. It is important to note that Judge was a major supporter of McKinley throughout his presidency.
Free Silver and the Election of 1900Free 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 After the 1896 election, the United States officially moved to the gold standard, making the support of free silver outdated at best. This reality explains why Eastern Democrats (who had never truly supported free silver in the first place) were 'sickened' by the idea of William Jennings Bryan running on the free silver platform again in 1900, a position that practically guaranteed defeat.
This political cartoon was drawn by Victor Gillam and published by Judge on the cover of its July 1, 1899 edition.
Grant E. Hamilton (1862 - 1926) was an American artist, illustrator, and political cartoonist. Born in Youngstown, Ohio, Hamilton eventually became the art editor for Judge, a position he held for over twenty years. He is remembered as ab influential political cartoonist and was the creator of the 'full dinner pail' campaign slogan used by President McKinley in the 1896 Presidential Election when he was running against William Jennings Bryan. Hamilton also held the position of chief of the government art bureau during World War I.
Hamilton, G. 'Sun Struck.' Judge Vo. 37 No. 924, July 1, 1899 (New York: Judge Publishing Company).
Good. Light soiling. Crease running diagonally through upper left quadrant. Text and cartoons on verso.