Bryan: The Folly of Youth


 "About Run Down"
  Cartoonist:  William Allen Rogers
  Source:  Harper's Weekly
  Date:   October 31, 1896, p. 1065

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Complete HarpWeek Explanation:
The cover of the next to last Harper’s Weekly issue before the November 3 election depicts (left-right) Eugene Debs, Congressman Benjamin Tillman, William Jennings Bryan, the Tammany Tiger, and Tom Watson as wind-up toys that have “About Run Down.” In the center foreground, the Bryan figure resembles a demented boy whose “bunco dollar” cymbals are “slightly damaged” and “marked down.” The pedestal refers to Bryan’s speaking tour during which he became the first major-party candidate to electioneer personally throughout the campaign—“Warranted for 90 Days.” His youth and speaking ability had already earned him the nickname, “Boy Orator of the Platte,” although critics observed that the Platte River was very shallow.

On the far left, the toy figure of Debs, the socialist supporter of Bryan, is a clown that has lost its head. He holds a caboose brake wheel, which alludes to his presidency of the American Railway Union. Doubled over in the shadowy background is the devilish figure of “Pitchfork Ben” Tillman. The Tammany Tiger image is the first Harper's Weekly reference in 1896 to the powerful New York City political machine. Although its leadership favored the gold standard, Tammany loyally endorsed the Bryan ticket, but focused its efforts on local races. Tom Watson was a former Democratic congressman (1891-1893) who organized the Populist Party in Georgia and was nominated as Bryan’s vice-presidential running mate by the Populist National Convention in 1896. Here, his toy figure wears a frilly newspaper shirt denoting his editorship of The People’s Party Paper.













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