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Curriculum Unit on the Gilded Age in the United States

Grade Levels

High School 9-12



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The People’s Party (also known as the Populist Party) was a short-lived political party that was a result of agrarian unrest. The party was formed on the consolidation of multiple organizations, most notably, Farmer’s Alliance and the Knights of Labor. Formally established in 1892 with the creation of the Omaha Platform , the People’s Party called for numerous resolutions, the free coinage of silver in particular. This would have made it so that both silver and gold would be used as a currency with a ratio of 16:1 (bimetallism), causing more money to be in circulation. In this lesson, we will be focusing on the Presidential election of 1896 as the debate over the gold standard and bimetallism was at its center and divided the nation. More importantly, this election marks the fall of the People’s Party as it found itself aligning with the major Democratic Party due this very issue. In 1896, William Jennings Bryan took the Democratic nomination after he moved the crowd at the Democratic National Convention with his famous “Cross of Gold” speech. Two weeks later, the People’s Party accepted Bryan as their candidate, but chose their own vice president, Thomas E. Watson. His opponent, William McKinley received the Republican nomination quite effortlessly with the help of Marcus Hanna. Both men ran contrasting campaigns and ultimately McKinley won. His electoral votes surpassed Bryan's, but the popular vote came quite close.An energetic campaign failed to sway the electorate, except in the farm belt. The Republicans were returned to power and the Populists were badly split between those who wished to remain with the Democrats and those who wanted to reclaim their identity. This lesson will consist of brief lecture, discussion, and the analyzation of primary documents to promote better understanding.

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lesson plan, Gilded Age, politics


Curriculum and Instruction | United States History

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Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

The Election of 1896: The Fall of the People's Party



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