Pinback button promoting William Jennings Bryan for president and Arthur Sewall for vice president, 1896. The Whitehead and Hoag Co., Newark, New Jersey.
The adoption of a free silver plank and the nomination of Bryan, the young Nebraska congressman, by the Democratic convention caused a major rift in the party, alienating many conservatives, including the incumbent Cleveland administration. The nomination of Arthur Sewall of Maine for the Vice Presidency further complicated matters.
Sewall, a shipbuilder, seemed a good choice to attract eastern votes and balance the ticket. After the convention, however, Democrats discovered to their chagrin that Sewall had a poor reputation as an employer. His anti-labor record and great wealth made him anathema with the Pop-Dems, who endorsed Bryan but rejected Sewall, choosing Tom Watson of Georgia, instead. All this played into the hands of Republicans, and William McKinley sailed to victory in November.
This celluloid pinback, one of the first made for a presidential election, features portraits of Bryan and Sewall below the campaign's trademark slogan "16 to 1" (referring to the free coinage of silver). We offer a choice example.