Pinback button promoting William Jennings Bryan for president, 1908. Bastian Bros. Co., Rochester, New York.
Having waited out the 1904 election, Bryan would undertake his third and final crusade for the White House in 1908. Resurrecting the populist oratory that had brought him legions of followers in 1896, Bryan presented himself as the champion and defender of the common man, campaigning under the interrogative slogan, "Shall the people rule?" A skeptical electorate, however, put an end to Bryan's long courtship with the presidency, voting him a distance second behind his Republican opponent, the political novice William Howard Taft.
Though he would never again be taken seriously as a presidential contender, Bryan remained influential in the Democratic Party. Throwing his considerable prestige behind Woodrow Wilson in 1912, the latter appointed him Secretary of State. In that capacity, Bryan promoted the arbitration of international disputes. His strong opposition to American intervention in foreign conflicts led to his resignation in protest when Wilson delivered his war message in 1917.
In his later years, Bryan became identified with prohibition, woman suffrage and religious fundamentalism. He capped his long career by helping to prosecute John Scopes, a school teacher who taught evolution.
We offer an original pinback from Bryan's 1908 campaign, picturing the Great Commoner.