In this, our final update of 2022, we feature items from the elections of 1896 and 1900: Bryan vs. McKinley. Apart from sharing first names, the candidates had little in common, either in style or substance. Bryan was a populist who was rural and agrarian in outlook; McKinley a fiscal conservative aligned with the urban industrial elite. One favored free trade and the free coinage of silver, the other favored a protective tariff and the gold standard. Bryan brought a preacher's zeal to the campaign trail, barnstorming the country, while McKinley mostly communicated through surrogates and seldom left his home. Voters opted for the Republican in both elections, though Bryan's style of politics -- and many of his policies -- ultimately would define the 20th century.
Both of these campaigns produced an abundance of memorabilia. The celluloid pinback was introduced in 1896 and soon came to dominate, but the older styles of ribbons and badges still circulated, as well as many novelty badges and mechanicals which are some of the most desirable in the hobby. One could easily focus on either Bryan or McKinley, devoting a lifetime and unlimited capital, and never have an exhaustive collection. The variety is almost endless.