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APUSH- Unit 7, Chapter 19- The Crisis of the 1890s and "A Cross of Gold"

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Panic of 1893
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The most severe depression faced by the United States up until that point. The panic started when the Philadelphia and Reading Railroad company defaulted on loans in March of 1893 and declared bankruptcy, followed by the National Cordage Company two months later. The collapse of these two major companies caused the stock market to collapse, causing many major New York banks to fail. Another cause was the low prices in agriculture since 1887, which meant that farmers had less purchasing power. This panic demonstrated how connected the American economy had become and within 6 months, 8,000 business, 156 railroads, and 400 banks failed. 20% of the labor force (about 1 million people) lost their jobs, the most up until that point in American history. This panic was also significantly longer than many others, lasting until 1901.
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William McKinley
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Author of the McKinley Tariff, Governor McKinley of Ohio was appointed the Republican presidential candidate in 1896. He would beat out Bryan to become President. The Republican’s at the time opposed the free coinage of silver unless the other leading commercial nations also agreed to the free coinage of silver.
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William Jennings Bryan
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The Democratic and Populist presidential nominee for the election of 1896, Bryan was nominated to that after his famous “Cross of Gold” speech, in which he defended “free silver”. At the time, he was 36, and thus the youngest person to be nominated for President by a major political party. To his followers, he was known as ‘The Great Commoner’ and was a symbol of rural, Protestant, middle-class America. Bryan also helped to establish modern campaigning, by going across the country to speak to an estimated 5 million people.
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Cross of Gold
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The famous speech given by William Jennings Bryan at the Democratic National Convention of 1896. In it, Bryan defended “free silver” with biblical references such as “a crown of thorns” and a “cross of gold”. It is remembered as one of the most famous speeches in American politics and convinced the Democratic Party to adopt a pro-silver platform, causing the Populist Party to join with them.
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Currency Act
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Also known as the Gold Standard Act, this was passed in 1900 and confirmed the nation’s commitment to the gold standard by assigning a specific gold value to the dollar and requiring all currency issued by the United States to adhere to that value.