Friday, September 23, 2005

Ch. 13, Section 4, Farmers and the Populist Movement

Ch. 13, Section 4, Farmers and the Populist Movement

Section 4 Overview
1. To identify the problems farmers faced and their cooperative efforts to solve them.
2. To explain the rise and fall of the Populist Party.

Skillbuilders: Interpreting political cartoons p. 402, Interpreting charts, p. 404.

Critical Thinking

Focus & Motivate
Starting With the Student
Read a biography of Mary Elizabeth Lease and discuss how she might have come to be such a vocal promoter of the farmers' cause.

Objective 1 Instruct
Farmers Unite to Address Common Problems

Starting With the Student
Discuss the problems farmers faced. In groups, create a flow chart describing the development of those problems. A sample chart is enclosed:
Crops prices fall.>Farmers mortage farms to buy more land.>Banks take over mortgages and farmers lose land.>

Discussing Key Ideas
  • Farmers go into debt because of deflation and high shipping costs and demand monetary reform.
  • Farmers form organizations to address their common problems.

History From Visuals

Political Cartoons

Reading the Cartoon

The people who form the railroad ties are businessmen and bankers who supported the railroad interests.


Write a title or caption for the cartoon.

Historical Spotlight

The Colored Farmers' National Alliance

Critical Thinking: Analyzing

Why were landowners and suppliers more hostile to black farmers than to white farmers?

Objective 2 Instruct

The Rise and Fall of Populism

Discussing Key Ideas

The Populist Party provides a political power base for the farmers' alliances.

  • The Populist Party proposes financial and governmental reforms.
  • Farmers suffer increasingly as a general business collapse deepens into an economic depression.
  • The metal backing paper currency becomes a major issue in the 1896 presidential campaign.
  • The Populist Party and the Democrats both back William Jennings Bryan, who favors a bi-metal policy.
  • Bryan is defeated and the Populist Party collapses.

Economic Background

Boom or Bust?

In pairs, students can diagram the boom and bust cycle. Their diagram might look something like this.

Wages rise>Prices rise>Demand falls>Profits decrease>Business activity falls>Incomes fall>Prices fall>Demand increases>Companies begin to recover>Production increases>back to wages rise

More About. . .

U.S. Currency

The U.S. monetary system was established by the Coinage Act of 1792. It was a bimetallic system in which both gold and silver were used as legal tender. The government began issuing paper currency during the Revolutionary War, but it printed so much that the money became almost worthless. It was not until the 1860s that the government again issued paper money, "greenbacks," that could not be exchanged for gold or silver. Paper currency is no longer thought to require the backing of metal.

Key Player

William Jennings Bryan

Critical Thinking


Students will be asked to consider the paradox of Bryan's fame as an orator while many of the causes he supported did not succeed.

History from Visuals

Gold Bugs and Silverites

Reading the Chart

First read the chart vertically to understand how the Gold Bug and Silverite positions may lead respectively to deflation and inflation. Then read the chart horizontally to compare characteristics of the two positions.


What categories might be added to the chart?

History From Visuals

Political Cartoon

Reading the Cartoon

What are the central symbols in the cartoon? The crown of thorns and the cross of gold referred to in Bryan's speech are the central symbols.


What are the religious meanings of the crown of thorns and the cross? Explain how Bryan adapted this meaning to suit his political purposes.


Although the Populist Party collapsed with McKinley's election as president, efforts to remedy both the social and political problems continued into the 20th century.

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