“The Fourth of July at Kansas City”

July 4, 1900

William A. Rogers

“The Fourth of July at Kansas City”

Holidays, Independence Day; Presidential Election 1908; Symbols, Populist Ostrich; Symbols, Tammany Tiger; Tammany Hall, Richard Croker;

Bryan, William Jennings; Debs, Eugene; Gorman, Arthur Pue; Hill, David B.;

No 'Places' indexed for this cartoon.

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This spirited and crowded scene presents delegates on the floor of the Democratic National Convention on July 4, 1900, as they prepare to nominate William Jennings Bryan for president. (The cartoon appeared in the post-dated July 7 issue of Harper's Weekly, published in late June.) Four years previously, the former Nebraska congressman had electrified Democratic delegates with his "Cross of Gold" speech, which defined the policy of "free silver" as a moral crusade and helped propel him to the party's presidential nomination at age 36. In 1900, Bryan was essentially unopposed in his quest for renomination, setting up a rematch against his 1896 Republican rival, President William McKinley.

The cartoon’s message is that the Democratic Party is led by dangerous radicals, crazy ideologues, and corrupt politicians. The figures on the platform include Congressman William Sulzer of New York, waving a Tammany Hall Tiger flag, and Tammany Hall boss Richard Croker, wearing a tiger-striped suit and presiding over the convention. Behind them are Congressman Richard Franklin Pettigrew, a Silver Republican from South Dakota, and Democratic Congressman John Jacob Lentz of Ohio, with his arms crossed. Walking on the right of the stage, a timid Governor Lawrence Vest Stephens of Missouri holds onto the arm of Eugene Debs, the Socialist Party presidential candidate. The context for the image of the two men was a strike by streetcar workers in St. Louis during the summer of 1900. Here, the governor is criticized for not intervening to suppress the strike and is linked to American Railway Union president Debs, who cartoonist William Allen Rogers had first caricatured as “King Debs” during the Pullman Strike of 1894. At the very end of the platform (right) are former senator Arthur Pue Gorman and former senator David B. Hill, pro-gold standard Democrats muzzled by the silverites.

Several of the figures atop the platform were associated with the question of territorial expansion, particularly the U.S. role in the Philippines. They are (left-right): Carl Schurz, a vice president of the Anti-Imperialist League and former senator (1869-1874) from Missouri and secretary of the interior (1877-1881); unknown; William Lloyd Garrison Jr., another vice-president of the Anti-Imperialist League and son of the famous abolitionist; Emilio Aguinaldo, leader of the Filipino rebels; and Edward Atkinson, a prominent economist and a vice president of the Anti-Imperialist League. The Boston-based anti-imperialists were called the Tooley Club after the story of three tailors on London’s Tooley Street whose redress of popular grievances to the House of Commons began, “We, the people of England.” Completing the group are John R. McLean, publisher of the Cincinnati Enquirer and the party boss of the Ohio Democratic machine, and Admiral George Dewey, who captured the Philippines for the U.S. during the Spanish-American War and was briefly a candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination before withdrawing in May 1900.

Identifiable delegates on the convention floor include (counterclockwise from center): hands on the stage, glaring at Croker is Senator James K. Jones of Arkansas, chairman of the Democratic National Committee; atop the ostrich symbol of Populism is James Hogg, a former governor of Texas (1891-1895) who helped convince Tammany Hall to back Bryan in 1900 and was considered by Harper’s Weekly to be a potential vice presidential nominee; Mayor Carter Harrison II of Chicago (“Wide Open” refers to a lack of law and order that allows vice to prevail); in the block of ice (left-right) are members of the Tammany Ice Trust, Augustus Van Wyck, possibly John Carroll (Croker’s deputy), and New York Mayor Robert Van Wyck; standing with a pitchfork under the ice block is Senator “Pitchfork Ben” Tillman of South Carolina; and in front of Tillman is Congressman James D. Richardson of Tennessee, compiler and editor of “Messages and Papers of the Presidents” (which he carries). As the permanent chairman of the 1900 Democratic National Convention, Richardson frowns at Croker for usurping his rightful place at the podium. Former congressman George Fred Williams of Massachusetts, a pro-gold standard Democrat, dodges the falling scarecrow “chairman.”

In the visitors’ gallery, the cartoonist mocks Bryan’s anti-imperialism, antitrust, and pro-free silver positions. A base drum is labeled “16 to 1” (the proposed silver to gold ratio for unlimited silver coinage). Banners praise the Chinese Boxers and Filipino rebel leader Aguinaldo and criticize the trusts, making a visible exception for Tammany’s Ice Trust. The long beards of the men on the front row of the gallery allude to William Peffer, the first Populist to serve in the U.S. Senate (1891-1897).

In November 1900, Bryan's lost to McKinley, 292-155 in the Electoral College and 52%-46% in the popular vote. The defeat was even greater than in the previous election.

For more information, see HarpWeek’s website on Presidential Elections, 1860-1912.

Robert C. Kennedy

“The Fourth of July at Kansas City”
July 14, 2024

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