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The People’s Party

Like this year, 1890 was an election year. And like this year, there was plenty of drama on

the political scene. Drought in 1890 killed the crops, and Nebraska’s farmers, frustrated by

high interest rates, high railroad freight rates, and low farm prices, vowed, “Since we raised

no crops, we’ll just raise hell.”



The farmers’ hell-raising took political form. Some 15,000 registered voters signed the State

Farmers’ Alliance “declaration of principles” which called for the free coinage of silver,

abolition of the land monopoly, governmental ownership of railroads and telegraph lines, and

appropriate taxation of the wealthy. Based on overwhelming response to the “declaration,” a

People’s State Independent Convention was called to meet July 29, 1890 in Lincoln.



Over eight-hundred delegates crowded Bohanan’s Hall in the Capital City to establish a

platform and nominate a full slate of candidates. John H. Powers of Trenton was selected as

the gubernatorial candidate in a convention that featured great oration and much singing.

Nearly every well-known song of the day was modified by the so-called “Populists” with

words which reflected the political times. “My Country, ‘Tis of thee” was re-written as “My

country, ’tis of thee/once land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land of the Millionaire: farmers with

pockets bare, caused by the cursed snare–the Money Ring.”



The Populists’ protest songs were parodied by Lincoln Journal columnist A.L. “Doc” Bixby,

who offered this ditty as his comment on the movement: “I cannot sing the old songs, My

heart is full of woe; But I can howl calamity/from Hell to Broken Bow.”



Not everyone took the Populists seriously until November, when election returns forced the

pundits to sit up and take notice. Democrat James Boyd was elected governor, but only by a

thousand votes. Populists were sent to Congress, and gained control of Nebraska’s Senate

and House.



The newspapers could call them “hogs in the parlor,” but the Populists were a political force

to be reckoned with in the 1890s.


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Other Publications

The Bachelors’ Protective Union of Kearney

When the Bachelors' Protective Union gave a gala reception for two of its newly married, former members and their brides in March of 1890, the social club for young, ...

U.S. Weather Bureau in 1890s Nebraska

The U.S. Weather Bureau was established by an act of Congress on October 1, 1890. It took over the weather service that had been established in the office of the Chief ...

Canning the Way to Victory

During American participation in World War I the U.S. Food Administration, under the direction of Herbert Hoover, launched a massive campaign to persuade Americans to ...

The Shoemaker’s Ashes

"Edward Kuehl, one of the most peculiar characters that ever lived in Omaha, or anywhere else, was found dead in his bed last night in the back room of his place of ...

Crazy Horse Surrender Ledger Foreward

Red Dog, an Oglala Lakota who lived at the Red Cloud Agency, Nebraska, 1876-77 (Nebraska State Historical Society RG2955.ph).   In the summer of 1876, following the ...

Darryl F. Zanuck

Darryl F. Zanuck Darryl F. Zanuck (1902-1979), a native Nebraskan, produced some of Hollywood's most important and controversial films. He helped found 20th Century Fox ...

The Burlington’s Profitable Pork Special

Nebraska railroads were much concerned with developing an adequate economy in the areas they served. The Burlington, for example, had a long history of caring for the ...

Bungalow Filling Stations

After the giant Standard Oil Company was broken into thirty-four separate companies in 1911, the newly independent Standard Oil of Nebraska dominated the state's market ...

The Bull Fight

This is the perfect time of year for a visit to the old fishin' hole. But a group of fisherfolk from Plainview discovered that this bucolic pastime sometimes has ...

Buffalo Soldiers West

African-American soldiers on the western frontier are the focus of an exhibit at the Nebraska History Museum in Lincoln. Buffalo Soldiers West, on loan from the Colorado ...

Protection for Buffalo

The extermination of the buffalo on the Plains occurred largely between 1870 and 1885. The Nebraska State Journal of Lincoln on February 1, 1874, editorialized in vain ...

Buffalo Hunting

In late October 1877 young Rolf Johnson and three friends left their homes in Phelps County, Nebraska, for a buffalo hunt in northeastern Colorado. The hunt was not very ...
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