William Jennings Bryan — known as “The Great Commoner” and “Keeper of the Faith” — was a Populist, religious, conundrum. He was for the people. He was against big money. He fought, testified, and prosecuted via the Bible — in utter infamy — during the 1925 Scopes Monkey Trial and died five days after the trial ended. Defending his Faith killed him.
William Jennings Bryan was a good son of Nebraska who was nominated three times on the national Democrat ticket — and he lost each time — and his failure to find a national political footing beyond his deeply religious Nebraska grassroots haunted him until his death.
I was able to purchase this fascinating photo of William Jennings Bryan, dated September 18, 1924 — he would be dead 10 months later — the caption reads:
WITH THE COMMENDATION OF THE COMMONER
Photo shows William Jennings Bryan pinning a badge of allegiance (David-Bryan campaign stuff) to Rose Minto’s coat lapel. She is a popular motion picture star in Hollywood who is actively interested in politics.
What is most interesting about the photograph is the use of the black editorial pen on the image. You can see the crop indices, but there are also black ink pen “lines of emphasis” added to Ms. Minto’s hat, Bryan’s lapels and face. You can see the dullness the pen makes when you move the glossy photograph in your hand in and out of reflective light.
At first wink, those added lines look like marks of defamation until you realize, after scanning the photograph for publication here, they must have been an important part of newspaper publishing in 1924 to help the highlights and shadows be more discernable in ink on paper.
Continue reading → An Unredeemable Removal: William Jennings Bryan as the Magnificent Loser