Populist Cartoons: An Illustrated History of the Third-Party Movement of the 1890s

Worth Robert Miller


This extensive and rich treasure trove of cartoons from Populist newspapers of the 1890s tells the story of one of the most successful third-party movements in American history.

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This extensive and rich treasure trove of cartoons from Populist newspapers of the 1890s tells the story of one of the most successful third-party movements in American history. The arguments made in these illustrations resonated with late nineteenth-century readers, as evidenced by the continued use of the term Populist. This selection of cartoons and Worth Robert Miller’s commentary give the common man’s perspective on the politics of corporate greed in terms still relevant today.

Cartoons published in partisan newspapers became the YouTube of American politics in the late nineteenth century. In this volume, Bob Miller has compiled an unmatched collection of Populist cartoons through which the Farmers’ Alliance and the People’s Party spread their message in the 1880s and 1890s. Along with that collection, Miller gives us the first thorough account of the Populist cartoonists themselves and explains how the changing technology of newspaper printing and cartoon making allowed the Populists to explain their beliefs to audiences in rural communities across the country.

—Robert C. McMath, author of American Populism

The pictures in Miller’s Populist Cartoons are worth the price of the admission. Virtually unknown, one of the missing links in any history of American political cartooning, they include some of the most unsparing works ever put on paper—which, needless to say, makes them all the more valuable. The pictures afford the richest possible expression of the actual feel of Populist anger. Students of the period will find this collection irreplaceable.

—Mark Wahlgren Summers, author of
A Dangerous Stir and Party Games



The Third-Party Tradition During the Gilded Age
The Populist Critique of Gilded Age America
The Campaign of Education
Third-Party Action
America’s Destiny: Apocalypse or Utopia
The Battle of the Standards
The Demise of the People’s Party
The Role of Cartoons in the Populist Revolt

Works Cited

About the Author



Worth Robert Miller is professor of history at Missouri State University. He is a specialist on the Gilded Age and Progressive Era, and has written extensively on the Populist movement of the 1890s. His publications include Oklahoma Populism: A History of the People’s Party in the Oklahoma Territory (1987), “A Centennial Historiography of American Populism” (Spring 1993), “The Lost World of Gilded Age Politics” (January 2002), and “Building a Populist Coalition in Texas, 1892–1896” (May 2008).


Miller's book is a scholarly contribution to the heretofore largely non-pictorial historiography of Populism. However, its primary and most valuable use will be as a classroom resource. The author has written an eminently teachable work on political cartoons as primary sources that undergraduate and graduate instructors will find adaptable to a variety of courses on the Gilded Age and Progressive Era. It deserves wide circulation.

The Journal of the Gilded Age
and Progressive Era
, July 2012

Culling cartoons out of dozens of People’s Party newspapers and other publications and using graphics software to clean up the images, Miller presents over one hundred forty of these primary documents. It is the largest such collection ever assembled. The cartoons themselves are fascinating, simultaneously simplifying Populist messages and complicating conventional understandings of politics, finance, and justice and should provide ample fodder for classroom discussion and debate.

Agricultural History, Spring 2012

These cartoons may offer a not-so-distant mirror for our own discontents, showing us a take-back America sentiment provoked by plausible and groundless anxieties that have kin in our own moment.

The Journal of Southern History, May 2012

Drawing upon the more than one thousand cartoons he has collected in his extensive research on Populism, Miller provides a short narrative history of the Populist Party and analysis of approximately 150 cartoons, which are attractively reproduced in Populist Cartoons.... [this] volume deserves a wide readership and should encourage serious reflection upon our own troubled times.

Kansas History, Winter 2011–12

Drawing from extensive archives of Populist newspapers from Kansas, Texas and Colorado, this volume sets out to tell the history of the Populist movement of the 1890s through political cartoons. Noting that the essential anti-elitist nature of the movement did not lend itself to keeping, nor bequeathing to universities, large amounts of archival material, the author presents cartoons as a media that explained the movement to the masses and provided a clear distillation of many key Populist positions. The work includes numerous cartoons, each with an explanatory paragraph, and each chapter begins with a narrative that lays the groundwork for each set of illustrations.

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