A 2-dollar Great Americans Series stamp honoring famed orator and legislator William Jennings Bryan was issued on March 19, 1986, in his birthplace, Salem, Illinois.
William Jennings Bryan was one of America's most popular orators, with a remarkable ability to articulate the hopes and aspirations of his constituents. Mary Baird Bryan, whom he married in 1894, wrote, "Each year when he returned from his tours he had not only spoken to, but had listened to, the mind of America."
He began his career by practicing law after graduating from Illinois College in 1881. Bryan moved to Lincoln, Nebraska, where in 1890 he was elected to two terms in the House of Representatives. In 1894, he was defeated in his bid for a seat in the US Senate.
Noted for his stance against the influence of wealth in politics, Bryan favored a silver monetary standard supported by agrarian interests, contrary to the gold standard fostered by the well-to-do industrialists. His famous "Cross of Gold" speech, made at the 1896 Democratic Convention, won him the Democratic presidential nomination. Bryan declared that "toilers everywhere will answer the demand for a gold standard by saying: You shall not press down upon the brow of labor this crown of thorns, you shall not crucify mankind upon a cross of gold."
Bryan lost the presidential race to Republican candidates William McKinley in 1896 and 1900, and William Howard Taft in 1908. However, he remained a major influence in the Democratic Party, helping Woodrow Wilson win the Party's presidential nomination in 1912. Bryan served as secretary of state under Wilson from March 4, 1913, to June 9, 1915, using his political clout to help pass the "New Freedom" reforms through Congress.
Designed by Tom Broad, the stamps were engraved through the intaglio process by the Bureau of Engraving and Printing and issued in panes of 100.
Postal Bulletin (March 6, 1986).