First Advisor

Gordon B. Dodds

Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.) in History






Union Bimetallic Party of Oregon, Oregon -- Politics and government -- 1859-1950



Physical Description

1 online resource (158 pages)


On March 23 - 26, 1898, Populists, Democrats, and Silver Republicans of Oregon held their state conventions in Portland and agreed upon a common platform and a common state ticket for the elections of June 6, 1898. None of the available works on Oregon history explains that this fusion was the culmination of a two-year effort to unite the reform forces the state. This thesis tries to fill the gap. Because of the lack of secondary works on the subject, the thesis is based mainly on two sources: newspapers on microfilm, especially The Oregonian; and the unpublished correspondence of party chairman Cooper (January, 1897 - February, 1898, in the Oregon Historical Society). It will be seen that the party was at first a local party, dealing especially with economic problems, and then broadened its scope to embrace Populist principles.

The first chapter deals with the national background. It briefly reviews the currency legislation since 1834 and the economic situation, especially of farmers, in the wake of the panic of 1893. The National Silver Party is discussed, because the Union Bimetallic Party of Oregon may have been intended as a state branch of this national organization. The terms "free coinage of silver" and "bimetallism" are explained, and the demand for direct legislation, arising in the early 1890's, is alluded to with special reference to Oregon.

In the second chapter the origin of the Union Bimetallic Party is traced to splits over the money question within the Republican Party of Yamhill County. After the new party had scored a complete victory in the county elections, it was expanded into other counties; the first state convention was held on July 9, 1896. The presidential election of November, 1896, and the ''hold-up''-legislature of 1897 are dealt with as far as members of the Union Bimetallic Party were involved.

After months of inactivity the party was revitalized in the spring of 1897 and further expanded in the following months. Emphasis is laid upon the internal debate over union or fusion, e.g., whether the old party organizations should .be dissolved or maintained. This question was decided in January, 1898, in favor of the latter solution and the Union Bimetallic Party was thus reduced to a coordinating body and practically became superfluous.

The fifth chapter deals with several forces which were detrimental to the Union cause: the return of prosperity since the spring of 1897; the chronic lack of funds; the rumors about alleged secret deals with Mitchell Republicans and Pennoyer Democrats; and the resistance of Mid-road Populists.

The proceedings of the state conventions of 1898 are described. As far as the campaign is concerned, only the impact of the war with Spain is alluded to. On June 6, 1898, the Union forces suffered a severe defeat; some reasons for this defeat are given.


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