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When The Twain …… Met

March 2023
1min read

First the engines posed, then drew a mile apart; they headed for each other, the crews jumped clear, and the crowd leaned forward …

There are manv ways of running election campaigns in the United States. You can kiss babies, stand on your head, play the guitar, treat the electorate to cigars and hard cider, promise anything you like—or you can simply stay home on the front porch. As an occasional novelty you can discuss the issues, but stunts are more spectacular. Consider, for example, the event recorded here, which took place at Elyria, a short ride in the electric cars from Denver, Colorado, in 1896. Seeking to raise money for the Free Silver” presidential campaign of William Jentnngs Bryan, Ins supporters in the “Silver State” staged this fine engine collision between two old narrow-gauge steamers of the Union Pacific Denver & Gulf Railway. On hand was the famous western photographer, William H. Jackson, whose pictures (now in the Ted James Collection) show the whole dramatic sequence. Ju derision of the Republican candidate and his manager, the locomotives were renamed “Bill McKinley’ and” Mark Hanna.” A mile of special track was laid in a fenced-in area, with seats erected at the expected meeting point—but alas for well-laid plans! At the start, the Mark Hanna skidded on the rails. As a result, the Bill McKinley thundered past the paying spectators and had nearly reached the entrance to the grounds before it hit the other engine and filled the air with the roar of steam and flying metal. It was the standees and the free crowd outside the gate that got the best show . FIFTY CENTS FOR A FIZZ … A SPFCTACULAR DISAPPOINTMENT! cried the headline in the Rocky Mountain News the next day. It was perhaps not a case of cause and effect, but the real McKinley licked Bryan in the election that fall .

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