United States and American History: 1896

About the history of the United States in 1896, ragtime music is born, the Supreme Court decides Plessy v. Ferguson upholding Jim Crow laws, gold is discovered in the Yukon.


-The prototype of modern-day comic strips, "The Yellow Kid," by R. F. Outcault, made its appearance in the New York World. There was one major innovation-the dialogue was printed on the yellow shirt of the kid inside the frame instead of being a caption on the outside.

-Ragtime, a blending of West African rhythm and European musical form was born in the Midwest. Its popularity had begun to decline by 1910, but it saw a revival in 1974, due to recordings made by E. Power Biggs, and the musical score for the movie, The Sting. (See: Scott Joplin in Gallery of Great Performing and Creative Artists, Chap. 16.)

May 18 The U. S. Supreme Court, in Plessy v. Ferguson, upheld Louisiana's Jim Crow Car Law and the conviction of Homer Plessy, a New Orleans Negro who had attempted to ride in a white railroad car. The High Court justices ruled that the 14th Amendment had "been intended to abolish distinction based on color, or to enforce social as distinguished form political...equality." This decision found segregation of blacks and whites acceptable as long as both races received equal facilities. In short, separate but equal. It was not until 1954-1955 that the Warren Supreme Court reversed this ruling, stating that in public education, separate was unequal.

Aug. 12 Gold was discovered in Klondike Creek, Yukon Territory, in Northwest Canada. It took 10 months for the news to sweep the U.S., and then 30,000 gold seekers rushed to the area.

Nov. 2 William McKinley defeated William Jennings Bryan in the election for President of the U.S. McKinley won-and the people lost.

Election night at midnight:

Boy Bryan's defeat.

Defeat of the western silver.

Defeat of the wheat.

Victory of the Letterflies

And plutocrats in miles

With dollar signs upon their coats,

Diamond watchchains on their vests

And spats on their feet.

Victory of the custodians,

Plymouth Rock,

And all that in-bread landlord stock.

Victory of the neat.

Defeat of the aspen groves of Colorado Valleys,

The blue bells of the Rockies,

And blue bonnets of old Texas,

By the Pittsburgh alleys.

Defeat of alfalfa and the Mariposa lily.

Defeat of the Pacific and the long Mississippi.

Defeat of the young by the old and silly.

Defeat of tornadoes by the poison vats supreme.

Defeat of my boyhood, defeat of my dream.

Vachel Lindsay

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