Americans Mistakenly think of the last decade of the 19th century as the “The gay Nineties” symbolized by ball players and Gibson girls. The 1890s was indeed an era of baseball and bicycles but it was also a decade of disturbing gaps between rich and poor.
The 90s featured enormous wealth but also dark tenements, grinding work, and desperate unemployment.
The Farmers' Alliance, formed in Lampasas, TX in 1876, promoted collective economic action by farmers and achieved widespread popularity in the South and Great Plains. The Farmers' Alliance was ultimately unable to achieve its wider economic goals of collective economic action against brokers, railroads, and merchants, and many in the movement agitated for changes in national policy.
The Populist Party was formed by members of the "Alliance", in conjunction with the Knights of Labor, in 1889–1890. The movement reached its peak in 1892 when the party held a convention in Omaha, Nebraska and nominated candidates for the national election.
The Landslide republican victory broke the stalemate in post-civil war American politics. Republicans dropped their identification with the politics of piety and strengthened their image as the party of prosperity and national greatness which gave them a party dominance that lasted until the 1930s.
Another result of the election of the 1896 was a change in political participation. Because the republicans were so dominant outside of the south and democrats so powerful in the South, few states had vigorous two party political battles and less reason to mobilize large numbers of voters.
McKinley’s election marked not only the return of economic health, but also the emergence of the executive as the dominant focus of the American political system.