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Lincoln


Nebraska

William Jennings Bryan Home

William Jennings Bryan served two terms in Congress, was U.S. Secretary of State and was the Democratic nominee for President in 1896, 1900 and 1908. His historic residence has been restored to its early 1900s grandeur. The house that once sat atop a hill and offered a "fair view" of the Prairie Capital and its adjacent farms has been incorporated into the Bryan/LGH Medical Center campus and is located about 1 block east of 48th Street on the north side of Sumner Street.

In Detail

William Jennings Bryan influenced Nebraska politics for nearly thirty years. Born in Illinois in 1860, Bryan came to Lincoln in 1887 and set up a law practice. In 1890 he became the first Democratic congressman from Nebraska, serving two terms. Bryan advocated free coinage of silver and won Populist as well as Democratic support. At the age of thirty-six he was nominated for president of the United States at the Democratic National Convention in 1896 but he was defeated by Republican William McKinley. He became the Democratic party's nominee again in 1900 and in 1908 but was defeated both times.

Bryan's influence made the Democratic Party less conservative. He was appointed secretary of state by Woodrow Wilson in 1913, but resigned in 1915 because of foreign policy disagreements. By 1916 Bryan's influence on state politics had waned. Bryan was editor of the Omaha World Herald from 1894-1896. He was known as the "Great Commoner" because of his concern for the working man. In 1901 he founded The Commoner, a Lincoln newspaper, to promote his political views. During the Spanish American War in 1898-99 he served in Florida as colonel of the Third Nebraska Volunteer Regiment. Bryan was a world traveler and writer and was in great demand as a lecturer from 1915-1925. He was also on the Chautauqua circuit.

Bryan was married in 1884 to Mary Elizabeth Baird, and they were the parents of three children. Mary Bryan acquired a law degree to help her husband in this career. She handled most of his correspondence and after his death completed his biography. The Bryans moved to Lincoln from Jacksonville, Illinois in 1887, and built a home at 1625 D Street. Approximately six years later they bought five acres of land about three miles southeast of downtown Lincoln and named the site "Fairview." This was the beginning of a series of land purchases. By 1908 the farm consisted of 160 acres and later purchases brought the total to 350 acres. In the fall of 1901, construction of their new home began at Fairview. The next spring the family sold the D Street home, and that fall they moved into the Fairview mansion. This was their home until 1921, when they moved to Florida because of Mary Bryan's health.

In 1906 Bryan donated a track of land along Antelope Creek, for the establishment of Antelope Park. He deeded the mansion at Fairview, along with ten acres of land, to the Nebraska Methodist Conference in 1921 as a site for a hospital. Fairview mansion still stands today on the grounds of Bryan Memorial Hospital at 50th and Sumner Streets, Lincoln.

Bryan assisted the State of Tennessee with the prosecution in the well-known Scopes evolution trial. Shortly after this trial, Bryan died at Dayton, Tennessee on July 26, 1925, and was buried at Arlington National Cemetery. Bryan was named to the Nebraska Hall of Fame in 1969. A bust of Bryan was placed in the United States Capitol Statuary Hall in Washington, D.C. in 1937.

The Bryan Museum, on the lower level, includes authentic displays and recordings.
Cost: No admission fee.
49th and Sumner streets

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William Jennings Bryan was U.S. Secretary of State from 1913 to 1915
William Jennings Bryan was U.S. Secretary of State from 1913 to 1915

   
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Source: Lincoln CVB, magazineUSA.com
Last modified: 20081008
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