5 Facts You May Not Have Known About William Jennings Bryan

November 22, 2019

Most of us are familiar with William Jennings Bryan because of the Scopes trial or our
connection to Bryan College, but here are some facts that you may not have known about
Bryan’s personal life and legacy:

1. Bryan’s wife, Mary, greatly helped Bryan’s political career. Bryan helped her study law, and
she was admitted to the bar in 1888. She used her training to support Bryan, helping him with his
speeches and editing his writing.

2. Bryan was the first political candidate to campaign in a car, and the first candidate to use audio media
on a large scale. He recorded speeches that could be played on phonographs, which helped get
his message out to a larger audience. He sold over 600,000 recordings of his speeches. (Bonus
fact: Bryan wrote all of his own speeches and often spoke without notes.)

3. Bryan and his family went on an 11-month world tour, which he paid for by giving speeches
and writing weekly articles documenting his travels and his political and religious observations.
During this tour, the emperor of Korea gave them two bronze lions, which for nearly 20 years
“guarded the front door” of their homes in Nebraska, Washington, DC; and Florida.

4. Ernest Hemingway, Thomas Wolfe, Harper Lee, and John Steinbeck all made references to
Bryan in their books. Bryan has also been mentioned in poetry, and he appears as a character in
Douglas Moore’s opera, The Ballad of Baby Doe.

5. There was some dispute over where Bryan College should be built – Chicago, Miami, and
Dallas were also considered.

Thanks to Corinne Livesay and her book, William Jennings Bryan: A Difference Maker,
for these fun facts!

William Jennings Bryan: A Difference Maker tells the story of our college namesake who made a
significant impact on politics, religion, education, and culture during a rapidly changing era in
American history. Using many photos, timelines, tables, and charts, as well as a media-rich Web
Companion, the book brings Bryan’s story to life.  Consider ordering it as a Christmas gift for
the history buff in your family! Doing so will support the Bryan Opportunity Scholarship
Program.  Order your copy here!