From Ohio History Central
The People's Party, also known as the Populist Party, was an important political party in the United States of America during the late nineteenth century.
The People's Party originated in the early 1890s. It was organized in Kansas, but the party quickly spread across the United States. It drew its members from Farmers' Alliances, the Grange, and the Knights of Labor. Originally, the Populists did not form a national organization, preferring to gain political influence within individual states.
The Populist Party consisted primarily of farmers unhappy with the Democratic and Republican Parties. The Populists believed that the federal government needed to play a more active role in the American economy by regulating various businesses, especially the railroads. In particular, the Populists supported women's suffrage the direct election of United States Senators. They hoped that the enactment women's suffrage and the direct election of senators would enable them to elect some of their members to political office. Populists also supported a graduated income tax, government ownership of the railroads, improved working conditions in factories, immigration restrictions, an eight-hour workday, the recognition of unions, and easier access to credit.
During the early 1890s, the Populist Party garnered numerous victories. The party won governors' seats in Colorado, Washington, North Carolina, Montana, and several additional states. The Populists gained control of state legislatures in Kansas, Nebraska, and North Carolina, and they succeeded in electing members to the United States House of Representatives in Kansas, Nebraska, Minnesota, and California.
In 1892, the People's Party formed a national organization. The party selected James Weaver as its candidate for the presidency of the United States. The Populist platform called for government ownership of the railroads and the telephone and telegraph networks. It also demanded the free coinage of silver, an end to private script, a graduated income tax, direct election of senators, additional government and railroad-owned land being made available to homesteaders, and the implementation of secret ballots. The Populists won numerous political offices at the state and local levels, but Weaver finished a distant third to Grover Cleveland in the presidential election. By the election of 1896, the Democratic Party had absorbed many of the Populist ideals, causing the People's Party to cease to exist as a national organization.
In Ohio, the Populist Party remained a relatively insignificant force in politics. Thousands of Ohioans, especially farmers and industrial workers, agreed with the Populists platform, but they made up a minority of the states populace. John J. Seitz, a Populist, ran for Ohio's gubernatorial seat, but he received less than three-tenths of one percent of the votes cast in the election. The party performed significantly better in the gubernatorial race of 1895. Jacob S. Coxey ran as the Populist candidate and received fifty-two thousand votes. It was a respectable showing, but Coxey still lost the election. He ran again in 1897. This time he received just over six thousand votes, illustrating the declining popularity of the Populist Party.
The People's Party in Ohio helped Republicans tremendously, because the Populists tended to draw their supporters from the Democratic Party. To win back their former members, the Democrats in Ohio, as the party did nationally, quickly adopted many of the Populists ideals.