Free silver became a popular issue soon after the Panic of 1873, and it was a major issue in the next quarter century. The hard times of 1873–78 stimulated advocacy of cheap money, and the Greenback party nominated presidential candidates several times and flourished in local elections, especially in 1876 and 1878. The market price of silver fell rapidly after 1873, because of American and European demonetization of silver and because of increases in mine production. Inflationists failed to secure paper-money expansion and turned to silver, believing its free coinage would serve their purpose as well as greenbacks so long as a silver dollar was worth intrinsically less than a gold dollar. Silver-mining interests also wanted silver coinage to aid their business.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.