Great Plains Studies, Center for


Date of this Version

Fall 2012


Great Plains Quarterly 32:4 (Fall 2012).


Copyright © 2012 Center for Great Plains Studies, University of Nebraska.


The most important third-party movement in American history emerged out of the social and economic chaos brewing in the Great Plains in the last two decades of the nineteenth century. The maelstrom, labeled Populism, contained a powerful, indeed a truly revolutionary message-that man was his brother's keeper. This concept proved to have consistent influence in America, dating from the Populists, through the Progressives and the New Deal depression era, to the Great Society of the 1960s. Henry Loucks of South Dakota, one-time president of the National Farmers' Alliance and Industrial Union and chairman of the Populist convention in Omaha in 1891, labeled his group's primary functions as being social, educational, financial, and political. He constantly emphasized that maintaining the principles of Populism was more important than gaining political office, and he was successful in this struggle for several elections by pursuing a policy in opposition to fusion with the Democrats.1