WJ Bryan's Voter Database?

Peter Knupfer's picture

According to Nate Silver's 538 blog

By the end of the 1890s William Jennings Bryan had built up a large file through index cards on a lot of his supporters. Bryan was receiving on average over 2,000 letters and telegrams a day from supporters, and received during the course of that election 250,000 letters in all. And Jennings Bryan’s brother and wife created a card file of all these supporters. They went through the letters and they wrote down things like party affiliation, job, religion, income, and kept this file updated for 30 years. Historian Michael Kazin tells us that this had about 200,000 names in 1897, and then half a million by 1912. So it became, Kazin argues, the first independent voter database — in essence supporter network — that could be used and mobilized throughout Bryan’s political career.

I had never heard of this database, and wonder if anyone here has seen or used any part of it, if it still exists.  A quick look at the finding aid for Bryan's papers at LC offers no clues -- perhaps the whole thing was destroyed?  One of my students is interested in it, so even a snippet, card, or glimpse of this data could be helpful for a project he's working on.

Can anyone provide a lead or two?

thank you,

Peter Knupfer, Michigan State University

Michael Kazin said the file seems not to have survived (A Godly Hero, p. 81, n. 8). But in the unlikely event that someone has better information, I would like a lead or two myself. If Bryan’s wife and brother had added information about campaign contributions, the file would have been very useful to me while researching the 1896, 1900, and 1908 elections for Buying the Vote (Oxford 2014). And it would be useful for future research in the unlikely event that someone finds the cards in someone’s attic. I don’t hold out much hope, though.