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?
Peter Knupfer, Michigan State University