There were a few reasons why the Populists emerged in the late 19th century. This third political party originated in America in the later part of the 19th century. This party was derived from farmer's discontent and also an economic distress.
The discontent was caused by the country's shift from an agricultural and agrarian America to an America in which industrialists dominated the nation's development. The public felt as if they had been cheated by the robber barons. These robber barons, a term given to those who took advantage of the middle and lower classes, legally took advantage of classes inferior to them. Vanderbilt, a well-known railroad baron once said, "Law! What do I care about the law? Hain't I got the power? The change from agrarian to industrial had a profound effect on everyone's life.
Ignatius Donnelly, a leader in the Populist Party wrote, "We meet in the midst of a nation brought to the verge of moral, political, and material ruin. Corruption dominates the ballot-box, the Legislatures, the Congress, and touches even the ermine of the bench . . . A vast conspiracy against mankind has been organized " As a result of this significant change, several reform movements were commenced. Prohibition began along with socialism and the Greenback Labor Party. Each of these was created in hope of making a difference for themselves or for the country.
The farmers in particular were distraught for four reasons: physical problems, social and intellectual concerns, economic difficulties, and political frustrations. The physical problems was the climate. Following 1885 there was an immense drought on the merican prarie making the land less farmable, and causing the land to earn the epithet the Dust Bowl. Furthermore, there were extreme blizzards resulting in innumerable deaths of cattle and livestock. Also, farms were very isolated causing the women and children to lea