According to the popular historical narrative of the 1896 Presidential Election, William Jennings Bryan, running as a Democrat and Populist, was a champion of the disadvantaged and disenfranchised rural Americans. William McKinley, on the other hand, was supposedly the pawn of big businessmen who bankrolled a campaign of fear and intimidation in order to win the support of urbanites. Although there certainly is some truth to this perception, it is in many ways a narrow view of the election. McKinley and his campaign managers, not unlike modern candidates, orchestrated a positive campaign, emphasizing themes such as patriotism, idealism, and American exceptionalism. Additionally, contrary to popular belief, McKinley was not simply a pawn of big business interests and his campaign manager, Mark Hanna. McKinley was a shrew political actor, who had spent most of his adult life in the competitive and grueling world of Ohio politics. Through formal analysis of images from the 1896 campaign, such as campaign posters, souvenirs, and newspaper images, this essay demonstrates how the McKinley campaign cultivated an image of McKinley as a principled, folksy family man and flag-waving savior of American prestige and free-market capitalism. This essay also analyzes visual coverage of McKinley in selected publications to determine how his campaign successfully cultivated a specific public image of him that was covered similarly in many different publications.