Ten Weird Facts About Presidential Conventions (With Pictures!)Historians/History
tags: political conventions
The 2012 Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida, was forced to delay for a day due to an approaching hurricane. This is the second consecutive GOP convention where the opening day was delayed due to an approaching hurricane; in 2008, the convention in St. Paul, Minnesota was delayed due to Hurricane Gustav making landfall in Louisiana. This is, however, the first instance where the threatened city is also the convention host.
The first presidential nominating convention ever was held by the now hilariously-named Anti-Masonic Party in 1831. How bizarre was the Anti-Masonic Party? At one point they tried to convince Henry Clay to join, despite the fact that he was a Freemason himself.
There hasn't been a floor fight for a major-party nomination since 1976, when Ronald Reagan battled Gerald Ford at the Republican National Convention in Kansas City. (This was also roughly the last time a political convention actually mattered.)
In 1944 President Franklin Roosevelt did not attend the Democratic Party convention that nominated him. Instead, highlighting his duties as a wartime president, he delivered his speech by radio from the San Diego Naval Base while on his way to Pearl Harbor.
Only two men have been nominated to the presidential ticket five times: Franklin Roosevelt (VP 1920; President 1932, 1936, 1940, 1944) and Richard Nixon (VP 1952 and 1956; President 1960, 1968, and 1972).
"In 1880, the GOP denied former president Ulysses S. Grant a third-term nomination after 36 ballots, opting for James A. Garfield instead. In 1924, a Democratic convention at Madison Square Garden needed 103 roll calls over 17 days to nominate John W. Davis of New York. Yet as Mr. [David] Greenberg notes, these deadlocked conventions produced some of the worst presidents and nominees in history. And there weren't that many of them - only 10 GOP and 14 Democratic conventions have had to cast more than one presidential ballot." (Christian Science Monitor 7-26-04)
Adlai Stevenson was the last presidential nominee who was drafted by his party's nominating convention. Stevenson, then the governor of Illinois, had told friends and supporters -- up to and including Harry Truman -- that he was not interested in running for president, but after he gave a stirring opening address at the 1952 Democratic convention in Chicago, the delegates flocked to Stevenson and he clinched the nomination on the third ballot.
George McGovern's 1972 presidential campaign was infamous for its missteps, especially Thomas Eagleton's week-long stint as his running mate before public revelations that he suffered from depression and had undergone electric shock treatment forced him off the ticket. But things could have been worse -- at the end of the the 1972 DNC, a handful of delegates in a playful mood proposed increasingly outlandish VP candidates, including CBS journalist Roger Mudd, fugitive priests Daniel and Philip Berrigan, McGovern's own wife Eleanor, the wife of Nixon's attorney general Martha Beall Mitchell, Yippie activist Jerry Rubin, pediatrician Benjamin Spock, fictional character Archie Bunker, and, for good measure, Mao Zedong. McGovern eventually settled on Sargent Shriver for his running mate.
During the 1944 GOP convention in Chicago, local bar owner William Sianis hung a sign on his Billy Goat Tavern: "No Republicans Allowed." Naturally, Republicans swamped the place and Sianis made out quite nicely from the convention.
Harold Stassen, a former governor of Minnesota, Navy captain, and president of the University of Pennsylvania from 1948 to 1952, sought the Republican nomination for president no less than twelve times between 1948 and 2000.
Hiram Fong was the first, and to date only, Asian American to seek the presidential nomination of either party; he briefly contended for the GOP nomination in 1964.
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