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Cleveland has a History of Hosting Republican Conventions

Image of 2016 RNC logo

Cleveland is not the same city it was the first time it hosted a Republican Convention not in impact, nor in image.

but there are similarities between now and that RNC 92 years ago.

Ohio was soaring in June of 1924.

Advances in agriculture and coal mining were pushing an improving economy; new steel plants were opening. The United States' booming population had just surpassed 114 million. Unemployment was a manageable 5 percent. And the cost of a first class stamp? Just two cents.

Setting the Scene
Gershwin's jazz-influenced classical piece "Rhapsody in Blue" dominated music charts, on its way to becoming the year's top recording; 1924 also featured the film debut of Ohio's Clark Gable.

In Cleveland -- then the fifth largest American city, with more than 790,000 people; more populous than Boston, Los Angeles, or San Francisco - civic leaders offered free use of the 18 month-old Public Hall to the Republican National Committee; plus a $125,000 expense fund; and a written pledge that hotel and restaurant prices would not increase throughout the convention.

All to ensure the national party would convene on the shores of Lake Erie - for the very first time.  

"Remember in 1924, Cleveland didn't have anything to prove.”

Dr. Tom Sutton is a professor at Baldwin Wallace University.

“We were one of the largest cities in the country, we were a powerhouse in Republican politics as well as nationally on the industrial stage – we were simply an arrived city that was showing it's stuff – the way we were used to," he said.

So the GOP chose to come to Cleveland over San Francisco – though with no real volatility; since Republicans were well on their way to nominating former Vice President Coolidge as their standard bearer.

The Political Landscape
Coolidge had ascended to the presidency one year earlier after the unexpected death of Ohio's Warren G. Harding in a California hotel room.

We were one of the largest cities in the country, we were a powerhouse in Republican politics as well as nationally on the industrial stage we were simply an arrived city that was showing its stuff the way we were used to.

In a time of economic growth, Coolidge's politics - and his tax reduction polices – were popular.

"I want the people of America to be able to work less for the government and more for themselves."

Here’s the president from his first recorded speech that same year.

"I want them to have the rewards of their own industry… This is the chief meaning of freedom," he said.

After a brief run at the nomination by Senators Hiram Johnson of California and Wisconsin's Robert La Follette – 1,109 delegates made their way to Cleveland, overwhelmingly supporting Coolidge.

But who 'they' were was an issue, because if there was to be a battle on floor 92 years ago, it was derived from a complaint that we still hear from some Republican opponents.

The Complaint
A characterization that women and African Americans, don't get the respect deserved… and weren't as populous among delegates as perhaps they should have been.

It all meant that for the first time since Abraham Lincoln's Presidency, the Black vote wasn't a sure thing for the G-O-P.

"Which was really kind of a problem, because of course this is a time period where African American activism and intellectual circles was really reaching its Zenith. This is the time period of the Harlem Renaissance, the NAACP had been founded just ten years before. Civil Rights movements that were led by people like W.E.B. Dubois were really seeking activism, and they really only had one choice politically, which was the Republican Party, but in many ways they were really sidelined and marginalized…."

And though many of them were relegated to 'hostess duties', some 76 years after the first Women's Rights convention in Seneca Falls, NY - 118 women were in Cleveland – as delegates.

"….So women had gotten the right to vote in 1920, and women before that had already been active in some of the western states, and so we see for the first time at a National Convention, women as delegates."

The Search for a VP
For either race or gender - the big floor battle proved to be – Who would be on the ticket as Vice President?

President Coolidge wanted Idaho Senator William E. Borah, but, he said no.

The party then nominated Illinois Governor Frank O. Lowden.

He refused to accept the position: an act no other VP nominee has repeated since.

Eventually, Brigadier General Charles G. Dawes was chosen – though neither he nor the president was in Cleveland, a common custom at the time for office-seekers.

Coolidge stayed in Washington and listened to the radio… A first for any convention – as Cleveland's WTAM and WJAX originated radio broadcast proceedings from the floor.

Approximately 18 other stations heard the convention on AT&T affiliated stations, with even fewer listening to RCA stations.

Calvin Coolidge went on to win the 1924 election over Democrat John Davis, who took the ten southern states, Texas, and Oklahoma.

And LaFollette, who ran as an independent when the GOP chose Coolidge, won only his home state of Wisconsin.