1924 Democratic National Convention | Wikipedia audio article


The 1924 Democratic National Convention, held
at the Madison Square Garden in New York City from June 24 to July 9, 1924, was the longest
continuously running convention in United States political history. It took a record 103 ballots to nominate a
presidential candidate. It was the first major party national convention
that saw the name of a woman, Lena Springs, placed in nomination for the office of Vice
President. John W. Davis, a dark horse, eventually won
the presidential nomination on the 103rd ballot, a compromise candidate following a protracted
convention fight between distant front-runners William Gibbs McAdoo and Al Smith. Davis and his vice presidential running-mate,
Charles W. Bryan of Nebraska, went on to be defeated by the Republican ticket of President
Calvin Coolidge and Charles G. Dawes in the 1924 presidential election.==Site selection==
The selection of New York as the site for the 1924 convention was based in part on the
recent success of the party in that state. Two years earlier, in 1922, thirteen Republican
congressmen had lost their seats to Democrats. New York had not been chosen for a convention
since 1868. Wealthy New Yorkers, who had outbid other
cities, declared their purpose “to convince the rest of the country that the town was
not the red-light menace generally conceived by the sticks”. Though “dry” organizations that supported
continuing the prohibition of alcohol opposed the choice of New York, it won McAdoo’s grudging
consent in the fall of 1923, before the oil scandals made Smith a serious threat to him. (McAdoo’s candidacy was hurt by the revelation
that he had accepted money from Edward L. Doheny, an oil tycoon implicated in the Teapot
Dome scandal.) McAdoo’s own adopted state, California, had
played host to the Democrats in 1920.==The primaries==McAdoo swept the primaries in the first real
race in the history of the party, although most states chose delegates through machines
and conventions, giving most of their projected votes to local or hometown candidates, referred
to as “favorite sons”.==Ku Klux Klan presence==The Ku Klux Klan had surged in popularity
after World War I, due to its leadership’s connections to passage of the successful Prohibition
Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. This made the Klan a political power throughout
many regions of the United States, and it reached the apex of its power in the mid-1920s,
when it exerted deep cultural and political influence on both Republicans and Democrats. Its supporters had successfully quashed an
anti-Klan resolution before it ever went to a floor vote at the 1924 Republican National
Convention earlier in June, and proponents expected to exert the same influence at the
Democratic convention. Instead, tension between pro- and anti-Klan
delegates produced an intense and sometimes violent showdown between convention attendees
from the states of Colorado and Missouri. Klan delegates opposed the nomination of New
York Governor Al Smith because Smith was a Roman Catholic and an opponent of Prohibition,
and most supported William Gibbs McAdoo. Non-Klan delegates, led by Sen. Oscar Underwood
of Alabama, attempted to add condemnation of the organization for its violence to the
Democratic Party’s platform. The measure was narrowly defeated, and the
anti-KKK plank was not included in the platform.==Roosevelt comeback==
Smith’s name was placed into nomination by Franklin D. Roosevelt, in a speech in which
Roosevelt dubbed Smith “The Happy Warrior”. Roosevelt’s speech, which has since become
a well-studied example of political oratory, was his first major political appearance since
the paralytic illness he had contracted in 1921. The success of this speech and his other convention
efforts in support of Smith signaled that he was still a viable figure in politics,
and he nominated Smith again in 1928. Roosevelt succeeded Smith as governor in 1929,
and went on to win election as president in 1932.==Results=====
Presidential candidates===The first day of balloting (June 30) brought
the predicted deadlock between the leading aspirants for the nomination, William G. McAdoo
of California and Gov. Alfred E. Smith of New York, with the remainder divided mainly
between local “favorite sons”. McAdoo was the leader from the outset, and
both he and Smith made small gains in the day’s fifteen ballots, but the prevailing
belief among the delegates was that the impasse could only be broken by the elimination of
both McAdoo and Smith and the selection of one of the other contenders; much interest
centred about the candidacy of John W. Davis, who also increased his vote during the day
from 31 to 61 (with a peak of 64.5 votes on the 13th and 14th ballots). Most of the favorite son delegations refused
to be stampeded to either of the leading candidates and were in no hurry to retire from the contest. In the early balloting many delegations appeared
to be jockeying for position, and some of the original votes were purely complimentary
and seemed to conceal the real sentiments of the delegates. Louisiana, for example, which was bound by
the “unit rule” (all the state’s delegate votes would be cast in favor of the candidate
favored by a majority of them), first complimented its neighbor Arkansas by casting its 20 votes
for Sen. Joseph T. Robinson, then it switched to Sen. Carter Glass, and on another ballot
Maryland Gov. Albert C. Ritchie got the twenty, before the delegation finally settled on John
W. Davis. There was some excitement on the tenth ballot,
when Kansas abandoned Gov. Jonathan M. Davis and threw its votes to McAdoo. There was an instant uproar among McAdoo delegates
and supporters, and a parade was started around the hall, the Kansas standard leading, with
those of all the other McAdoo states coming along behind, and pictures of “McAdoo, Democracy’s
Hope”, being lifted up. After six minutes the chairman’s gavel brought
order and the roll call resumed, and soon the other side had something to cheer, when
New Jersey made its favorite son, Gov. George S. Silzer, walk the plank and threw its votes
into the Smith column. This started another parade, the New York
and New Jersey standards leading those of the other Smith delegations around the hall
while the band played “Tramp, Tramp, Tramp, the Boys are Marching”.====First ballot========
Fifteenth ballot========
Twentieth ballot====McAdoo and Smith each evolved a strategy to
build up his own total slowly. Smith’s trick was to plant his extra votes
for his opponent, so that McAdoo’s strength might later appear to be waning; the Californian
countered by holding back his full force, though he had been planning a strong early
show. But by no sleight of hand could the convention
have been swung around to either contestant. With the party split into two assertive parts,
the rule requiring a two-thirds majority for nomination crippled the chances of both candidates
by giving a veto each could—and did—use. McAdoo himself wanted to drop the two-thirds
rule, but his Protestant supporters preferred to keep their veto over a Catholic candidate,
and the South regarded the rule as protection against a northern nominee unfavorable to
southern interests. At no point in the balloting did Smith receive
more than a single vote from the South and scarcely more than 20 votes from the states
west of the Mississippi; he never won more than 368 of the 729 votes needed for nomination,
though even this performance was impressive for a Roman Catholic. McAdoo’s strength fluctuated more widely,
reaching its highest point of 528 on the seventieth ballot. Since both candidates occasionally received
purely strategic aid, the nucleus of their support was probably even less. The remainder of the votes were divided among
dark horses and favorite sons who had spun high hopes since the Doheny testimony; understandably,
they hesitated to withdraw their own candidacies as long as the convention was so clearly divided.====Thirtieth ballot====
As time passed, the maneuvers of the two factions took on the character of desperation. Daniel C. Roper even went to Franklin Roosevelt,
reportedly to offer Smith second place on a McAdoo ticket. For their part, the Tammany men tried to prolong
the convention until the hotel bills were beyond the means of the delegates who had
travelled to the convention. The Smith backers also attempted to stampede
the delegates by packing the galleries with noisy rooters. Senator James Phelan of California, among
others, complained of “New York rowdyism”. But the rudeness of Tammany, and particularly
the booing accord to Bryan when he spoke to the convention, only steeled the resolution
of the country delegates. McAdoo and Bryan both tried to reassemble
the convention in another city, perhaps Washington, D.C. or St. Louis.====Forty-second ballot========
Sixty-first ballot====As a last resort, McAdoo supporters introduced
a motion to eliminate one candidate on each ballot until only five remained, but Smith
delegates and those supporting favorite sons managed to defeat the McAdoo strategy. Smith countered by suggesting that all delegates
be released from their pledges—to which McAdoo agreed on condition that the two-thirds
rule be eliminated—although Smith fully expected that loyalty would prevent the disaffection
of Indiana and Illinois votes, both controlled by political bosses friendly to him. Indeed, Senator David Walsh of Massachusetts
expressed the sentiment that moved Smith backers: “We must continue to do all that we can to
nominate Smith. If it should develop that he cannot be nominated,
then McAdoo cannot have it either.” For his part, McAdoo would angrily quit the
convention once he lost: but the sixty-first inconclusive round—when the convention set
a record for length of balloting—was no time to admit defeat.====Seventieth ballot====It had seemed for a time that the nomination
could go to Samuel Ralston, an Indiana senator and popular ex-governor. Advanced by the indefatigable boss Thomas
Taggart, Ralston’s candidacy might look for some support from Bryan, who had written,
“Ralston is the most promising of the compromise candidates.” Ralston was also a favorite of the Klan and
a second choice of many McAdoo men. In 1922 he had launched an attack on parochial
schools that the Klan saw as an endorsement of its own views, and he won several normally
Republican counties dominated by the Klan. Commenting on the Klan issue, Ralston said
that it would create a bad precedent to denounce any organization by name in the platform. Much of Ralston’s support came from the South
and West—states including Oklahoma, Missouri, and Nevada, with their strong Klan elements. McAdoo himself, according to Claude Bowers,
said: “I like the old Senator, like his simplicity, honesty, record”; and it was reported that
he told Smith supporters he would withdraw only in favor of Ralston. As with John W. Davis, Ralston had few enemies,
and his support from men as divergent as Bryan and Taggart cast him as a possible compromise
candidate. He passed Davis, the almost consistent third
choice of the convention, on the fifty-second ballot; but Taggart then discouraged the boom
for the time being because the McAdoo and Smith phalanxes showed no signs of weakening. On July 8, the eighty-seventh ballot showed
a total for Ralston of 93 votes, chiefly from Indiana and Missouri; before the day was over,
the Ralston total had risen to almost 200, a larger tally than Davis had ever received. Most of these votes were drawn from McAdoo,
to whom they later returned. Numerous sources indicate that Taggart was
not exaggerating when he later said: “We would have nominated Senator Ralston if he had not
withdrawn his name at the last minute. It was a near certainty as anything in politics
could be. We had pledges of enough delegates that would
shift to Ralston on a certain ballot to have nominated him.” Ralston himself had wavered on whether to
make the race; despite the doctor’s stern recommendation not to run and the illness
of his wife and son, the Senator had told Taggart that he would be a candidate, albeit
a reluctant one. But the three-hundred pound Ralston finally
telegraphed his refusal to go on with it; sixty-six years old at the time of the convention,
he would die the following year.====Seventy-seventh ballot========
Eighty-seventh ballot========
One hundredth ballot========
One hundred third ballot====The nomination, stripped of all honor, finally
was awarded to John W. Davis, a compromise candidate, on the one hundred third ballot,
after the withdrawal of Smith and McAdoo. Davis had never been a genuine dark horse
candidate; he had almost always been third in the balloting, and by the end of the twenty-ninth
round he was the betting favorite of New York gamblers. There had been a Davis movement at the 1920
San Francisco convention of considerable size; however, Charles Hamlin wrote in his diary,
Davis “frankly said … that he was not seeking [the nomination] and that if nominated he
would accept only as a matter of public duty”. For Vice-President, the Democrats nominated
the able Charles W. Bryan, governor of Nebraska, brother of William Jennings Bryan, and for
many years editor of The Commoner. Loquacious beyond endurance, Bryan attacked
the gas companies of Nebraska and bravely tried such socialistic schemes as a municipal
ice plant for Lincoln. In 1922 he had won the governorship by promising
to lower taxes. Bryan received little more than the necessary
two-thirds vote, and no attempt was made to make the choice unanimous; booes were sounding
through the Garden. The incongruous teaming of the distinguished
Wall Street lawyer and the radical from a prairie state provided not a balanced but
a schizoid ticket, and because the selection of Bryan was reputed to be a sop to the radicals,
many delegates unfamiliar with Davis’s actual record came to identify the lawyer with a
conservatism in excess even of that considerable amount he did indeed represent.====Full Balloting======
Vice presidential nomination==13 names were placed into nomination for Davis’s
vice-presidential running mate. Early in the process, the permitted length
of speeches was limited to five minutes each. The only ballot was chaotic, with over thirty
people, including three women, getting votes. George Berry, a labor union leader from Tennessee,
trailed Charles W. Bryan, Governor of Nebraska, by a vote of 332 to 270.5. Bryan had been chosen by a group of party
leaders, including Davis and Al Smith. The party leaders first asked Montanan Senator
Thomas J. Walsh to run for vice president, but Walsh refused. New Jersey Governor George Sebastian Silzer,
Newton D. Baker, and Maryland Governor Albert Ritchie were also considered, but Bryan was
proposed as a candidate who could unite the Smith and McAdoo factions. After the end of the first ballot, a cascade
of switches from various candidates to Bryan took place, and Bryan was nominated with at
least 740 votes. Notably, he remains the only brother of a
previous nominee (William Jennings Bryan) to be nominated by a major party. The official tally was:==Prayers==
Each of the convention’s 23 sessions was opened with an invocation by a different nationally
prominent clergyman. The choices represented the party’s coalition
at the time: there were five Episcopalian ministers; three Presbyterians; three Lutherans;
two Roman Catholics; two Baptists; two Methodists; one each from the Congregationalists, Disciples
of Christ, Unitarians, and Christian Scientists; and two Jewish rabbis. All of the clergy were white men; African-American
denominations were not represented. With the convention deadlocked over the choice
of a nominee, some of the invocations became calls for the delegates and candidates to
put aside sectionalism and ambition in favor of party unity.Among the clergy who spoke
to the convention: Catholics included His Eminence Patrick Joseph
Hayes, Archbishop of New York, and Fr. Francis Patrick Duffy, Chaplain of the New
York National Guard. Episcopalians, such as Rt. Rev. Thomas F. Gailor, Bishop of Tennessee,
and Rev. Wythe Leigh Kinsolving, Chaplain of the Virginian Society of New York. The roster included, on different days, two
fierce antagonists and frequent debaters on the theory of evolution and Biblical inerrancy,
Rev. John Roach Straton, a Baptist conservative, and Rev. Charles Francis Potter, a Unitarian
Modernist. Rabbi Stephen Samuel Wise, founder of the
Free Synagogue, who was also a delegate from New York. Dr. Frederick Hermann Knubel, president of
the United Lutheran Churches in America.==Legacy==
In his acceptance speech, Davis made the perfunctory statement that he would enforce the prohibition
law, but his conservatism prejudiced him in favor of personal liberty and home rule and
he was frequently denounced as a wet. The dry leader Wayne Wheeler complained of
Davis’s “constant repetition of wet catch phrases like ‘personal liberty’, ‘illegal
search and seizure’, and ‘home rule'”. After the convention Davis tried to satisfy
both factions of his party, but his support came principally from the same city elements
that had backed Cox in 1920. The last surviving participant from the convention
is Diana Serra Cary who as a five year old child film star was the convention’s Official
Mascot. This was the first Democratic National Convention
broadcast on radio. The first seconding address by a woman in
either national political parties was given by Izetta Jewel at this convention, seconding
John Davis, and Abby Crawford Milton, seconding McAdoo. During his 1960 campaign, John F. Kennedy
cited the dilemma of the Massachusetts delegation at the 1924 Democratic National Convention
when making light of his own campaign problems : “Either we must switch to a more liberal
candidate or move to a cheaper hotel.” Both Franklin D. Roosevelt and Al Smith were
filmed during the convention by Lee De Forest in DeForest’s Phonofilm sound-on-film process. These films are in the Maurice Zouary collection
at the Library of Congress.==”Klanbake” meme==In 2015, conservative blogs and Facebook pages
started circulating a photo of hooded Klansmen supposedly marching at the 1924 Democratic
convention. In early 2017, a pro-Trump Facebook group
called “ElectTrump2020” turned the photo into a meme which has since been shared more than
18,000 times on Facebook alone. In fact, the widely circulated photo depicts
an anti-immigrant march by Klansmen in Madison, Wisconsin, and has no connection to any political
convention. An archivist for the Wisconsin Historical
Society, which published the photo in 2001, stated that the society is “painfully aware”
that the photo has been “misappropriated and distributed without our permission.” The term “Klanbake” appears to have originated
in a dispatch by a New York Daily News reporter referring sardonically to the discovery of
the KKK presence at the 1924 DNC convention. An investigation by journalist Jennifer Mendelsohn
and historian Peter Shulman found no other mention of the term until it was resurrected
by a Daily News columnist in 2000. In 2010, the conservative news site Breitbart
published a series of articles insinuating that the KKK is historically solely a Democratic
organization, and hyper-partisan social media helped spread the “Klanbake” meme widely in
the following years, helped by the fact that Wikipedia claimed from 2005 to 2018 that the
convention was “also called the Klanbake”.==See also==
History of the United States Democratic Party Democratic Party presidential primaries, 1924
List of Democratic National Conventions U.S. presidential nomination convention
1924 Republican National Convention United States presidential election, 1924

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