Monday, August 25, 2008

National Conventions in Cincinnati

Part I: The Democrats – 1856 & 1880

A two-part series looking at the National Political Party Conventions in Cincinnati.

Intestingly, the Democrats who opened their Convention in Denver today have come to the Queen City twice.

In June 1856, the Democrats gathered at Smith & Nixon’s Hall on 4th Street and nominated James Buchanan for President and John C. Breckinridge for Vice-President. Apparently it took 17 votes and Buchanan really didn't want the job.

Smith & Nixon Hall was built in 1852 by the Smith & Nixon Piano Company as an auditorium and performance hall. The company was founded in 1843 and the hall was located between Walnut and Main Streets adjacent to their retail establishment. I have found conflicting timelines of the fate of the building but there is consensus that the Chamber of Commerce and Merchant Exchange eventually leased space for a time after occupying part of the old Cincinnati College Building.

Buchanan actually had a cousin who lived in Clifton. Robert Buchanan was a pork packer and influential in the establishment of Clifton, Spring Grove Cemetery, and what would become Cincinnati Society of Natural History. His Stick Style home, built in 1843, still exists at 3874 Clifton Ave.

Buchanan did of course win the Presidency, beating John Fremont, the first Republican presidential candidate. However he lasted one term for what history basically considers doing nothing to solve the slavery issue.

In June 1880, the Democrats again gathered in Cincinnati, this time at the two-year old Music Hall and nominated Gen. Winfield S. Hancock for President and William H. English for Vice-President. This time, the nomination took only two votes and Hancock wanted the position. He would however lose to Ohioian, James Garfield and friend of Rutherford B. Hayes . . . who is the focus of Part II!

To me the interesting notion is what these Conventions say about Cincinnati and the role and influence the city had on national politics and our country in general. And the lack of a National Convention since 1880 might say just as much though of what happened to that status.

Image of the 1880 Democratic National Convention at Music Hall from the Library's Cincinnati Memory Project.

Next: Part II – The Republicans, 1876

1 comment:

UncleRando said...

This is really interesting...thanks for taking the time to share this with everyone. Can't wait to see the second part.