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Past Convention Highlights

1856 (Philadelphia)

The Republican Party holds its first national convention and nominates explorer John C. Fremont of California for president. The Republican Party was founded in 1854 by opponents of slavery unhappy with the passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act, which overturned earlier limitations on the extension of slavery into the Western territories.

The first Republican platform is issued. It calls for a prohibition on the extension of slavery into the territories and, more specifically, for the admission of Kansas as a free state. The platform states that it is "the imperative duty of Congress to prohibit in the territories those twin relics of barbarism-polygamy and slavery."

1860 (Chicago)

The Republicans unexpectedly nominate Abraham Lincoln on the third ballot, surprising supporters of New York Senator William H. Seward, who had entered the convention expecting an easy victory on the first ballot. According to R. Craig Sautter and Edward M. Burke in their book Inside the Wigwam: Chicago Presidential Conventions 1860-1996, the convention delegates are heavily influenced by Lincoln supporters who pack the convention hall after receiving counterfeit tickets from Lincoln campaign workers.

The first Republican credentials dispute erupts over the size of delegations from southern slave states. (Northern delegates argue that convention votes should be allocated on the basis of party strength in each state rather than population. The full convention votes to send the report back to the credentials committee, which ends up reducing the size of the southern delegations.)

1864 (Baltimore)

The third Republican Convention is known as the National Union Convention. Attempting to rally support for the Union, the party drops the Republican label in its call to the convention and instead calls "upon all qualified voters who desire the unconditional maintenance of the Union, the supremacy of the Constitution, and the complete suppression of the existing rebellion, with the cause thereof, by vigorous war, and all apt and efficient means, to send delegates to a Convention to assemble at Baltimore...for the purpose of presenting candidates for the offices of President and Vice-President of the United States."

1868 (Chicago)

Gen. Ulysses S. Grant is the only candidate placed in nomination at the Republican convention, and, for the first time, one candidate wins 100 percent of the Republican votes on the first ballot. Delegations representing several states in the former Confederacy are seated, and a platform endorsing the impeachment of President Andrew Johnson is approved.

The party platform calls for guaranteed suffrage for all Southern men, but leaves the question of equal voting rights open in the North by declaring that the suffrage issue in "loyal states properly belongs to the people of those states."

1872 The Liberal Republican Convention (Cincinnati)

The Liberal Republicans, a faction of the GOP dissatisfied with the record of the incumbent Grant Administration, meet in May and nominate New York Tribune editor Horace Greeley for president. (Specifically, the Liberal Republicans had bolted the GOP to protest corruption in the Grant Administration, demand an end to Reconstruction in the South, and voice dissatisfaction with the slow pace of civil service reform.) Although the Liberal Republicans forge a general election alliance with the Democrats, Greeley loses to Grant in November and the party fades away shortly thereafter.


The GOP platform calls for federal and state legislation to ensure equal rights for all races "throughout the Union." This represents a notable change from the GOP's 1868 platform, which only called for guaranteed African-American suffrage in the states of the former Confederacy.

1876 (Cincinnati)

The 1872 split between the regular Republicans and the so-called Liberal Republicans is repaired. The GOP's call to convention recommends that each state party organization invite "all Republican electors, and all other voters, without regard to past political differences or previous party affiliations, who are opposed to reviving sectional issues.

1880 (Chicago)

Ohio Rep. James A. Garfield wins the Republican nomination on the 36th ballot-still to this day a record number of ballots in the history of the Republican Party. (The Democratic record, set in 1924, stands at 103 ballots.)

Mississippi Sen. Blanche K. Bruce becomes the first African-American to win any votes at a major party's national nominating convention. He wins 8 votes for vice president.

For the first time, the GOP's call to convention goes out only to actual party members. It breaks with tradition by failing to extend an additional invitation to those sympathetic to the party's principles.

1884 (Chicago)

Mississippi Republican Rep. John Roy Lynch becomes the first African-American elected temporary chairman of a national nominating convention.

1888 (Chicago)

Frederick Douglass becomes the first African-American to win a vote in a major party's presidential roll call vote. (He got one vote on the fourth ballot.)

1892 (Minneapolis)

For the first time, the Republicans choose a member of their national ticket without a roll call vote, nominating Whitelaw Reid for vice president by acclamation. (Reid was a former editor of the New York Tribune and the U.S. Minister to France.)

1896 (St. Louis)

Twenty-four Western delegates walk out of the convention when their proposed platform plank calling for unlimited coinage of silver and gold at a 16-1 ratio is overwhelmingly defeated. Unlimited coinage of silver was designed to increase the money supply with the goal of assisting a depressed agricultural economy.

1900 (Philadelphia)

This is the last time that the GOP holds its national convention in Philadelphia and goes on to win the White House in the general election. The GOP met in Philadelphia in 1940 and 1948, but lost the general election to Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman, respectively.

1904 (Chicago)

In a moment of staged drama, the convention delegates are read a telegram sent from the secretary of state to the American consul in Morocco. The telegram, which is sent following the abduction of U.S. businessman Ion Perdicaris by a Moroccan bandit named Raisuli, states simply: "We want Perdicaris alive or Raisuli dead." Read after several American ships were dispatched to Morocco, the ultimatum reflects Theodore Roosevelt's "Rough Rider" image and is met with loud applause by the delegates.

1908 (Chicago)

There are no notable moments or disputes at the Republican convention.

1912 (Chicago)

In June, the Republicans hold one of the most divisive, self-destructive political conventions in American history. The election of Democrat Woodrow Wilson is virtually ensured as President William Howard Taft and former President Theodore Roosevelt tear the GOP apart while battling for the nomination. Taft ultimately wins the GOP nod, but Roosevelt bolts the party and runs on his own "Bull Moose" progressive ticket in the fall. Roosevelt shatters all third-party records in November by finishing ahead of Taft, winning 88 electoral votes and more than 27 percent of the popular vote. To this day, Roosevelt's tally remains unmatched by any other third-party candidate.

Taft is able to beat back Teddy Roosevelt's convention challenge despite Roosevelt's earlier domination of the primaries due to his firm control of the national party machinery. This allows Taft to defeat Roosevelt on a series of critical delegate credential challenges that determine the fate of the nomination. Of the 254 contested delegate slots, 235 are awarded to Taft supporters.

Roosevelt's supporters, who feel that their candidate is being defeated unfairly, accuse the Taft camp of stealing delegate slots. In their book Inside the Wigwam, R. Craig Sautter and Edward M. Burke cite the example of Pennsylvania delegate William Flinn, who colorfully expressed the feelings of the Roosevelt camp by turning to supporters of President Taft and yelling, "I say that you are raping your own roll....I protest. Steal! Thief! You are a pack of thieves; that is what you are...."

Once it became clear that Taft would win the nomination, Roosevelt began preparing himself for a third-party bid. Prior to the presidential roll call, he declared that he would accept the nomination of a progressive party if he could capture the nomination of an honestly elected majority at the Republican convention. The day after the Republicans adjourned, planning began for a "Bull Moose" Progressive convention that would nominate the former president for another term in the White House.

1916 (Chicago)

The South loses 78 delegate seats -- more than a third of its 1912 total -- as a result of a national committee decision to adopt a new method of vote allocation that accounts for a state's Republican voting strength as well as its electoral vote. The decision is made in response to a 1912 complaint that the solid Democratic South was overrepresented in Republican conventions.

1920 (Chicago)

Ohio Senator Warren G. Harding is nominated for president on the 10th ballot at a GOP convention that gives rise to the infamous image of party leaders selecting their presidential nominee in a "smoke-filled room." According to one account, a group of senators and party leaders decide to meet after it becomes clear that none of the three leading presidential candidates- Major General Leonard Wood of New Hampshire, California Senator Hiram Johnson and Illinois Governor Frank Lowden-will be able to capture enough delegates to win the nomination. They meet on the night of June 11th in a couple of smoke-filled rooms in Chicago's Blackstone Hotel. Harding is allegedly interviewed by the party leaders and then selected as an acceptable compromise choice for the nomination.

1924 (Cleveland)

Held in Cleveland, the GOP convention is the first national nominating convention to be broadcast on radio.

Illinois Governor Frank O. Lowden receives a majority of votes on the second vice presidential roll call vote despite his public statement that he would not accept the vice presidential nomination. Republican Party rules are changed for the first time to elect women to the national committee, with one man and one woman to be chosen from each state and territory.

1928 (Kansas City)

A platform resolution favoring repeal of Prohibition is tabled by a voice vote.

1932 (Chicago)

A proposal to include a platform plank endorsing the repeal of Prohibition is defeated.

1936 (Cleveland)

There are no notable moments or disputes at the Republican convention.

1940 (Philadelphia)

In a surprising convention result, political novice and businessman Wendell L. Willkie wins the presidential nomination on the sixth ballot after avoiding the GOP primaries. Willkie, who had been a Democrat until 1938, benefits from an extensive public relations campaign carefully orchestrated by a number of influential media backers, including Time's Henry Luce and Fortune's Russell Davenport. His primary opponents at the convention are Manhattan District Attorney Thomas E. Dewey, Ohio Sen. Robert Taft, and Michigan Sen. Arthur Vandenberg.

1944 (Chicago)

New York Gov. Thomas E. Dewey becomes the first Republican candidate to accept his party's presidential nomination in person. Like Franklin Roosevelt in 1932, he breaks his party's tradition of waiting to accept the presidential nomination in a formal notification ceremony. During the presidential roll call, Dewey wins every vote cast except one, which is cast for General Douglas MacArthur.

1948 (Philadelphia)

Dewey's nomination for president marks the first time the GOP has renominated a previously defeated presidential candidate. Dewey remains the last Republican candidate to require more than one ballot to win his party's nomination. (He won on the third ballot.)

1952 (Chicago)

General Dwight D. Eisenhower defeats Ohio Sen. Robert Taft in a convention marked by delegate disputes and intense acrimony. Party moderates led by East Coast politicians such as New York Gov.r Thomas Dewey and Massachusetts Sena. Henry Cabot Lodge support Eisenhower, while Midwestern conservatives rally around Taft.

Illinois Sen. Everett Dirksen causes an uproar when, during his speech, he charges Dewey and the moderates with taking the GOP "down the path to defeat." Dewey (and Eisenhower) followers boo Dirksen, Dirksen (and Taft) supporters boo Dewey, and fist fights break out on the floor.

1956 (San Francisco)

Several Southern delegates withdraw in opposition to a civil rights plank in the party platform which cites advances in desegregation during Eisenhower's first term, supports the Supreme Court's Brown vs. Board of Education ruling and pledges to enforce existing civil rights laws.

1960 (Chicago)

Richard Nixon becomes the first Republican vice president to be nominated for president at the completion of his term.

Two days before the opening of the convention, Nixon and New York Gov. Nelson Rockefeller secretly meet at Rockefeller's New York City apartment to forge a 14-point agreement on major issues contained in the party's platform. Dubbed the "compact of Fifth Avenue," the agreement is denounced by the party's conservative wing. Arizona Sen. Barry Goldwater declares it the "Munich of the Republican Party," and predicts that it will ensure a GOP loss in November.

1964 (San Francisco)

Delivering his acceptance speech at the Republican convention in San Francisco, conservative Arizona Sen. Barry Goldwater declares, "I would remind you that extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice. And let me remind you also that moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue."

New York Rep. William E. Miller, tapped by Goldwater as his running mate, becomes the first Roman Catholic ever to run on a Republican national ticket.

Maine Sen. Margaret Chase Smith becomes the first woman to receive a vote for either president or vice president at a Republican national convention. She receives 27 votes for president on the first (and only) ballot.

A platform amendment denouncing the efforts of the John Birch Society, the Ku Klux Klan, and the Communist Party to infiltrate the Republican Party is rejected by an estimated 2-1 margin. New York Gov.Nelson Rockefeller is booed while speaking out in favor of the amendment. He argues that a "radical, high-financed, disciplined minority...wholly alien to the middle course" is attempting to take over the Republican Party. By an 897-409 margin, the convention later rejects a civil rights amendment offered by Pennsylvania Sen. Hugh Scott that calls for voting guarantees in both state and federal elections.

1968 (Miami Beach)

A major floor fight over the Vietnam platform plank is avoided when platform committee members, led by Illinois Sen. Everett M. Dirksen, successfully substitute a hard-line, "hawkish" stance with new language emphasizing the need for a "de-Americanization" of the conflict.

1972 (Miami Beach)

The Republicans switch the site of their convention from San Diego to Miami Beach after it is revealed that International Telephone and Telegraph Corporation, which was the subject of a Justice Department antitrust case, had pledged as much as $400,000 as part of San Diego's bid for the convention. A 1971 memo written by an ITT lobbyist linked the contributions to the resolution of the case. The GOP also cites labor and cost concerns in San Diego in its decision to transfer the convention to Miami Beach.

During the presidential roll call, Richard Nixon wins every vote except for one, which is cast for California Rep. Pete McCloskey.

1976 (Kansas City)

At the last closely contested Republican convention, President Ford edges Ronald Reagan on the first ballot, 1187 to 1070. An early indication of a Ford victory comes when Reagan narrowly loses a vote that would have forced Ford to reveal his vice presidential choice before the presidential roll call vote.

1980 (Detroit)

Ronald Reagan becomes the nominee, bringing with him a new era of conservatism to the GOP. After considering former President Ford as a vice presidential nominee, Reagan settles on George Bush, his strongest challenger during the primary. Reagan is nominated on the first ballot, receiving 1,939 of the 1,994 votes.

1984 (Dallas)

Ronald Reagan, riding a wave of popularity, faces no serious primary opposition and is renominated easily. Bush is renominated as vice president. Reagan makes a 55-minute acceptance speech, drawing sharp contrasts between himself and former Vice President Walter Mondale, the Democratic nominee. "The choices this year are ... between two different visions of the future, two fundamentally different ways of governing ... their government of pessimism, fear and limits -- or ours of hope, confidence and growth," Reagan states.

1988 (New Orleans)

After eight years as Ronald Reagan's vice president, George Bush becomes the nominee. Two phrases he uses in his acceptance speech become modern political catch-phrases: He calls for a "kinder, gentler nation" and also promises that, if the Democratic Congress pushes him to raise tax rates, he will respond: "Read my lips: No new taxes." Bush's choice of then-little-known Sen. Dan Quayle of Indiana as his vice presidential nominee comes as a surprise in some quarters.

1992 (Houston)

George Bush and Dan Quayle again are nominated for president and vice president, respectively, but it is the speeches of others that carry the most resonance. GOP candidate Pat Buchanan gives a speech declaring a "culture war," and 1988 candidate Pat Robertson said Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton, the Democratic nominee, had "a radical plan to destroy the traditional family and transfer its functions to the federal government."

1996 (San Diego)

Former Kansas Sen. Bob Dole is rewarded for many years of GOP service with the presidential nomination, and Dole picks Jack Kemp as the vice presidential nominee. Dole's wife, Elizabeth, who provides one of the most memorable highlights of the convention when she leaves the podium and strolls through the audience on the convention floor while delivering her address. Live video of Bob Dole appears on the convention hall screens as she speaks. For his acceptance speech, Bob Dole delivers a 54-minute address in which he deals with the issue of his age by portraying himself as a bridge to a more secure past. Democrats later use his remarks to portray Dole as out of touch and to pledge to build their own bridge to the future.