Sunday, July 30, 2006

Denver hosts '08 convention (1908 that is)

WE'VE MOVED! Democratic Convention Watch is now at

The Rocky Mountain News has a great look at the last time Denver hosted the Democratic National Convention:

A century ago, a smaller, more provincial and isolated city captured the biggest prize of all. Mayor Robert W. Speer was eager to show off the new Municipal Auditorium. With beaming smiles and firm handshakes, he welcomed his fellow Democrats to the grand opening of their convention on July 8, 1908.

The Denver Convention League had seduced the Democrats with offers of free use of the auditorium, free decorations, free drinks and cash to cover the party's costs. Denver, the DCL told the Democratic National Committee, would be cool, clear and scenic while lowland cities sweltered in July heat, haze and humidity.

The DNC quickly got down to dollars and cents. Exactly how much would Denver pay to get the convention? The DCL was ready. It had raised $100,000: $25,000 donated by the city of Denver, $10,000 by Arapahoe County and $65,000 from private sources. That captured the Democrats, who had apparently been offered less by the other contenders in Atlantic City, N.J., Chicago, Louisville, Ky., and St. Paul, Minn.

Hmm, Denver got the 1908 bid over St. Paul? Very interesting...

The party's choice as its presidential nominee, William Jennings Bryan, was a foregone conclusion, so Denver provided drama in other ways. The Denver & Rio Grande hauled in carloads of mountain snow every morning so delegates could cool off with a snowball fight. A group of Apache Indians was recruited to entertain the delegates. Their war dances and war whoops mingled with the hoopla of the delegates wearing, as Damon Runyon put it in the Rocky Mountain News, "a lot of badges and yelling all the time."

New York newspapers, perhaps reflecting that city's resentment about losing the convention to an upstart Western city, found fault. On July 10, The New York World claimed: "Denver is swamped. The restaurants today were down to stewed prunes with salt mackerel on the side, and tomorrow the chances are that conventioneers will subsist on ham sandwiches."

The New York Times commented July 7 that at this "populist" convention, "whiskers are in evidence everywhere, homespun suits are to be seen, also the 'biled' shirt and the hayseed."

The Rocky Mountain News reflected [on the convention]:

"The people of Denver have given a geography lesson to tens of thousands personally, and through the printed page to tens of millions. . . . They realize now that there is no vacuum between the Missouri and the Pacific coast, that the whole region between belongs to the same pushing, striving, energetic race that dwells on either side."

Stewed prunes with salt mackerel? Sorry I missed this one.