Interesting Convention Facts and Firsts

Some "Firsts" and Interesting Facts at Presidential Nominating Conventions and Presidential Elections

  • Democratic Vice President Richard Johnson was selected by the Senate when none of the four Vice-Presidential candidates received a majority in the electoral college.
  • First published party platform.
  • The Democratic convention did not name a nominee because of "much diversity of opinion" candidates including incumbent Vice President Richard Johnson.  Ultimately, Johnson received 80 percent of the Democratic electoral college votes for vice president (11 others going to L W. Tazelwell and 1 to James K. Polk).
  • Former President Martin Van Buren tried, but failed to win nomination at convention
  • James K. Polk emerged as the first "dark horse."
  • First convention reported by telegraph.
  • Incumbent President Millard Fillmore was defeated for the Whig nomination by Winfield Scott.
  • First Republican Party Convention (Pittsburgh).
  • At this convention, William L. Dayton defeated Abraham Lincoln in a contest for the Vice Presidency.
  • Incumbent President Franklin Pierce was defeated for the Democratic Party nomination by James Buchanan.
  • At the Democratic convention, the Vice Presidential candidate, John Breckenridge, (only 35 years old) was present in the hall at the time of his nomination—very unusual at this time.
  • Former President Millard Fillmore was nominated by the Know-Nothing Party.
  • The Republicans held the first ever convention in Chicago.
  • The Democrats were highly divided and held two conventions—Charleston and Baltimore.
  • Democrats held first ever convention in New York City.
  • Andrew Johnson was a candidate for the Democratic nomination and received the second largest number of votes on the first convention ballot.
  • Henry Wilson challenged and took the Vice Presidential nomination from Ulysses Grant's sitting Vice President Schuyler Colfax.
  • The Democrats, in disarray, endorsed the nominee of the "Liberal Republican Party," Horace Greeley.
  • Frederick Douglas addressed the Republican Convention.
  • The Democrats met in St. Louis, the first convention west of the Mississippi River.
  • Incumbent president Chester Arthur (who had become President when Garfield was Assassinated) lost the Republican Party nomination to James G. Blaine.
  • The Democrats gave delegate rights to the Territories.
  • Grover Cleveland was first the Democratic incumbent renominated by acclamation.
  • Democratic nominee William Jennings Bryan had not been a candidate prior to the convention.
  • Incumbent Republican Vice President, Garret A. Hobart had died just days before the GOP convention. At that convention, Theodore Roosevelt was unanimously selected despite the fact that the party leadership preferred another candidate.
  • The Democrats nominated Henry Davis for Vice President. At age 81, he was the oldest nominee ever of either party for top office.
  • The Democrats were the first national party convention to accredit women delegates.
  • The Democratic Platform favored one-term presidencies.
  • Former President Theodore Roosevelt unsuccessfully sought the Republican Nomination, and broke off to form a third party.
  • Charles Evans Hughes, a sitting Supreme Court Justice, was nominated for President by the Republicans
  • First Women Delegates at a Republican Convention (Chicago).
  • Democrats met in San Francisco, the first convention west of the Rockies.
  • Franklin D. Roosevelt was nominated for the Vice Presidency (along with Governor James M. Cox for President).
  • Deeply divided Democrats (split between urban and rural factions) took 103 ballots to select a compromise candidate, John W. Davis.
  • For the first time ever, a woman, Lena Springs, was placed in nomination for Vice President (but not selected by the convention).
  • Democratic convention met in Houston, the first time for either party in the South.
  • Democrat Al Smith was first Catholic to be nominated by a major party.
  • Charles Curtis, Republican nominee for Vice President, was an American Indian, member of the Kaw Nation.
  • First Democratic convention not governed by the requirement that the nominee win by a 2/3 majority (the GOP had never embraced that rule).
  • The Republicans nominated Windell Wilkie for President, a prominent businessman, a former Democrat, with no prior political experience.
  • Against substantial opposition at the convention, Franklin D. Roosevelt dictated the Vice Presidential choice in naming Henry Wallace.  (The Los Angeles Times  wrote that "few conventions in the past have been marked by a more genuine or a more violent upthrust of common or garden variety of howling antagonism to an effort to dictate the outcome of a national party convention.") This precedent has generally held in all subsequent nominating conventions except 1956.
  • Eleanor Roosevelt address the Democratic convention--a first for First Ladies.
  • Thomas Dewey was the first Republican candidate to personally accept the nomination.
  • Harry Truman, nominated as Vice President by the Democrats, was not the preferred choice of FDR, but emerged at the convention.
  • First time since 1888 that the Democratic convention preceded the Republican.
  • Democratic nominee Adlai Stevenson declined to choose a Vice President, and the convention picked Estes Kefauver.
  • Democratic convention met in Los Angeles, first ever in that city.
  • John F. Kennedy was the first Catholic to be elected President.
  • Lyndon B. Johnson and Hubert H. Humphrey were nominated by acclamation, the first since 1936.
  • Senator Margaret Chase Smith was the first woman candidate for the Republican nomination.
  • Pat Nixon was the second First Lady to address a national convention.
  • Shirley Chisholm was first African-American candidate for a major party's nomination and the first woman candidate for the Democratic Party nomination.
  • Three weeks before the Republican convention, Ronald Reagan named liberal Senator Richard Schweiker (R-PA) as his running mate.
  • On the roll-call vote at the Republican convention, incumbent president Gerald Ford received 1187 votes to Reagan's 1070, the narrowest margin for either party's nominee since 1952.
  • Introduction of "superdelegates" for the first time.
  • Geraldine Ferraro was the first woman nominated for vice president by either party.
  • Clinton/Gore ticket was the youngest candidate combination in US history.
  • Spouses of both incumbents and challengers speak at this and all subsequent conventions.
  • Joseph Lieberman was the first Jew nominated for vice president by either party.
  • Barack Obama was first African-American nominated for president by a major party.
  • One week before the May 3 Indiana Primary (and 10 weeks before the Republican Convention), Ted Cruz named Carly Fiorina as his running mate.
  • Hillary Clinton was the first woman nominated for President by a major party.
  • California Senator Kamala Harris was the first Vice Presidential candidate selected by a major party who is African-American and South-Asian.

Voting Rules: Until 1936, the Democrats required nomination by a 2/3 majority; until 1940 the Democrats apportioned delegates based on the electoral vote size of the state. For much of the period the Democrats adopted a "unit rule" requiring states to cast their votes for the majority winner in the state. The GOP never followed the 2/3 rule and had a variety of practices with respect to the other rules, typically not following a unit rule.