One convention is over, and another looms. However riveting, or dull, you find them, this is certain: The modern-day quadrennial get-togethers are fleeting when compared with the Democrats’ 16-day gathering in New York in 1924, the longest national political convention in U.S. history.
The first days were spent narrowing the field of candidates to 16. Then — inside a 100-degree Madison Square Garden — began the lengthy roll calls. Ballot after ballot brought bedlam and deadlock, and the country followed along on live radio.
Spectators in the gallery spit on delegates below, brawls broke out on the floor and two governors got into a fistfight. Among the many divisions: pro-Prohibition versus anti-Prohibition, Catholics versus Protestants, rural versus urban.
A debate on a resolution denouncing the Ku Klux Klan required 1,000 police officers to control the crowd. (The proposal passed by one vote and newspapers nicknamed the convention a “Klanbake.”)
On the 12th day, the Democratic National Committee chairman fainted. Twice. A motion to adjourn and meet again in Kansas City, Mo., failed.
After nearly 100 ballots, the two leading candidates — Gov. Alfred E. Smith of New York and former Treasury Secretary William G. McAdoo — gave up.
On the record 103rd ballot, John W. Davis of West Virginia, a wealthy Wall Street lawyer, emerged victorious. (He was later handily beaten by President Calvin Coolidge.)
A report in The Times said of the convention, “No trained animal was ever tortured like these delegates.”