Look Back: Democratic National Convention, 1916
Date: 6/10/2011 Album ID: 1260604
by Tim O'Neil --- Democrats gathered at the St. Louis Coliseum June 14-16, 1916, to coronate President Woodrow Wilson for nomination to a second term. It was the last of five major national political conventions held here beginning in 1876 (four Democratic, one Republican). The run coincided neatly with St. Louisí place among the nationís five biggest cities.
Members of the Golden Lane, the 12-block-long line of suffragettes along Locust Street on June 14, 1916, the first day of the Democratic National Convention in St. Louis. The gathering was a coronation of President Woodrow Wilson for renomination to a second term, but there were floor fights and plenty of discussion about votes for women. At the time, only 12 states, including Illinois, granted women the franchise. Suffrage organizations were lobbying the national government for a constitutional amendment to assure women the right to vote. In St. Louis, thousands of women formed their walkless, talkless demonstration from 12th (Tucker) Boulevard west to the St. Louis Coliseum, an auditorium at Jefferson and Washington avenues that was the site of the convention. Their Golden Lane was the biggest event in the three-day convention. It was the last of five nominating conventions held in St. Louis by the two major political parties. (State Historical Society of Missouri, Research Center-St. Louis)
The St. Louis Coliseum, on the southwest corner of Jefferson and Washington avenues. It was the site of the 1916 Democratic National Convention that renominated President Woodrow Wilson for a second term. The 10,000-seat auditorium opened in 1908 and and also was the scene of tennis and wrestling matches, swim meets, Veiled Prophet balls and a few sermons by the Rev. Billy Sunday before its draw waned with the opening of the St. Louis (Kiel) Auditorium in 1934. The Coliseum was demolished in 1953. (Post-Dispatch)
Interior of the Coliseum, shortly before the convention opened. (Post-Dispatch)
A scene of the crowd inside the Coliseum during the convention. (Library of Congress)
A closer view of floor action in the Coliseum. The main podium is near the center of the photo, almost lost amidst the crowd. (Library of Congress)
William Jennings Bryan, the silver-tongued populist orator and three-time Democratic presidential candidate, attended the convention as a journalist. The Post-Dispatch ran his columns. A favorite mystery was whether Bryan would put down his pen and take the podium. He did that on the evening of June 15 with a long, enthusiastic endorsement of the droll Wilson that the Post-Dispatch called the great dramatic incident of the convention. He supported prohibition and votes for women. In July 1925, he appeared for the prosecution in Dayton, Tenn., in the monkey trial enforcing the state's law against teaching evolution. He died in Dayton on July 26, 1925. five days after the case ended. (Post-Dispatch)
The heart of the Golden Lane suffrage demonstration was the tableau of women, dressed as goddesses, who stood on the front stairs of the St. Louis Art Museum, then at Locust and 19th streets. As delegates passed, they tipped their hats. But when the issue of suffrage hit the convention floor, delegates punted it back to the states. The 19th Amendment, ratifying it as a national right, became part of the constitution in 1920. (Missouri History Museum)
President Woodrow Wilson formally begins his re-election campaign on Sept. 24, 1916, from the front porch of his summer home near Trenton, N.J. Wilson followed tradition in not having attended the party convention in St. Louis that renominated him. He was asleep in the White House when he learned of the renomination in the early hours of June 16, 1916. His complete statement was, I am very grateful to my generous friends. He went back to bed. Wilson won his second term by defeating Republican Charles Evans Hughes of New York, an associate justice on the U.S. Supreme Court. (Post-Dispatch)
The Merchants Exchange Building, 111 North Third Street, site of the June 27-29, 1876 Democratic National Convention, the first of the five nominating conventions held in St. Louis. The ornate building had only recently been completed. Bands played outside as fireworks were shot from St. Louis County (Old) Courthouse one block away. Democrats nominated Samuel J. Tilden of New York, an opponent of Tammany Hall, but he lost to Republican Rutherford B. Hayes of Ohio in the most fiercely disputed presidential election in American history. Tilden won the popular vote, but Republican back-room dealings with southern Democrats delivered the electoral votes of three states to Hayes. In return, his administration folded on Reconstruction. (Post-Dispatch)
The interior of the Merchants Exchange, where the convention was held. The building was demolished in 1959. (Post-Dispatch)
The Exposition and Music Hall, at 13th and Olive Streets, site of the second Democratic national convention held here June 5-7, 1888. The block-square building had been completed four years earlier. The party renominated President Grover Cleveland without bothering with a formal vote. Cleveland won the popular vote but lost in the Electoral College to Republican Benjamin Harrison. Democrats nominated Cleveland again in 1892, and he won the rematch against President Harrison, making Cleveland the only American president two serve two non-consecutive terms. (Missouri History Museum)
Inside of the main hall of the Exposition and Music Hall. (Missouri History Museum)
A Post-Dispatch drawing of 12th Street (Tucker Boulevard) looking south in June 1896, when the Republicans held their only national convention in St. Louis. The convention was to have been held in a new section of the Exposition and Music Hall, but it wasn't ready. A temporary building, called the Wigwam and costing $60,000, was built in two months on the south lawn of City Hall, current site of a parking lot. The convention was held only three weeks after the Great Cyclone, the city's deadliest tornado, which smashed through the neighborhoods south of downtown and into East St. Louis, killing 255. (Post-Dispatch)
Republican delegates gather in the main lobby of the Planters Hotel, Fourth and Pine streets. The convention, taking place June 16-18, 1896, nominated Ohio Gov. William McKinley for president. McKinley was a sound money conservative. One month later, Democrats nominated William Jennings Bryan, a populist who gave his riveting Cross of Gold speech at their convention in Chicago. McKinley won the election in November. (Post-Dispatch)
A Post-Dispatch cartoon lampooning the campaign-killing powers of GOP boss Mark Hanna of Ohio, who engineered McKinley's nomination at the 1896 convention in St. Louis. (Post-Dispatch)
A sketch of floor action during the 1904 Democratic Convention, held July 6-9 in the Exposition and Music Hall. The party chose Alton B. Parker, a New York state appeals judge, to run against energetic and popular President Theodore Roosevelt. It was a long shot from the beginning, but at least the delegates could spend time at the World's Fair in Forest Park. The giant building was demolished in 1907. In its place was built the St. Louis Main Library, which opened in 1912. (Post-Dispatch)