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1924 Democratic National Convention
1924 Presidential Election
John William Davis.jpg Charles Wayland Bryan.jpg
Nominees Davis and Bryan
Date(s) June 24 - June 9
City New York, New York
Venue Madison Square Garden
Presidential Nominee John W. Davis of New York
Vice Presidential Nominee Charles W. Bryan of Nebraska
1920  ·  1928

The 1924 Democratic National Convention, also called the Klanbake,[1] held at the Madison Square Garden in New York City from June 24 to July 9, took a record 103 ballots to nominate a presidential candidate. It was the longest continuously running convention in United States political history. It was the first national convention in which a major party had a woman, Lena Springs, placed in nomination for the office of Vice President. It was also known for the strong influence of the Ku Klux Klan. Initial outsider John W. Davis eventually won his party's nomination, as a compromise, after a virtual war of attrition between front-runners William Gibbs McAdoo and Al Smith. Davis went on to be defeated by incumbent President Calvin Coolidge in the United States presidential election of 1924.


Ku Klux Klan

The Ku Klux Klan, a relic of post-Civil War Reconstruction, was resurrected after the 1915 release of D.W. Griffith's very popular motion picture The Birth of a Nation. After World War I, the popularity of the Klan surged, and it became a political power in many regions of the United States, particularly in the South. It was also popular in the border states, the Mountain States, and the West. Its local political strength gave it a major role in the 1924 Democratic Party National Convention (DNC). However, its participation was unwelcome by many DNC delegates, such as Catholics from the major cities of the Northeast and Midwest. The tension between pro- and anti-Klan delegates produced an intense and sometimes violent showdown between convention attendees from the states of Colorado and Missouri.[citation needed] Klan delegates opposed the nomination of New York Governor Al Smith because Smith was a Roman Catholic. Smith campaigned against William Gibbs McAdoo, who had the support of most Klan delegates.


KKK platform plank

The second dispute of the convention revolved around an attempt by non-Klan delegates, led by Forney Johnston of Alabama, to condemn the organization for its violence in the Democratic Party's platform. Klan delegates defeated the platform plank in a series of floor debates. To celebrate, tens of thousands of hooded Klansmen rallied in a field in New Jersey opposite of the convention building.[2] This event, known subsequently as the "Klanbake", was also attended by hundreds of Klan delegates to the convention, who burned crosses, urged violence and intimidation against African Americans and Catholics, and attacked effigies of Smith.


The notoriety of the Klanbake convention and the violence it produced cast a lasting shadow over the Democratic Party's prospects in the 1924 Election and contributed to their defeat by incumbent Republican President Calvin Coolidge.



William G. McAdoo

The first day of balloting (June 30) brought the predicted deadlock between the leading aspirants for the nomination, William G. McAdoo of California and Gov. Alfred E. Smith of New York, with the remainder divided mainly between local "favorite sons". McAdoo was the leader from the outset, and both he and Smith made small gains in the day's fifteen ballots, but the prevailing belief among the delegates was that the impasse could only be broken by the elimination of both McAdoo and Smith and the selection of one of the other contenders; much interest centred about the candidacy of John W. Davis, who also increased his vote during the day from 31 to 61 (with a peak of 64.5 votes on the 13th and 14th ballots). Most of the favorite son delegations refused to be stampeded to either of the leading candidates and were in no hurry to retire from the contest.

In the early balloting many delegations appeared to be jockeying for position, and some of the original votes were purely complimentary and seemed to conceal the real sentiments of the delegates. Louisiana, for example, which was bound by the "unit rule", first complimented its neighbour Arkansas by casting its 20 votes for Sen. Joseph T. Robinson, then it switched to Sen. Carter Glass, and on another ballot Gov. Albert C. Ritchie got the twenty, before the delegation finally settled on John W. Davis.

There was some excitement on the tenth ballot, when Kansas abandoned Gov. Jonathan M. Davis and threw its votes to McAdoo. There was an instant uproar among McAdoo delegates and supporters, and a parade was started around the hall, the Kansas standard leading, with those of all the other McAdoo states coming along behind, and pictures of "McAdoo, Democracy's Hope", being lifted up. After six minutes the chairman's gavel brought order and the roll call resumed, and soon the other side had something to cheer, when New Jersey made its favorite son, Gov. George S. Silzer, walk the plank and threw its votes into the Smith column. This started another parade, the New York and New Jersey standards leading those of the other Smith delegations around the hall while the band played "Tramp, Tramp, Tramp, the Boys are Marching".

First ballot

 1. William G. McAdoo   431.5 votes (39.4%)
 2. Alfred E. Smith     241   votes (22.0%)
 3. James M. Cox         59   votes (5.4%)
 4. Pat Harrison         43.5 votes (4.0%)
 5. Oscar W. Underwood   42.5 votes (3.9%)
 6. George S. Silzer     38   votes (3.5%)
 7. John W. Davis        31   votes (2.8%)
 8. Samuel M. Ralston    30   votes (2.7%)
 9. Woodbridge N. Ferris 30   votes (2.7%)
10. Carter Glass         25   votes (2.3%)
11. Albert C. Ritchie    22.5 votes (2.1%)
12. Joseph T. Robinson   21   votes (1.9%)
13. Jonathan M. Davis    20   votes (1.8%)
14. Charles W. Bryan     18   votes (1.6%)
15. Fred H. Brown        17   votes (1.6%)
16. William Sweet        12   votes (1.1%)
17. Willard Saulsbury     7   votes (0.6%)
18. John Kendrick         6   votes (0.5%)
19. Houston Thompson      1   vote  (0.1%)

Fifteenth ballot

 1. William G. McAdoo   479   votes (43.6%)
 2. Alfred E. Smith     305.5 votes (27.8%)
 3. John W. Davis        61   votes (5.6%)
 4. James M. Cox         60   votes (5.5%)
 5. Oscar W. Underwood   39.5 votes (3.6%)
 6. Samuel M. Ralston    31   votes (2.8%)
 7. Carter Glass         25   votes (2.3%)
 8. Pat Harrison         20.5 votes (1.9%)
 9. Joseph T. Robinson   20.5 votes (1.9%)
10. Albert C. Ritchie    17.5 votes (1.6%)
11. Jonathan M. Davis    11   votes (1.0%)
12. Charles W. Bryan     11   votes (1.0%)
13. Fred H. Brown         9   votes (0.8%)
14. Willard Saulsbury     6   votes (0.5%)
15. Thomas J. Walsh       1   vote  (0.1%)
    Newton D. Baker       1   vote  (0.1%)

Twentieth ballot

 1. William G. McAdoo   432   votes (39.5%)
 2. Alfred E. Smith     307.5 votes (28.0%)
 3. John W. Davis       122   votes (11.3%)
 4. Oscar W. Underwood   45.5 votes (4.1%)
 5. Samuel M. Ralston    30   votes (2.7%)
 6. Carter Glass         25   votes (2.3%)
 7. Joseph T. Robinson   21   votes (1.9%)
 8. Albert C. Ritchie    17.5 votes (1.6%)
 9. Others               97.5 votes (8.6%)           

Thirtieth ballot

 1. William G. McAdoo   415.5 votes (37.7%)
 2. Alfred E. Smith     323.5 votes (29.4%) 
 3. John W. Davis       126.5 votes (11.5%)
 4. Oscar W. Underwood   39.5 votes (3.6%)
 5. Samuel M. Ralston    33   votes (3.0%)
 6. Carter Glass         24   votes (2.2%)
 7. Joseph T. Robinson   23   votes (2.1%)
 8. Albert C. Ritchie    17.5 votes (1.6%)
 9. Others               95.5 votes (9.9%)

Forty-second ballot

 1. William G. McAdoo   503.4 votes (45.7%)   
 2. Alfred E. Smith     318.6 votes (28.9%)
 3. John W. Davis        67   votes (6.0%)
 4. Others              209.0 votes (19.4%)  

Sixty-first ballot

 1. William G. McAdoo   469.5 votes (42.6%)
 2. Alfred E. Smith     335.5 votes (30.5%)
 3. John W. Davis        60   votes (5.4%)
 4. Others              233  votes (21.5%)   

Seventieth ballot

 1. William G. McAdoo   528.5 votes (48.0%)
 2. Alfred E. Smith     334.5 votes (30.4%)
 3. John W. Davis        67   votes (6.0%)
 4. Others              170   votes (15.6%)   


 1. William G. McAdoo  513   votes (47.7%)
 2. Alfred E. Smith    367   votes (33.3%)
 3. John W. Davis       76.5 votes (6.9%)
 4. Others             134   votes (12.1%)


 1. Alfred E. Smith   361.5  votes (32.8%)
 2. William G. McAdoo 333.5  votes (30.3%)
 3. John W. Davis      66.5  votes (6.0%)
 4. Others            336.5  votes (30.9%)

One hundredth ballot

 1. Alfred E. Smith     351.5 votes (32.4%)
 2. John W. Davis       203.5 votes (18.7%)
 3. William G. McAdoo   190   votes (17.5%)
 4. Edwin T. Meredith    75.5 votes (7.0%)
 5. Thomas J. Walsh      52.5 votes (4.8%)
 6. Joseph T. Robinson   46   votes (4.2%)
 7. Oscar W. Underwood   41.5 votes (3.8%)
 8. Carter Glass         35   votes (3.2%)
 9. Josephus Daniels     24   votes (2.2%)
10. Robert L. Owen       20   votes (1.8%)
11. Albert C. Ritchie    17.5 votes (1.6%)
12. James W. Gerard      10   votes (0.9%)
13. David F. Houston      9   votes (0.8%)
14. Willard Saulsbury     6   votes (0.6%)
15. Charles W. Bryan      2   votes (0.2%)
16. George L. Berry       1   vote  (0.1%)
17. Newton D. Baker       1   vote  (0.1%)


  • The 1924 Democratic National Convention was still notorious a generation later, when John F. Kennedy referred to it during his 1960 campaign. According to Theodore White's The Making of the President 1960, JFK would quote the dilemma of the Massachusetts DNC delegation when making light of his own travails on the campaign trail: "Either we must switch to a more liberal candidate or move to a cheaper hotel."
  • Both Franklin D. Roosevelt and Al Smith were filmed during the convention by Lee De Forest in DeForest's Phonofilm sound-on-film process. These films are in the Maurice Zouary collection at the Library of Congress.
Preceded by
Democratic National Conventions Succeeded by


  1. ^ "Digital History". Retrieved 2009-06-14. 
  2. ^ Allen, Lee N. “The McAdoo Campaign for the Presidential Nomination in 1924.” Journal of Southern History 29 (May 1963): 211-28.

Further reading

  • The 103rd Ballot: Democrats and the Disaster in Madison Square Garden, by Robert K. Murray (Harper & Row, New York, 1976)

See also


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