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When Minneapolis hosted the Republican National Convention

Interior of the Exposition Hall at the Republican National Convention, Minneapolis

Republicans from across the nation came to Minneapolis in June 1892 for secret meetings, public rallies and speeches, and their official national convention, which culminated in the nomination of then US President Benjamin Harrison as the party’s presidential candidate.

Hosting the 1892 Republican National Convention was a sign of Minneapolis’s growing importance. New York, San Francisco, Detroit, Omaha, Pittsburgh, St. Louis, Chattanooga, and Cincinnati were all in the running for the honor, but it went to Minneapolis on the seventh ballot at the Republican National Committee meeting on November 21, 1891, in Washington, DC. Republicans chose Minneapolis in an attempt to hold the region for the Republican Party.

Excitement ran high in Minneapolis after its selection. Prominent Minnesotans worked hard to prepare the city for the tens of thousands of visitors that were expected. The Industrial Exposition Building, constructed in 1886, was selected to hold the convention. The nearby West Hotel, considered the most luxurious hotel in the region at the time, would provide accommodations for the convention’s most important delegates.

The convention was not scheduled to begin until June 7, 1892, but attendees began arriving in Minneapolis as early as June 1. The local papers buzzed about their presence.

President Harrison did not attend, nor did his main Republican rival, James G. Blaine. However, many top politicians of the time were in Minneapolis, including Chauncey Depew, James S. Clarkson, Joseph Foraker, and future Republican president William McKinley. Frederick Douglass and Susan B. Anthony were in town, too, not to attend the convention but to draw attention to their causes.

The work of nominating a presidential candidate started even before the convention delegates arrived. Influential supporters of President Harrison and James G. Blaine came to Minneapolis early, organized committees, and held secret meetings off the convention floor to strategize and negotiate, sometimes late into the night.

During the official convention June 7-10, these groups and others, including the African American delegation and supporters of rising star William McKinley, jockeyed for position. Although there was much speculation, no one knew for sure who would be nominated.

Finally, on June 9, an organized poll held at a secret assembly showed that the majority of delegates would support President Harrison, either out of personal preference or because they had previously pledged to do so. With that knowledge, President Harrison’s supporters allowed a public roll call and nomination to take place.

The process began at 11 a.m. on June 10, and within a few hours, President Harrison had been nominated as the convention’s candidate. A subsequent roll call gave Whitelaw Reid of New York the nomination for vice president, and the 1892 convention adjourned. President Harrison did not win reelection in the fall, losing the presidency to Democrat Grover Cleveland.

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