2016 Republican National Convention stirs Cleveland election memories

Western Reserve Historical Society memorabila
Posted at 8:20 PM, Jul 11, 2014
and last updated 2016-06-14 15:55:08-04

Clevelanders are often called out for over-lamenting the last time the city's major league sports teams won a national title championship; The Browns 1964 winning effort be the last, to be exact.

That Jim Brown team preceded the beginning of the Super Bowl era. The team's wind never catching a championship sail again, though Bernie Kosar did his best to throw up a spinnaker in Denver one cold January day.

The Indians won it all in 1948, only getting to the big show twice years later, yet falling short.

Needless to say, when a national win comes to town it's a big deal. The latest Cleveland win to cheer about is the 2016 Republican National Convention host committee landing its first since the Depression was winding down.


At the Western Reserve Historical Society Wednesday, WRHS V.P. John J. Grabowski looked over Cleveland's national election history collection with a smile. WHRS' collection of documents and memorabilia are among the most extensive and finest in the country.

"1936 was the last convention in Cleveland, and if you want to relive that convention and the previous Republican Convention here in 1924 the Historical Society is the place. We have one of the finest political collections in region if not in the United States. Our political buttons and memorabilia are spectacular. The pamphlets, brochures, the tickets, the badges, the buttons from the conventions that were here in Cleveland are of a memory at a time when it was very different than it is today. In the 1924 convention, Cleveland was the fifth largest city in the United States, booming during the 1920s. Just the right territory for Coolidge and Dawes. They went on to almost sweep the country after that," said Grabowski.

The roaring twenties were a great time for Cleveland to woo a convention of that magnitude, even though Prohibition being in full swing limited the local economy from cashing in fully on the wave of political visitors.

Cleveland's local Republicans such as Chester Bolton pushed hard to land the coveted convention again for 1936, trying to slow the wave of Roosevelt supporters.

"1936 was a different Cleveland. Following the Depression the population shrunk a bit. A couple years before unemployment was 30% in the city, and about 14% in the immediate suburbs. The Republicans were brought back here, Chester Bolton helped bring them here to Cleveland. They came at a good time in 1936 because it was the year of the Great Lakes Exposition. So, in the midst of this incredible economic recession, which was just being addressed by the WPA and other Roosevelt programs, you had a Cleveland that was celebrating two successes. It was a Republican Convention that was broadcast, the '24 Convention was broadcast, and you also had this lakefront extravaganza called the Great Lakes Exposition," said Grabowski.

Cleveland, primed for a much needed economic boost, sought with a vengeance those in charge of large political conventions, and their money-drawing potential.

"It was staunchly Democratic at that point, really swept up in the Roosevelt coalition. They went on to get nine electoral votes, so it primed the pump," added Grabowski.

"That was not the only convention in Cleveland in 1936. The Townsend Plan convention was here. Francis Townsend was proposing a plan for old-age pensions for Americans during the Depression and so that convention was the same summer as the Republicans came here," said Grabowski.

Cleveland's political history when it comes to hosting conventions may have been in hibernation, but history is about to repeat itself. At least for the 2016 host committee, it hopes to repeat not only the 1924 and 1936 economic boost to Cleveland, but plant a seed in other convention-seeking committees around the world.

To view the WRHS collection call 216-721-5722, or go to: