Parades, Protests and Politics


The 1888 Republican National Convention

Outside the Civic Auditorium Building, site of the 1888 Republican convention.

Outside the Civic Auditorium Building, site of the
1888 Republican convention. (CHS, ICHi-14867,
photo by J.W. Taylor)

Devastated by their 1884 loss, the Republicans were determined to reunite their party. Chicago was growing into a metropolis, not only in business and commerce, but on cultural fronts as well.

Going into the convention, no one had a firm idea of whom the candidate might be. The main issue of the 1888 election was whether to go with free trade or to protect American industries. Republicans decided to protect home industries and the party platform was adopted unanimously.

The following is a partial list of presidential nominees:

  1. Gen. Joseph Hawley from Connnecticut
  2. Walter Gresham from Illinois, former secretary of the treasury
  3. Sen. John Sherman from Ohio
  4. Benjamin Harrison, a recently retired senator from Indiana and a distinguished Civil War general.
  5. Sen. William Boyd Allison of Iowa
  6. Gen. Russell Alexander Alger
  7. Chauncey Mitchell Depew, president of New York Central Railroad
  8. Edwin Fitler, mayor of Philadelphia
  9. Gov. Jeremiah Rusk of Wisconsin

All in all, 14 candidates vied for the 416 votes needed to win. At the end of the first roll call, John Sherman lead with 229. By the fourth ballot, Sherman had 235 and Harrison had 216. The convention adjourned early after the fifth ballot, giving party leaders Sunday to hammer out an agreement. The seventh ballot came in with Harrison ahead for the first time. On the eighth ballot, Harrison received 544 votes and the nominations was his. He went on to defeat Grover Cleveland in the general election even though Cleveland garnered more popular votes (Harrison beat him in the electoral college, 233 to 168).


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