Political Conventions in Chicago

Chicago has been the nation’s most popular political convention city, in part because of its geographic centrality. Between 1860 and 1996, Chicago hosted 14 Republican National Conventions and 11 Democratic (12 in 2024) National Conventions. These conventions are held every four years to select the party’s nominee for U.S. president in the popular election. The party also adopts a statement of party principles and goals known as the party platform.

Third parties have also held similar conventions in Chicago, including the Greenback Party, the Independence Party, the Progressive Party, the Farmer-Labour Party, the American Party of the United States, the Libertarian Party, the Green Party of the United States, and Communist Party USA (and its predecessor parties).

Presidential Nominating Conventions Hosted in Chicago

Party Year and Nominee
Republican Party 1860 (Abraham Lincoln); 1868 (Ulysses S. Grant); 1880 (James A. Garfield); 1884 (James G. Blaine); 1888 (Benjamin Harrison); 1904 (Theodore Roosevelt); 1908 (William H. Taft); 1912 (William H. Taft); 1916 (Charles E. Hughes); 1920 (Warren G. Harding); 1932 (Herbert Hoover); 1944 (Thomas E. Dewey); 1952 (Dwight D. Eisenhower); 1960 (Richard M. Nixon)
Democratic Party 1864 (George B. McClellan); 1884 (Grover Cleveland); 1892 (Grover Cleveland); 1896 (William Jennings Bryan); 1932 (Franklin D. Roosevelt); 1940 (Franklin D. Roosevelt); 1944 (Franklin D. Roosevelt); 1952 (Adlai Stevenson II); 1956 (Adlai Stevenson II); 1968 (Hubert Humphrey); 1996 (William J. Clinton); 2024 (Joseph R. Biden Jr.)
Greenback Party 1880 (James B. Weaver)
Independence Party 1908 (Thomas L. Hisgen)
Progressive Party 1912 (Theodore Roosevelt); 1916 (Theodore Roosevelt – nomination declined)
Farmer-Labour Party 1920 (Parley P. Christensen); 1928 (Frank E. Webb)
Communist Party USA 1924 (William Z. Foster – then the Workers Party of America); 1932 (William Z. Foster)
Progressive Party (est. 1948) 1952 (Vincent Hallinan)
American Party of the United States 1976 (Lester Maddox)
Libertarian Party 1991 (Andre Marrou – nominated for 1992 presidential election)
Green Party 2008 (Cynthia McKinney)

Walking Tour

Convention City: How Presidential Nominations in Chicago Shaped the Nation

Saturday, August 24
10 am - 12 pm
$25, $22.50 members

From Lincoln’s nomination in the Wigwam to Franklin D. Roosevelt’s at the Chicago Stadium to the chaos that unfolded in 1968, Chicago has been at the center of the nation’s political life. On this walking tour led by CHM director of exhibitions Paul Durica, hear the story of seven significant presidential nominating conventions in Chicago.

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Republican National Conventions through the Years

Wigwam during the Republican National Convention of 1860 Exterior view of the Wigwam at the southeast corner of Lake Street and Market Street during the Republican National Convention in Chicago, Illinois, May 1860. Previously the site of Sauganash Hotel. Chicago History Museum, ICHi-002001.
1888 Republican National Convention View of a crowd of politicians during a session of the 1888 Republican National Convention, Chicago, Illinois, 1888.
DN-0001996_pm The Chicago Coliseum exterior during the 1904 Republican National Convention. DN-0001996, Chicago Daily News collection, Chicago History Museum.
DN-0006276_pm Full seating inside the Coliseum building during the 1908 Republican National Convention. DN-0006276, Chicago Daily News collection, Chicago History Museum.
DN-0022230 Republican National Convention at the Chicago Stadium, Chicago, Illinois, 1932. DN-0022230, Chicago Sun-Times/Chicago Daily News collection, Chicago History Museum.
DN-O-6529_pm Senator Richard Nixon at the 1952 Republican National Convention. DN-O-6529, Chicago Sun-Times/Chicago Daily News collection, Chicago History Museum.
Robert A. Taft headquarters at the 1952 Republican National Convention Robert A. Taft headquarters at the Conrad Hilton Hotel at the 1952 Republican National Convention, Chicago, Illinois, July 7-12, 1952.

Democratic National Conventions through the Years

1892-DNC-parade-i026216 Print of a band marching in a parade during the 1892 Democratic National Convention, Chicago, June 1892. CHM, ICHi-026216
1896-DNC-ballot-record-i065576 Cover of the Ballot Record of the National Democratic Convention, held at the Coliseum Building, 63rd Street and Grace Avenue, Chicago, on July 7, 1896. CHM, ICHi-065576
DN-0104138_pm 1932 Democratic National Convention, Chicago, Illinois. DN-0104138, Chicago Sun-Times/Chicago Daily News collection, Chicago History Museum.
1940 Democratic National Convention 1940 Democratic National Convention at the Chicago Stadium in Chicago. ST-17605664, Chicago Sun-Times collection, CHM
Senator Harry S. Truman at the 1944 Democratic National Convention Senator Harry S. Truman, vice presidential candidate, on the podium at the 1944 DNC held at the Chicago Stadium, Chicago, July 23, 1944. ST-17602245, Chicago Sun-Times collection, CHM
Eleanor Roosevelt addresses the 1952 Democratic National Convention Eleanor Roosevelt appeals to the 1952 Democratic National Convention to preserve the United Nations during an address at the International Amphitheatre, 4220 South Halsted Street, Chicago, Illinois. ST-17601075, Chicago Sun-Times collection, Chicago History Museum.
Senator John F. Kennedy speaking at the 1956 Democratic National Convention Senator John F. Kennedy speaking at the 1956 Democratic National Convention at the International Amphitheatre, 4220 South Halsted Street, Chicago, Illinois. ST-17640176, Chicago Sun-Times collection, Chicago History Museum.
st17102896_0013 Views of the 1968 Democratic National Convention at the International Amphitheatre, Chicago, Illinois. ST-17102896-0014, Chicago Sun-Times collection, Chicago History Museum.
i093520_pm View of protesters at the 1968 Democratic National Convention, marching down Michigan Avenue. Chicago, Illinois, 1968. Chicago History Museum, ICHi-093520; Stephen Deutch, photographer.
Preparations at the United Center for the 1996 Democratic National Convention Interior and exterior views of the United Center during preparations for the 1996 Democratic National Convention, Chicago, Illinois. ST-30002442-0081, Chicago Sun-Times collection, Chicago History Museum.

1968 Democratic National Convention

In 1968, Chicago experienced a breakdown in the political process.

At the Democratic National Convention (DNC) in August, delegates came to the city to select their next presidential candidate. Activists gathered to protest United States policies at home and abroad during the convention.

Political delegates fought inside the convention arena. Protestors and police brawled on the city’s streets. Meanwhile, the news media depicted division and violence.

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The Chicago 7

September 24, 1969, marked the beginning of one of the most infamous trials in U.S. history for eight (later seven) activists linked to the protests that took place in response to the 1968 Democratic National Convention, held in Chicago at the International Amphitheatre on August 26‒29.

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Communist Party USA Conventions in Chicago

The Communist Party of America was officially founded at a convention in Chicago in 1919 after a left-wing branch broke away from the Socialist Party of America. The Communist Party was deeply rooted in the labor, or workers, movement in the early 20th century and was important in forming unions and leading labor strikes, as well as being involved in later civil rights and antiwar movements.

Through the 1920s, the Communist Party had multiple factions and name changes, settling on its current name Communist Party USA in 1929. Membership grew in the 1930s. However, the Taft-Hartley Act of 1947 required unions to purge Communist leaders and political repression in the 1940s and 1950s caused membership to decrease. Nevertheless, CPUSA remains a political party, and it has hosted national conventions in Chicago in 1975, 1987, 2005, 2014, and 2019.

Communist Party pamphlet-i176308
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