5 Facts About the History of Political Conventions
1. In the 19th century, there were no primaries.
Parties began holding conventions in the early 19th century and presidential primaries in the early 20th century.
2. The convention remained the main way of selecting candidates until 1972.
That’s when new rules gave primaries more power to determine the nominee. Since then, conventions have celebrated a predetermined candidate.
3. The first conventions were held in 1831.
They took on more life when Andrew Jackson decided the Democratic Party should hold one in 1832. Since then, every major party, with the exception of the Whigs in 1836, has held a national convention to nominate its presidential candidate.
4. Back then, there were no acceptance speeches.
The winning candidate may not have even attended the convention. That changed with Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1932.
5. Early 20th-century politicians advocated for primaries, saying they’d make the nominating process more democratic.
But even as more states held primaries over the next few decades, the convention remained the main way of selecting a candidate for president. Adlai Stevenson didn’t run in any of the 1952 Democratic presidential primaries, but still won the convention’s nomination that year.