Regardless of politics, party affiliation or lack thereof, plenty of people agree Columbus would benefit from hosting a major political convention. Beyond the national media coverage and economic stimulus that come with a convention, we have some dicey convention history to avenge.
Unlike Cleveland and Cincinnati, which have hosted numerous major party conventions in the last two centuries-including those which nominated future presidents Calvin Coolidge and Rutherford B. Hayes, respectively-Columbus has never had the chance. Instead, our surprising track record includes only two third parties: the Prohibition Party and the 1924 American Party-perhaps better remembered as the Ku Klux Klan party.
Comstock's Opera House, where the Trautman Building now stands on South High Street, was the venue for the first-ever Prohibition Party convention in 1872. (The opera house was destroyed by a fire in 1892.) The party's nominee was Pennsylvania lawyer James Black. Columbus would host the party's conventions again in 1908 and 1924, but never did one of the candidates garner even 2 percent of the popular vote.
In June 1924, only days before the party's convention was to be held at the Deshler Hotel (now the site of One Columbus Center), the American Party's convention was held-at the very same hotel. In "Others: Third-Party Politics in the 1920s," Darcy Richardson writes: "... the poorly attended American convention, which was chaired by ex-Prohibitionist and Klan member William M. Likins of Pittsburgh, attracted fewer than thirty out of an anticipated 300 delegates. Even William Sulzer, the former New York governor who was expected to be the convention's featured speaker, apparently failed to show up, probably owing to the party's overwhelming pro-Klan sentiment."
An article in the June 3, 1924, edition of The Columbus Dispatch notes the Columbus Chamber of Commerce received a letter from the purported party headquarters in Pittsburgh, claiming the convention was never "officially called."
Nevertheless, nominee Gilbert O. Nations would go on to run-and receive less than one tenth of 1 percent of the popular vote-in the general election. The landslide was won by Republican candidate Calvin Coolidge.