Conventions past: Democrats in Philly, 1936

Once again Philadelphia is the happy host for to a national political convention, and we’re taking a look back at conventions held in the city via the Evening Bulletin’s photo archives. Last week we zoomed in on the 1900, 1940 and 1948 Republican National Conventions held in Philly. To welcome back the Democrats, here’s a window into their first Philadelphia convention, held here 80 years ago.

When Philadelphia hosted the Democratic National Convention in 1936, the party nominated Franklin Delano Roosevelt for a second term. The convention took place at the now-demolished (but then-new) Convention Hall near the Penn Museum. Roosevelt delivered his acceptance speech at Franklin Field, before a crowd of thousands who thronged the Bellevue-Stratford for free tickets and braved a rainy day to hear FDR in person.

Roosevelt delivered a populist message that outlined the core values of progressive democracy and seeking to reaffirm the New Deal’s promise. This generation of Americans, he said, had “a rendezvous with destiny.”

“We are poor indeed if this nation cannot afford to lift from every recess of American life the dread fear of the unemployed that they are not needed in the world. We cannot afford to accumulate a deficit in the books of human fortitude. In the place of the palace of privilege we seek to build a temple out of faith and hope and charity,” he said.

The 1936 convention is also remembered as the beginning of a split within the party. The rule had been that nominees for president and vice president needed to get support from two-thirds of the delegates. At this convention the rule shifted to a simple majority, a rule change pushed by FDR and which shifted power away from Southern Democrats. Historians mark this as the origins of the Dixiecrat movement.

Here’s a peek at the Democratic National Convention of 1936 and the city as host:

SPRUCING UP

HOSPITALITY

INSIDE CONVENTION HALL

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