been 100 years since the Democratic Party met in Denver to nominate their
candidate for the U.S. presidential election campaign. As VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports, in late
August [August 25-28] delegates will return to the Colorado state capital to address an agenda not that much different from the one they addressed a
Denver's history can be
traced back to the Gold Rush days of 1858, when the discovery of the precious
ore drew an avalanche of prospectors to the confluence of Cherry Creek and the
South Platte River, in what is today downtown Denver. Few of the gold rush prospectors ever struck it rich. Many of those who stayed became farmers or
provisioned the boom-and-bust mining camps.
1908 — a little more than 30 years after Colorado had officially become a
state — Denver was chosen to host the Democratic Party's National
Convention. That's the quadrennial event at which the
party formally names its candidate for the U.S. presidential election, held
later in the year. University of Colorado
history professor Tom Noel says the city was picked because Denver mayor Robert W. Speer had the vision to make it happen.
"He hoped to transform Denver into what he called, 'Paris on the
Platte' or 'The City Beautiful' using Washington D.C. as a prototype."
initiated a public works plan with new parks and buildings including the
municipal auditorium, which was the second largest in the country next to
Madison Square Garden in New York when it opened. Noel says the effort
"helped attract the democrats in 1908."
the municipal auditorium — in the burning summer heat — delegates were welcomed
with wagons piled with snow from the nearby Rocky Mountains.
says Denver celebrated its frontier heritage by bringing in 40 Apache Indians
"to do a war dance and war whoops."
The Rocky Mountains News reported: "It was very difficult to tell
the wild Indians from the Democrats, except that the Democrats yelled all the
time and wore more badges."
costs, which today can run to about $50 million for each convention, didn't
cost that much in 1908. The event, says
Noel, was covered with six Pinkerton detectives and a few off-duty Denver
policemen. "They said that their only real problem was pickpockets, although
there was one snowball fight where they arrested 40 people."
Jennings Bryan headed the Democratic Party's presidential ticket in 1908. Like presumptive
candidate Barack Obama, he was a charismatic public speaker. Noel says other parallels spanning the
century between conventions include a troubled national economy, opposition to
an unpopular foreign war, and the clamor for women's rights. "In Colorado,
women had been given the right to vote in 1893, ahead of the rest of the
country, so that there were actually voting women delegates at both the
Democratic and Republican conventions."
delegates did not endorse national women's suffrage, which didn't happen until
1919, Noel says.
2008, city leaders are hopeful that the $40.6 million they are spending on this
political convention will help boost economic growth and increase tourism in
the region. Noel says organizers had
the same idea a century ago when Denver's mining industry was in the throes of
collapse. "And they were
beginning to promote tourism and conventions.
The Denver Convention and Visitors Bureau was actually founded that same year to try to keep more conventions coming
after doing such a great job with the Democrats."
While there are no plans to cart snow down from the
mountains to cool off delegates this August, the 50,000 visitors to the Democratic
National Convention in Denver
will discover a vibrant, thriving urban community — one that celebrates its
wise choice a century ago to become a convention-friendly town.
Slide Show_1908 Denver National Convention