For months it was uncertain whether Theodore Roosevelt would accept the Republican vice-presidential nomination. This Harper’s Weekly cartoon shows accolades showered upon the New York governor at the convention, where he was nominated for vice president by a near-unanimous vote (with himself casting the only negative vote). He willingly accepted, and then embarked on an energetic campaign tour across the country, during which he delivered 673 speeches before an estimated three million Americans.
The Republican National Convention that nominated Roosevelt met in Philadelphia on June 19-21 at a temporary exhibit hall at 34th and Spruce Streets. Scalpers sold tickets for seats in the spectator’s gallery at $5-$60 (or $106-$1270 in 2002 dollars), and 20,000 attendees filled the auditorium to capacity on all three days. A torchlight parade of 25,000 gave Republicans a chance to show their partisan enthusiasm in public. The proceeding were opened by Senator Mark Hanna of Ohio, the Republican National Committee chairman, and Senator Henry Cabot Lodge of Massachusetts served as the permanent convention chairman.
Roosevelt was popular with many delegates because of his military heroism, independence from political machines, and record of reform. However, the governor’s willingness to push for legislation constraining big business was central to the pre-convention fight over his nomination. His support of taxes on corporations was the last straw that caused New York businessmen to pressure Senator Thomas C. Platt, boss of the New York State Republican machine, to work for the governor’s vice presidential nomination in order to remove him from state government. Meanwhile, Hanna, who was also McKinley’s campaign manager, considered Roosevelt’s pro-regulation record while governor to be contrary to the party’s pro-business image, and was uneasy that an assertive vice president would counter the senator’s own influence with the president. An exasperated Hanna allegedly asked Matthew Quay, a key Roosevelt promoter, “Don’t you realize there’s only one life between this madman and the White House?”
Nevertheless, Hanna’s last-ditch effort to convince McKinley to stop the Roosevelt bandwagon failed when the president firmly stated he had no favored candidate for vice president. Without an alternative of equal appeal to the delegates, the president’s stance virtually assured Roosevelt the nomination. Furthermore, the New York governor’s presence in Philadelphia as a convention delegate enhanced the likelihood of his selection. He was greeted enthusiastically everywhere he went, and was serenaded by delegates from Western states with chants of “We want Teddy!” The hat he wore, resembling his Rough Rider headgear (like the one in this cartoon), was soon labeled an “acceptance hat.” The outcome of the vote was so certain that Senator Platt quipped, “Roosevelt might as well stand under Niagara Falls and try to spit water back as to stop his nomination by this convention.”