Days Of Wine & Politics!

Chicago’s Wigwam–convention center for the RNC

Yesterday’s post, “WeedPAC & the FOS,” introduced the players in the events of the 1860 Republican National Convention in Chicago. Each man, in his own way, worked to elect Abraham Lincoln, but it was by no means an easy task.

On May 16, the RNC began their convention in . . . the Wigwam! The Wigwam was as much a part of the 2860 convention as the people inside. It was a temporary wood-and-canvas structure built, as promised, especially for the convention in downtown Chicago. When it was promised, no one exactly knew what it would look like, but the architects created an enclosed space designed specifically to elect Lincoln, only no one knew it yet.

By holding the convention on Lincoln’s home turf, the planners were able to control every

Stephen Logan–convention “floor manager”

bit of action in Chicago. When the seating was set out on the floor of the Wigwam, the New York delegation was isolated amid a slew of states whose initial votes were promised to someone other than New York senator Seward. There would be no Seward based arm-twisting during the convention–not if Lincoln’s floor manager Stephen Logan could help it.

Hoping for second on the first

The primary aim of the Lincoln men was to keep Seward from being nominated on the first ballot. Lincoln only needed to have a good showing at that point in order to give his team time to politick for votes on the second and third ballots. He also needed to put some distance between himself and the other candidates.

The job of the Lincoln team was to make friends with the delegates, especially those in non-Seward states. Judge Davis assigned individual staff members the job of “shepherding” a group of men, making sure all their needs were met as long as they were in Chicago. A promised vote is useless unless it is cast, and the more debts delegates racked up in Chicago, the more they owed the Lincoln team. Ward Hill Lamon, with his amazing street cred, was the man in charge of procuring whatever was needed. Apparently, a lot was needed–wink, wink!

George Nicolay kept Lincoln in the know about some things, but not everything. Lincoln’s order to Davis was “Make no promises!” Davis responded, in Chicago and safely away from any Lincoln wrath, “Lincoln ain’t here!”

The WeedPAC had not been idle. Thurlow Weed had brought over 2,000 men with him from New York, intent on packing the Wigwam with support for Seward. In addition, he purchased the services of Chicago area marching bands and hundreds of local Chicagoans to stand outside the Wigwam and cheer lustily for Seward.

Tom Hyer–bare-knuckle champ and native New Yorker

Weed arranged for an open bar at the Richmond House, another Chicago hotel. He even hired former bare-knuckle champion Tom Hyer to mix the drinks and keep the crowd excited by leading the marching and cheering.

At 12:20 PM on Wednesday, May 16, 1860, the convention was called to order. The Wigwam was filled to capacity with 10,000 mostly-Seward supporters. 20,000 to 30,000 more filled the streets outside. When the Lincoln team realized that they had been initially outsmarted in their own town by Weed’s paid minions, Davis went ballistic–for about a minute. Then he turned to Ward Hill Lamon. Davis gave Lamon twenty-four hours to fix the problem.

And he did!

Ward Hill Lamon–a man with street cred






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