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Great — and Not So Great — Moments at GOP Conventions

A visual history of speeches, celebrations and other happenings

  • 1876

    Abolitionist Frederick Douglass, the featured speaker at the convention in Cincinnati, berates the Republican Party for emancipating slaves without giving them real freedom. "You turned us loose to the sky, to the storm, to the whirlwind," he tells the assembled delegates (all but 24 of whom are white), "and worst of all, you turned us loose to the wrath of our infuriated masters." — The Granger Collection, New York

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  • 1912

    William Howard Taft and Theodore Roosevelt duke it out in Chicago. Taft brands Roosevelt "the greatest menace to our institutions that we have had in a long time." Roosevelt derides Taft as an agent of "the forces of reaction and of political crookedness." Roosevelt comes up short and, as depicted in this cartoon, becomes the standard-bearer of the new Progressive "Bull Moose" Party. — Stock Montage/Getty Images

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  • 1920

    After learning he has been selected as the Republican Party's candidate for president, Warren G. Harding joins the band at his home in Marion, Ohio, playing the tuba. — Bettmann/Corbis

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  • 1940

    In Philadelphia's Convention Hall, the first national political convention to be televised chooses Wendell Willkie, a Wall Street lawyer who has never run for public office, as the Republican presidential candidate. Only one TV station, W2XBS in New York, owned by RCA (the precursor of today's NBC), carries the event. It airs 33 hours of convention coverage over five days. — Walter Sanders//Time Life Pictures/Getty Images

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  • 1952

    Gen. Douglas MacArthur's keynote address at the International Amphitheatre in Chicago is so bad that it all but ensures the nomination of his rival, Gen. Dwight Eisenhower, another popular war hero. "One could feel the electricity gradually running out of the room," C.L. Sulzberger, a reporter for the New York Times, later recalls. — Keystone/Getty Images

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  • 1960

    The Republican Party's only living ex-president, Herbert Hoover, delivers a "farewell" speech on the opening day of the convention in Chicago. It marked his return to the city in which he had been renominated for the presidency in 1932. (Hoover ultimately lost to Franklin Delano Roosevelt.) "I once was a young Republican," Hoover, now 85, tells delegates. — Stan Wayman//Time Life Pictures/Getty Images

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  • 1964

    Former U.S. Sen. Margaret Chase Smith of Maine arrives at the convention in San Francisco, where she becomes the first woman to have her name placed in nomination for the presidency by either of the two major parties. Sen. Barry M. Goldwater of Arizona wins the nomination, and his conservatism launches a revolution in the GOP. — Smith Library/AP Photo

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  • 1972

    During a live television broadcast from a youth rally at the GOP convention in Miami Beach, Richard Nixon finds himself on the receiving end of an enthusiastic embrace from entertainer Sammy Davis Jr., who calls Nixon "the president and the future president of the United States of America." Nixon's awkwardness makes the image instantly famous. — Smith Library/AP Photo

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  • 1976

    Ronald Reagan conceded the party’s nomination to President Gerald Ford, but his powerful closing remarks may have left delegates wondering why they hadn’t chosen the more conservative candidate. Four years later, they did. — David Hume Kennerly/Getty Images

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  • 1988

    "Read my lips: no new taxes," George H.W. Bush says in accepting the GOP nomination in New Orleans. The six seemingly harmless words, penned by speechwriter Peggy Noonan, will come to haunt Bush four years later — and perhaps cost him reelection — when a devastating Democratic attack ad turns the line against Bush. — Mike Spague/AFP/Getty Images

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  • 2004

    Meeting at Madison Square Garden in New York, Republicans nominate President George W. Bush for a second term and, as part of their celebration, set the record for the most balloons dropped at a convention (100,000). Democrats, meeting a little more than a month earlier, were embarrassed when their balloons failed to drop from the ceiling of Boston's Fleet Center. — Spencer Platt/Getty Images

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