St. Louis burned humid and hot, a “boiling sun, ” one reporter described it. Humidity draped over the city like a fog. Yesterday's rain only made it worse. Visitors and residents alike found no relief. Republicans, attending their national convention, packed the town.
Outside the convention hall the thermometer soared to 86 degrees; inside the muggy auditorium, crowded with 12,000 sweating delegates and visitors, the temperature grew hotter still. Hand fans fluttered everywhere. Tension and turmoil honed the heat and humidity.
The Republican National Convention met in St. Louis that June 18, 1896. The convention, for all practical purposes, had already decided its presidential nominee and thus had offered little excitement until this moment. Except for the rumor that some western states might bolt, the convention was placid and unanimated.
Sweltering, strawhatted delegates, earlier in the day neatly attired in carefully ironed Victorian gentlemen's summer suits and shirts, leaned forward in their wooden chairs to hear the speaker on the platform. A few women listened, too, but this remained principally a man's world. Women had the right to vote in Colorado and neighboring Wyoming, Idaho, and Utah but not elsewhere and not in presidential elections.
The tall, gaunt man, wearing, as it was quaintly described, “the old- fashioned frock coat of the old-time statesman, ” with only a pink rosebud in his lapel to break his somber appearance, spoke as always with deep