The 1880 Republican National Convention: Grant's Final Defeat

Today, one of the most important avenues to political success is name recognition. Within the past 50 years, Ronald Reagan and Donald Trump have owed their political success partly due to their previous occupation as entertainers while Hillary Clinton and George W. Bush were aided because of their relation to another president. As the 1880 Presidential Election was approaching, one Republican competing for his party’s nomination, Ulysses S. Grant, would have been known to virtually everyone in the Union as a war hero and former two-term president. By 1880, Grant had decided to throw his hat back into the political arena after being out of politics since 1877 and seek an unprecedented third term as President. However, despite his status as a war hero and elder statesman, he failed to even win the nomination of his own party at the 1880 Republican National Convention in Chicago despite leading the balloting most of the way through. This exhibit aims to answer the question of how and why Grant failed to succeed in his quest for the Republican nomination despite the advantages he seemingly had over his rivals.


Michael Schiestel