Before the strengthening of parties, nominations for president had generally been made at informal caucuses of senators and congressmen. But with the political landscape changing, it was time for parties to come together, conduct some organizing business, and nominate a candidate.
The first national nominating convention is barely remembered today, perhaps because it was held by an extinct political party. The Anti-Masonics, a party which had a large following and considerable momentum before flaming out, gathered in Baltimore in September 1831.
The first candidate nominated at an American convention was William Wirt, who ran as the Anti-Masonic candidate in 1832 and lost, though he did carry the electoral votes of one state, Vermont.
Two other political conventions were also held in Baltimore before the 1832 election. The National Republicans, predecessor to the Whig Party, gathered in December 1831 and nominated Henry Clay. And the Democrats gathered in Baltimore in May 1832 and renominated Andrew Jackson, who would cruise to a second term.
Over time, political conventions became traditional. And by the 1840s and 1850s, they were necessary, as epic brokered conventions were occasionally required to nominate a candidate.
Illustration: William Wirt, first man nominated at an American political convention/Library of Congress
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