Ohio History Journal

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Associate Professor of Speech, Oberlin College


On the week end of February 21, 1840, twenty-three thousand

enthusiastic Whigs crowded into Columbus for the Ohio Whig

convention.2 A heavy rain drenched the delegates as they milled

about seeking quarters in the thriving capital city, which that year

proudly reported six thousand inhabitants to the bureau of the

census. The arrangements committee announced that every Whig

house in Columbus had been requisitioned to accommodate the

guests. "Straw beds, mattresses, and even the naked floors" were

put to use; but sedate citizens got little sleep, for this was the

opening of the sensational "Tippecanoe-and-Tyler-too" presidential

campaign in Ohio. To insure proper enthusiasm for "Tip, Tyler,

and the tariff," thoughtful Whig managers had provided barrels of

hard cider, conveniently located on the downtown street corners, to

serve free as added stimulation for those whose spirits might be

dampened unduly by the rain.

"Columbus," according to one account, "was the very home of

ballad makers and ballad singers." Every gathering had its minstrel

and every crowd its orator. "Songs and shouts echoed alternately

from every part of the city." Outside John Neil's tavern excited

partisans debated the gubernatorial candidacy of Tom Corwin,

while around the square inebriated paraders sloshed through mud

a foot deep while taunting President Martin Van Buren with the

chant: "Van, Van, Van-Van's a used up man." Across the street

on the statehouse lawn, speakers harangued delegates from three

separate platforms, since a single platform was found to be in-

adequate for the immense crowd. "Twenty bands of music are


1 Based on a paper delivered before the speech section of the Ohio College Asso-

ciation, Columbus, April 9, 1948.

2 "The estimate of several judicious men who took much pains to make accurate

calculations." Niles' Register (Washington D.C.), March 14, 1840.