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Chapter 186: Baltimore

June 27, 1912
Hotel Caswell
Baltimore, Maryland

Walter Kehoe
Kehoe and Wilson
700-702 American National Bank Building
Pensacola, Florida


Dear Walter:

It’s about 2 am here in Baltimore, and I finally have a few moments to write you. I don’t know how much I’ll get down on paper; and yet, members of our delegation are still out and about. Some are in the lobby, some are out in the city; I’m rooming with Tommie Crawford at the Caswell, and he’s out with Mayes and several others. I begged off, citing weariness with the heat, humidity, noise, and constant activities. It has truly been nonstop — I have no idea how some of the others in our group are able to keep up — but everyone shows up right on time at the main convention doors on Hoffman Street, in front of the Armory, with tickets ready, and in high spirits. Thousands upon thousands of people milling about — and the noise! And the smells!

I’m certain Baltimore is a nice city any other time, but it’s hard to take note of the amenities when you’re buffeted about by crowds of people all day long.

I mentioned it’s the middle of the night, and yet, there’s bands playing all the time. The delegation from Ohio had a brass band meet them at the Camden Station — 10 train cars of supporters and delegates! — and the entire group marched from the station to their hotel on Sunday night. And then, there’s another band playing at the Camden Station all day long, mostly “Maryland, my Maryland,” constantly as the folks get off the train.

Postcard, Fifth Regiment Armory: Postcard view of the exterior of the Fifth Regiment Armory. ~ Source: Jordan Smith/Flickr, 8443918736.

But that’s nothing compared to the heat. It has been almost 90 degrees every day, and with all of us together, close-in, in the Armory, is claustrophobic. As an alternate, I’m right there, with the rest of the Florida delegation, so there’s no relief, except I do take a break now and then to get outside, to catch my breath, or to get a quick smoke. But the crowds outside are just as thick as inside the Armory.

Entrance, Democratic Convention Hall (1912): View of the scene at the entrance to the Fifth Regiment Armory during the Democratic Convention. ~ Source: Library of Congress, LC-DIG-hec-01364 ~ Creator: Harris & Ewing ~ Date: 1912

When I step outside, I have a chance to meet folks from different delegations who are walking about, and some of the reporters from the Associated Press. I wish I thought to bring my Kodak to capture the event, but Mayes said it wouldn’t look proper for a future congressman and one of the delegates to look like a tourist among them.

A Kodak camera from 1910. Emmett owned a folded pocket camera like this one. Source: digicamhistory.com

But I have made new friends with several others from Florida press, as well as from the Associated Press; one fellow introduced me to Harris & Ewing’s journeymen photographers. One of the fellows gave me a print of the crowd photo enclosed herein, and promised me others if I wanted them. I offered to buy them but he declined; instead gave me his card and asked for an interview sometime. I told him that was a fair exchange.

I’m sure you’ve been following some of the coverage of the convention in the newspapers, so I won’t bore you with the details of different votes, and so forth; you’ve been at one of these conventions before.

I will tell you, though, that everyone is watching Mayes carefully. Not just the folks from our group; the important people in the national party are watching him. He’s making plans to stop over in Washington on our way back, to speak with our congressional delegation, naturally, but he’s also quietly drumming up support among the different constituencies for when he says Woodrow Wilson becomes our next President. Mayes is constantly, quietly, wheeling and dealing in the hotel lobbies when he’s not at the Armory, but even then, you can see him milling about, getting to know Woodrow Wilson’s team personally. Whenever I’m close by, he always introduces me as the next congressman from Florida, and he makes sure the Wilson team sees me, knows who I am. Or he points me out when I’m not close by (so, Walter — not to worry. I’ve been careful here not to celebrate too much, or too often. I’m also aware that several of our delegation have been to late parties with women provided by the convention — Mayes told me specifically to watch myself with them. Some report back to newspapers about those antics).

====

As you know, the trip to Petersburg went well, and on my way to Baltimore, the train stopped briefly in Washington for the connection. While I was there, I walked around the white marble monstrosity of the brand new Union Station; it’s elaborate, maybe too grandiose, but it is convenient to Capitol Hill — only about a 15 or 20 minute walk to the Capitol, then to the House Office Building from there. Union Station is much nicer than the station on the Mall the last time I was in Washington — as you remember, I stopped here on my way home to Florida from my time in Sterling to visit with Carter.

I would have liked to have spent time walking about the Capitol grounds while I was there, and I told as much to Mayes. But Mayes promises that we’ll take a few days after the Convention to visit D.C., and see the sights. Even perhaps attend a Senators baseball game at Griffith Field.

The external view (from 1910) of Union Station is not much different in 2023.
Source: Union Station, Washington, D.C. United States Washington D.C. District of Columbia Washington D.C, None. [Between 1910 and 1925] [Photograph] Retrieved from the Library of Congress, https://www.loc.gov/item/2016825265/.

I got to Baltimore on Monday quite early in the morning, before daybreak, but that didn’t matter, because the hotel is active around the clock. I had time to check in, change clothes and freshen up in the room, and head downstairs for breakfast, then meet with the delegation to discuss voting strategies, and to meet and exchange information with other states’ delegates. I’ve met several interesting people who are connected to the House and have promised to show me around, help me get acquainted when I’m in Washington — of course, I tell them, I still must win the general election — and they simply laugh knowingly; pat my arm. “Modesty is a good trait to foster in a freshman congressman,” one said, as he moved away. I wasn’t sure if I was being made fun of at the moment, but Mayes stepped in as the fellows left and said that that was exactly the way to conduct myself here.

I feel as if he’s always watching me; but then, he’s watching everyone and listening to everything, while not really looking as if he’s doing it.

That is how the days are; I have been going nonstop ever since, and it is, well. Intoxicating. It is not the only thing that is nonstop. Alcohol flows all day long and is readily available at any time. Please let Jennie know that I am being careful. Reporters are always looking for a story to write, especially about the new congressman not being able to handle the political life before it is even begun.

About the hotel and who he is staying with; the cost of everything, mostly covered by Mayes. I’m appalled and uncomfortable at how expensive everything is here. Mayes says it’s the convention driving up the costs, but others tell me its just as expensive in D.C., and all the time. On my own, I could not afford more than a day of this town, especially during convention. Mayes tells me not to worry, all the normal niceties are covered. I pay my own way as much as I can, but I am afraid I already owe him so much. I will be in debt to him for years.

I have to stop now, Walter, because I truly am about to fall asleep at this desk, and I will have to be up and about early tomorrow to canvass with the delegation about the votes for Wilson. I’ll mail this first thing in the morning and will write again soon.

Love to Jennie and the family,

Emmett

Categories: Congressman Family Florida History In Emmett's Words

Tagged as:

jsmith532

Professor,
Communication, Arts, and the Humanities
The University of Maryland Global Campus

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