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Democratic National Convention: a wild ride in 1924

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That's not unusual at a political convention. But this was: a man had hired a bunch of people to turn on battery-powered fire sirens, which turned out to be an extremely bad idea. The noise was so sharp and loud that "men and women sitting in front of these machines were blown out of their seats and staggered around shell-shocked. Children in the audience screamed with fright."

The sirens blared for more than 30 minutes. A radio announcer was so disturbed by the din that he told listeners he worried the hall's skylights would fall in.

Tangled Up over Racism: One top hopeful, former secretary of the treasury and Californian who had the unlikely name of William Gibbs McAdoo, played footsie with the Ku Klux Klan and even got support from it. He didn't turn it down because he wanted the South's support.

That wasn't all. The delegates actually debated the KKK, even though nobody actually wanted to come near the issue. This did not go well: "No paradise of human understanding at best, Madison Square Garden now turned into a pit of crouching hates and simmering prejudices."

The vicious KKK debate finally ended in a chaotic two-hour vote that produced the most "prolonged pandemonium in an American political gathering."

"The delegates engaged in fist fights, arguments, name calling, wrestling matches, and brawls, while the galleries howled and stomped their feet." The fighting veered toward a riot that was only averted when 1,000 NYC cops hurried to the scene.

Sit Back, Stay a While: The balloting to choose the nominee went on. And on. And on. Will Rogers complained, as Murray put it, "that New York had invited the delegates as visitors, not to live there."

One day featured a whopping 19 ballots, the most ever taken on a single day of a major political convention in U.S. history.

Meanwhile, on Independence Day, 20,000 Klansmen and their families met to rally in nearby New Jersey. They built an effigy of Smith, the Catholic governor, and smashed it with baseballs at a nickel for three throws.

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