From Art to Artifacts: Remembering the 1976 Republican National Convention

Friday, August 9, 2019

This week marks 43 years since Ralph Steadman visited a muggy Kansas City to cover the 1976 Republican National Convention for Rolling Stone magazine.

All eyes were on the city for the showdown between incumbent President Gerald Ford and California Gov. Ronald Reagan at what turned out to be the country’s last contested political convention.

Twelve of Steadman’s inimitable drawings ultimately were published in Rolling Stone alongside John Dean’s first-person story, “Rituals of the Herd.” Six of them and six more Steadman illustrations from his time in Kansas City are part of a special traveling exhibit, Ralph Steadman: A Retrospective, on display at the Kansas City Public Library’s Central Library through September 8, 2019.

In 2016, the Library marked the 40th anniversary of the ’76 Convention with a special exhibit, Republican Showdown in Kansas City, created in partnership with the University of Kansas’ Dole Institute of Politics. It drew, in part, from holdings in the Library’s Missouri Valley Special Collections. The MVSC houses a number of artifacts from the convention and, in conjunction with its 43rd anniversary and the Steadman retrospective, we thought we’d showcase a bit of both.

Ralph Steadman: A Retrospective

The 1976 Republican National Convention in Kansas City

July 17, 2016
The last contested Republican convention included days of debate, deals, and handshakes, ending with incumbent Gerald Ford pulling out a narrow victory over former California Gov. Ronald Reagan. The intense deliberations extended to the selection of Kansas Sen. Bob Dole as Ford’s running mate. Forty years after the G.O.P. convention was held in Kansas City, the Library hosted a panel discussion of the three days of drama in Kemper Arena. The event was co-presented by the Dole Institute of Politics at the University of Kansas and marked the opening of the exhibit Republican Showdown in Kansas City. Video of the program is available to view on C-SPAN's website.


1976 GOP Convention discussion image

Panelists discussed the 1976 Republican National Convention in Kansas City, the last contested Republican convention.
1976 GOP Convention exhibit image
The Republican Showdown in Kansas City exhibit at the Central Library in 2016.

Art and Artifacts from the Convention

Rituals of the Herd image         

Spread of the Oct. 7, 1976 edition of Rolling Stone in which John Dean's "Rituals of the Herd" was published. The piece incldued Ralph Steadman's illustrations of scenes from that year's Republican National Convention in Kansas City.
Uncommitted Delegate image

Steadman’s “Uncommitted Delegate.” 
souvenir badge image
Souvenir delegate badge from the 1976 Republican National Convention. (MVSC)
Committed Delegates image         

Steadman’s “Committed Delegates.” 
convention button image

Convention button supporting Gerald R. Ford. (MVSC)
convention button image
Commemorative button for the 1976 G.O.P. Convention in Kansas City. (MVSC)
The Moment image         

Steadman’s “The Moment.” 
Kemper Arena map image         
Map of the convention seating sections in Kemper Arena.  (MVSC)

and souvenir G.O.P. Host Committee plastic cowboy hat image

Souvenir G.O.P. Host Committee plastic cowboy hat. (MVSC)
Kemper Arena image
Kemper Arena, site of the1976 Republican National Convention. (MVSC)
Reagan's Fans image         

Steadman’s “Reagan's Fans.” 
GOP Convention sign for Kansas City Star and Times image
President Regan '77 sign image
President Ford '76 sign image
Various convention signs. (MVSC)
Face to Face Main St. Crossing image         

Steadman’s “Face to Face Main St. Crossing.” 
Convention binder image

Convention binder. (MVSC)
Things to do handout image
Copy of Kansas City Tourism highlights included in convention materials. (MVSC)
Youth Ford Reagan on Route to Kemper Arena image         

Steadman’s “Youth Ford Reagan on Route to Kemper Arena.” 
1976 G.O.P Convention pennant image         

1976 G.O.P Convention pennant. (MVSC)
Republican Ladies image         

Steadman’s “Republican Ladies.” 
Convention bag image

Convention tote bag. (MVSC)
Pro-Ford plastic bag image
Pro-Ford plastic bag distributed to supporters during the convention. (MVSC)