June 2024


Most alert readers (ARs) surely know that in 1904 St. Louis hosted The Louisiana Purchase Exposition, commonly known as The World’s Fair; and in the same year we hosted the first Olympic Games ever held outside Europe. I suspect fewer ARs know that in that same year the Democratic National Convention was held in St. Louis; and far fewer ARs are aware that St. Louis is the only city ever to host The Olympic Games and a major political party’s convention in the same year.

For the record, the only sport in which women officially competed in the 1904 Games was archery. (Curiously, women’s boxing was an exhibition sport for which no medals were awarded.) At the Democratic Convention that year Alton B. Parker of New York was nominated for president and Henry G. Davis of West Virginia was nominated for vice president. They were defeated in the general election in November by the ticket of Theodore Roosevelt and Charles Fairbanks.

The next and last time a major party’s national convention was held in St. Louis was in 1916, when the Democrats nominated Woodrow Wilson for president and Thomas R. Marshall for vice president. As has been previously reported in this space, women were not allowed to vote at the time but nevertheless had a huge impact on the convention. Advocates for women’s suffrage, wearing white dresses with golden sashes, formed a so-called “golden lane” extending 12 blocks on Locust Street, along which male delegates had to pass on their way from their hotel to The St. Louis Coliseum, where the convention was held. This powerful demonstration is acknowledged by most historians to have played a major role in the passage of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which gave women the right to vote. A historical marker commemorating this event was placed next to The Schlafly Tap Room parking lot in 2021.

The next time a major party’s national convention was held in Missouri was in 1928, when Republicans met in Kansas City and nominated Herbert Hoover for president and Charles Curtis for vice president. Although the convention was held during the height of Prohibition, thanks to Democratic boss Tom Pendergast, the Republican delegates did not lack for entertainment and diversions, legal and otherwise. Kansas City under Pendergast was said to be a “24-hour, wide open town offering bootleg liquor, speakeasies, illicit gambling, prostitution and other criminal activity, “ all of which were facilitated by “bribery, electoral fraud and permissive law enforcement.” This permissive atmosphere earned KC the sobriquet “The Paris of the Plains.”

May Reay with the drink of champions and one of her mother’s three Olympic Gold medals.

In 1924 The Olympic Games were held in the original Paris on the Seine, not the one on the Missouri. Some ARs may recall that these games were the setting for the 1981 film Chariots of Fire, which was based on the real-life story of two British sprinters: Harold Abrahams, who had to deal with toxic antisemitism; and Eric Liddell, whose religious scruples would not allow him to compete on Sunday. What some ARs may not recall is that the movie also featured an American sprinter named Jackson Scholz, a Mizzou graduate from St. Louis. In Paris, Scholz, who had already won a gold medal as a member of the 400 meter relay team in Antwerp in 1920, won a gold medal in the 200 meter dash and a silver medal in the 100 meter dash.

By this time women were allowed to compete in Olympic events beyond archery and exhibition boxing, thus opening the door for Martha Norelius, another gold medalist in Paris that year with a St. Louis connection. Swimming in the same pool in which some of the 2024 Olympic aquatic events will be held, she won a gold medal in the 400 meter freestyle. Four years later she won two more gold medals in the 1928 Olympic Games in Amsterdam; one in the 400 meter freestyle and one in the 4 x 100 meter freestyle relay. Nearly 100 years later she is still the only female swimmer to win gold medals in the 400 meter freestyle competition in two consecutive Olympics.

After the 1928 Olympics Martha turned professional in 1929, thus disqualifying herself from future Olympic competition. Fifteen years later, in 1944, she was in New Orleans, where she met and married a Coast Guardsman from St. Louis named Alanson Brown. After World War II ended, Martha and Alanson moved to St. Louis, where their daughter May was born. (May Brown Reay is an AR to whom I’m indebted for much of the content of this column.)

Martha Norelius Brown died in 1955, when I was six years old and in second grade, more than 36 years before the launch of Schlafly Beer. Although Martha never had a chance to try Schlafly, May assures me she would have been a big fan if it had been available in her lifetime.

Looking ahead to the major party conventions this year, the nominees for president are foregone conclusions: Joe Biden for the Democrats and Donald Trump for the Republicans. Despite their significant differences in policy and demeanor, it’s worth noting that Biden and Trump have something in common in addition to their advanced ages. Neither one is a beer drinker. Think about it. Beer drinkers, who comprise a constituency of tens of millions of American voters, are not represented at the top of either the Democratic or Republican ticket.

Given this glaring omission, now could be the time to revive The Beer Drinkers’ Party, a concept that has been proposed in this space in the past 30 years or longer, but has never been brought to fruition. My suggestion in 2024 is to hold the party’s convention in St. Louis, a city that has been snubbed by the two major parties for 108 years. Unlike the 1916 Democratic Convention, women would be invited to participate fully on equal terms with men. And, unlike the 1928 Republican Convention in Kansas City, delegates of both sexes could drink beer legally and openly without having to frequent speakeasies beholden to Boss Pendergast.





Tom Schlafly
Chairman – The Saint Louis Brewery