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Hotel Highlights

Battle over Suffrage waged at Hotel
In 1920, Tennessee became the 36th state to ratify the 19th amendment to the US Constitution, giving women nationwide the right to vote. That's quite a milestone in Tennessee and US history.
But did you know that the heated political debate, carried on most fervently by women on both sides, was centered at The Hermitage Hotel?
The Hermitage Hotel gave room to equal causes and drew reporters from New York, Washington DC, Boston and other cities who were in town to report the suffrage fight.
It all began in 1914, when The Hermitage Hotel hosted the National American Women's Suffrage Association's national convention. By 1915, news reports predicted that Tennessee's powerful suffragists might win the vote for all American women.
In 1920, the hotel was the headquarters for both pro- and anti-suffrage forces. The anti-suffrage movement used the hotel as a platform for decrying the loss of womanhood and motherhood, certain results if suffrage passed, they believed.
The final vote came on Aug. 18, when Rep. Harry Burn broke a 48-48 tie in favor of women's suffrage. It's passage was celebrated with as much intensity as the fight to achieve it and mourned with all the drama and sensationalism used to fight it. At The Hermitage Hotel, emotions ran the gamut. In March 1995, a celebration marking the 75th anniversary of women's suffrage was held at The Hermitage Hotel.
Hotel leaves a Musical Heritage
The Hermitage Hotel was the cornerstone of social activity in Nashville during the '30s and '40s. The Francis Craig Orchestra entertained Nashvillians from the Oak Bar and Grille Room from 1929 to 1945 - the longest running hotel gig on the books. Craig's orchestra was also the first to broadcast over WSM and enjoyed phenomenal success with a 12-year show that was aired over the entire NBC network. In 1949, he introduced a newcomer, Dinah Shore, who entertained his audience with a new song entitled, "Near You."
Where the Famous Flocked
The guest book reads like a Who's Who in American History. Six presidents have made their way to The Hermitage Hotel along with such celebrities as Bette Davis, Greta Garbo and Al Capone. An autographed photo of Gene Autry in full cowboy garb at the hotel desk now hangs proudly on the wall of the hotel's lower level. Local World War I hero Sergeant Alvin York is said to have hung his hat at the hotel while touring Nashville.
Former Vaudevillian and consummate performer Al Jolson also dropped by the The Hermitage Hotel, probably on his way to belt out a few bars of "Suwannee" or "Toot, Toot, Tootsie" at the Ryman Auditorium.
Shortly after its opening, The Hermitage Hotel played host to a variety of political figures. President William Howard Taft came to Nashville on Nov. 9, 1911, and was entertained at the finest room in the city - the main dining room of The Hermitage Hotel. Women were permitted to attend the banquet - a first in Nashville history. The following year, Woodrow Wilson, then governor of New Jersey, attended a banquet there held in his honor.
The Hermitage Hotel really made its mark on political history when Memphis' own Edward H. (Boss) Crump headquartered his statewide political machine there. The stalwart politico - known as the Red Snapper of Tennessee politics - launched many Democratic campaigns from the hotel. For years, the hotel served as the headquarters of the state Democratic Party.
President and Mrs. Franklin D. Roosevelt came to Nashville at the invitation of local Congressman and US Speaker of the House Joseph W. Byrns on Nov. 17, 1934. According to newspaper reports, the largest crowds in Nashville history lined the downtown streets to get a glimpse of the Roosevelts en route to The Hermitage Hotel. The First Couple was here to promote the "New Deal" programs, many of which were pushed through Congress with the help of Speaker Byrns.
The hotel continued to accommodate presidents in style in the years to come, serving as the headquarters for Sen. John F. Kennedy's 1960 presidential campaign. While on the campaign trail, Kennedy spoke to a crowd in front of the hotel and a few years later spent the night when visiting Nashville as president.
President Lyndon B. Johnson visited The Hermitage Hotel in 1964, when a President's Club reception was held for him in the Iris Room. And President Richard M. Nixon checked into the hotel on a trip to Nashville during his administration.
Pool King
The hotel was home for eight years to pool legend Minnesota Fats. The pool shark, arguably the most famous player to pick up a cue stick, had his own table on the Mezzanine above the elegant lobby.

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