Site Selection for the 1953 Worldcon was conducted at Chicon II in 1952. There were numerous bidders: San Francisco in '53, Philadelphia in 1953, Indianapolis in '53, Niagara Falls in '53, Amalgamated Greater New York Fan Groups in '53, Queens SFL in '53. In addition, Cleveland in 1953, Detroit in '53, and NWT in '53 (a hoax bid) had all bid but did not take part in the vote at Chicon II.
Just as the balloting was about to begin, the Amalgamated Greater New York Fan Groups in '53 bid "dramatically withdrew and threw their full support behind the Philadelphia bid."
|1st Round||2nd Round||3rd Round|
|Philadelphia in 1953||137||171||191|
|San Francisco in '53||138||143||169|
|Indianapolis in '53||62||51|
|Queens SFL in '53||21|
|Niagara Falls in '53||15|
Between the second and third rounds, there was an attempt to adjourn the business meeting, which failed. When Indianapolis in '53 was dropped from the ballot after the second round, it threw its support to San Francisco in '53 (though how effectual this was is unclear, since its 51 votes split 26 for SF, 20 for Philadelphia, and 5 did not vote.)
Harry Warner reports in A Wealth of Fable, that the bid spent $800 on their bid — an unheard-of amount. It was widely expected that San Francisco ought to win (the previous Worldcons had been Philcon I, Torcon I, Cinvention, NorWesCon, and Nolacon I with none in California) and the ill-feeling over its loss provided impetus to creating a rotation system.
There was no Rotation Rule in 1953. Nor had there been the previous year. At Chicon II in 1952, nominations for the site were thrown wide open. San Francisco, enthusiastically backed by The Elves, Gnomes, and Little Men's Science Fiction, Chowder, and Marching Society of Berkeley, assumed that it would be the west coast's turn to host the con in '53. They came to Chicago expecting that, and rightly so.
It didn't happen. Down and dirty politicking took over. Most of the attendees—and everyone sitting in the meeting hall could vote, as many times as it took to get a majority—made a choice on the basis of "can I get to the con in 1953?" Since the majority of the fans attending lived in the Midwest, they voted for Philly. Afterward, following considerable rehashing, recrimination, and bitterness expressed in fanzine lettercols, second thoughts and guilt set in. By the time Philcon rolled around, the fans felt they were duty bound to vote for San Francisco in '54—even if we had no real chance of attending a west coast con. So that's what we did.
The movement that was to become the Worldcon Rotation System began there. That powerful aftermath feeling of "San Francisco was gypped" helped change fannish opinions. Later the rotation plan was taken for granted, and now it's gone again. Fans can now spend their time arguing over far more important subjects like whether it's obligatory to hold a NASFIC in the US any time the Worldcon goes overseas. Ah, progress!