1953 Worldcon Site Selection

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Site Selection for the 1953 Worldcon was conducted at Chicon II in 1952. There were numerous bidders:

As was the custom at the time, the vote was conducted at a business meeting attended by a large fraction of the convention and chaired by Julian May, who chaired Chicon II. The vote was secret.

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
Total 376 367 362

Between the second and third rounds, there was an attempt to adjourn the business meeting, which failed. When Indianapolis was dropped from the ballot after the second round, it threw its support to San Francisco (though how effectual this was is unclear, since its 51 votes split 26 for San Francisco, 20 for Philadelphia, and 5 did not vote.)

Harry Warner reports in A Wealth of Fable, that the San Francisco bid spent $800 on their bid -- an unheard-of amount. It was widely expected that San Francisco ought to win (the previous five Worldcons had been Philcon, Torcon I, Cinvention, NorWesCon, and Nolacon I with none in California) and the ill-feeling over its loss for 1953 provided impetus to creating a Rotation System.

In a reminiscence of fandom in 1953, Juanita Coulson wrote:

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 Elves, Gnomes & Little Men's Science Fiction, Chowder & 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!

In an interview, Juanita, then a teen-aged fan in the Indianapolis club, recalled that the Indianapolis bid was a surprise to the rest of the club who learned of it only at the Site Selection meeting when Ray Beam (the oldest member of the club) got up on stage and announced that he was putting Indianapolis into the race. (Remember, at that time most of the action of bidding happened at the Business Meeting where Site Selection happened.) People supporting Philly and SF were appalled and tried to persuade Indianapolis to withdraw, or, at least, to support them once they were eliminated.

Another fan recorded that --'--fans voted with their feet and not their hearts.--'--

1952 Worldcon Site Selection 1954 1953
This is page about convention bidding, the competition and its outcome. Please extend it by adding information about who was bidding, and how the race went.