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For GOP, It Is the Day, but Was It the Place?

March 21, 2004|From Associated Press

RIPON, Wis. — Republicans celebrated the 150th anniversary of their party Saturday by returning to the one-room schoolhouse where some historians believe the GOP was born.

The schoolhouse was the centerpiece of a daylong celebration in Ripon that included a display of political buttons at the city's library and an evening banquet featuring remarks by former Wisconsin Gov. Lee Dreyfus.

"This is the day," said Tom German, 54, as he walked through the schoolhouse, a national landmark that now serves solely as a museum.

The schoolhouse is outfitted with photos from every Republican president from Abraham Lincoln to George W. Bush.

It is a huge source of pride for Ripon, a town of about 7,000 people, an hour and a half northeast of Madison.

This month Sen. Russell D. Feingold (D-Wis.) slipped through a resolution naming Ripon as the place where the Republican Party had its first meeting, March 20, 1854. It passed the Senate unanimously during a routine series of motions.

New Hampshire's two Republican senators, who unwittingly approved the resolution, went into an uproar. New Hampshire Commissioner of Cultural Affairs Van McLeod said a meeting in Exeter, N.H., in 1853 was the party's true genesis.

Bunk, said Tim Lyke, master of ceremonies at the Ripon banquet. He insisted the Republican name came out of the Wisconsin meeting. "It all came together here," Lyke said. "We love to play games with the New Hampshire people."

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