Today is “Presidents Day,” so we look at the US presidents who have paid visits to our city. Since Indianapolis was the railroad crossroads of America, presidents who visited the western parts of the country by rail often went through the city, so we got more than a fair share of presidents through here. Here are just some highlights of presidential visits to Indianapolis…
- William Henry Harrison. Certainly never visited the city during his presidency, though he probably visited the area of Marion County while governor of the territory or during the Indian campaigns.
- Martin Van Buren visited Indianapolis after his presidency, while following the National Road. There is a legend that his stagecoach was upturned by citizens in Richmond and/or Plainfield protesting his cutting federal funding of maintenance for the National Road during his presidency.
- Abraham Lincoln probably had the most famous visits to Indianapolis. His first was on February 12, 1861, his birthday, on his way to Washington D.C. He ate breakfast with Governor Morton, and visited the statehouse before continuing to Cincinnati. His second visit to the city was on April 30, 1865, when his funeral train arrived at 7am. His body laid in state at the statehouse, where thousands walked by.
- Ulysses Grant came through the city during the Civil War, where he met the Secretary of War Stanton, who placed him in charge of the Armies of the Mississippi.
- Grover Cleveland visited the city during his “Goodwill Tour of 1887”, which was one of several he made to attempt to strengthen the Democratic party following.
- Benjamin Harrison visited Indianapolis many times, owing largely to the fact that he lived here.
- Theodore Roosevelt came to Indianapolis on Memorial Day, 1907, and helped in the dedication of the Henry Lawton statue at the Marion County Court House (now in Garfield Park). Here is a photo of him speaking during another visit at the English Hotel in 1910.
- Howard Taft spent July 4, 1911 in Indianapolis.
- Among other visits, Woodrow Wilson came to the city for the 100th anniversary of Indiana statehood in 1916. A view of Wilson at the Monument can be seen here.
- Herbert Hoover was the first of several presidents to visit what would become known as Hinkle Fieldhouse.
- Franklin Roosevelt visited the city several times during his presidency, and his flagship when visiting foreign countries was coincidentally the USS Indianapolis.
- Harry Truman spoke at the World War Memorial during his campaign, October 15, 1948. His speech was typical of his folksy speaking style, and the text can be found here.
Since Eisenhower, every president has visited Indianapolis, though most have flown in and flown out, staying only for a few hours.
If anyone has stories to share about a president’s visit to Indianapolis, please share them in the comments below. Happy Presidents Day!