August 22: Hartford Hosts the First Presidential Car Ride


Theodore Roosevelt was no stranger to Connecticut; his mother and second wife were Connecticans and his sister lived in Farmington for most of her adult life.  While Roosevelt’s several visits to the Connecticut to visit his family and friends often attracted plenty of press, his visit of August 22, 1902 was memorable for not why he visited the state — but how.

In 1902, during the second year of his tenure as President of the United States, Roosevelt traveled through Connecticut as part of a multi-state trip through New England.  Arriving in Hartford by train, he then climbed into a Columbia Electric Victoria Phaeton automobile and proceeded through the streets of Hartford, waving to thousands of onlookers who lined the streets to view the first-ever presidential motorcade.

Roosevelt’s trip marked the first time a sitting U.S. President rode in an automobile as part of his official duties; President William McKinley, Roosevelt’s predecessor, was technically the first president to ride in a car, albeit privately.  Even though the Columbia Phaeton (manufactured with pride in Hartford) boasted a top speed of 13 miles per hour, Roosevelt’s leisurely car ride through the city took nearly three hours.  The famous Rough Rider enjoyed one of the smoothest rides of his life — on this day in Connecticut history.

Further Reading

Roosevelt Rides in an Electric Car,”

Theodore Roosevelt Becomes First President to Ride in an Automobile,” The Learning Network (New York Times)

New England Welcomes President Roosevelt,” New York Times web archive