Ohio History Journal

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Travels of President

Rutherford B. Hayes




In a predominantly newspaper age, long before the advent of radio and television,

Ohio's President Rutherford B. Hayes spent much of his four-year term traveling

throughout the United States. Beset by critics in both the political arena and the

press, he strove to put his cause and himself directly before the American people.

While many of his trips were avowedly nonpolitical, they definitely helped to pro-

ject a favorable image of the Chief Executive, his family, and his advisers. More-

over, the President's many travels strengthened the power and reach of the

presidential office and proved to be one of his more effective political maneuvers.

In addition to extended official tours into New England, the South, and the West,

Hayes made many shorter trips to attend state and county fairs, dedications, his-

torical anniversaries, and commencement ceremonies. Harvard, Yale, and Johns

Hopkins all conferred honorary doctorates on the visiting Chief Executive.1 In

New York City Hayes participated in the dedication of new buildings for the Mus-

eum of Natural History and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, two major land-

marks in the nation's cultural progress.2 Other junkets took him to Mount Vernon

and James Madison's estate in Virginia. In the summer of 1879, accompanied by

four cabinet officers, he explored the ruins of Westmoreland (Washington's birth-

place). After dropping anchor in the Potomac River, he was carried ashore by

sailors, and then hiked a mile over marshy ground.3 What Hayes enjoyed most,

however, were soldiers' reunions.

On another trip to see the famous North Dakota wheat fields just before harvest

time, he also attended the opening of the Minnesota state fair. An episode typical of

the ineptitude of special committees occurred here. Ex-Governor Alexander Ramsey

and his wife, friends of the Hayes, wished to open their new home for a general recep-

tion, but the local committee declined their offer in favor of a hotel banquet and

reception, adding the suggestion that instead the Ramseys might entertain the

President and his party for breakfast. So a club breakfast featuring filets mignon

and prairie chicken was prepared and served by Mrs. Ramsey and her servants.



1. Hayes received a LL.D. at Harvard, June 27, 1877; a LL.D. at Yale, July 1, 1880; a LL.D. at

Johns Hopkins, February 12, 1881.

2. Hayes Diary, December 26, 1877, and April 1, 1880, Hayes Papers, Rutherford B. Hayes Library,

Fremont, Ohio.

3. Ibid., July 7, 1879.


Mr. Davison is chairman American Studies department, Heidelberg College.