Ever since October 1875, when hordes of Salt Lake residents gathered at the railroad depot on South Temple to greet President and Ulysses S. Grant and the first lady, the country's heads of state have been dropping in on Utah.
In fact, after Grant, only four presidents have failed to come a-visiting — Presidents James Garfield, Chester Arthur, Grover Cleveland and Calvin Coolidge. Or we could say five didn't visit, if we count Cleveland for both of his terms, which were separated by the stint of President Benjamin Harrison. (Cleveland is officially the 22nd and 24th president.)
When Grant appeared in Utah Territory, "The people were out in large numbers upon South Temple Street, in the vicinity of the depot, and elsewhere, eager to catch a glimpse of the presidential party and to express by their cheerful countenances the cordial welcome which sprang from their hearts towards persons placed in such high and responsible positions by the united voice of the people in this great country," the Deseret News exulted in its Oct. 5, 1875, edition.
"The welcome was as courteously and cordially acknowledged by the party, and it would be difficult to say which were most gratified by the mutual manifestations of respect by visitors and visited towards each other."
Unfortunately, the momentous occasion happened before newspapers were able to print photographs, and no view of Grant's stopover is retained by the Deseret News. But all his successors in office who came to Utah are represented in the newspaper's archives.
Some of these views of presidential visits are printed with this article, while many more are posted online. Ronald Fox, North Salt Lake, a collector of political and Utah history items, chose the images from the vast Deseret News photo archives.
Fox, who is writing a book about visits by presidents, provided this timeline of chief executives on Utah soil:
Grant, Oct. 2-3, 1875; Rutherford B. Hayes, Sept. 5-6, 1880; (James Garfield, Chester A. Arthur and Grover Cleveland, in order, not on Fox's list); Benjamin Harrison, May 8-9, 1891; (Grover Cleveland misses his second chance); William McKinley, May 26, 1901; Theodore Roosevelt, May 29, 1903; William Howard Taft, Sept. 24-26, 1909, and Oct. 5 and 18, 1911; Woodrow Wilson, Sept. 23-24, 1919.
From Utah, Wilson went on to Colorado. Fox noted that on the Colorado leg of his journey, "he suffered the first attack of what became a massive stroke that paralyzed him for the rest of his life." Edith Wilson ran the White House for her incapacitated husband.
Presidents Warren G. Harding, June 26-27, 1923; (not Calvin Coolidge); Herbert Hoover, Nov. 7, 1932.
Hoover's single visit to the Beehive State as president came when he was en route to California, where he would vote in the presidential election. At a railroad stop in Salt Lake City, he addressed a crowd, then continued on the trip. The next day he lost the election to Franklin D. Roosevelt.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Sept. 29, 1935, and Sept. 1, 1936; Harry S Truman, June 26-27, 1945, Sept. 20, 1948, and Oct. 6, 1952; Then-presidential candidate Dwight D. Eisenhower, Sept. 4, 1954; John F. Kennedy, Sept. 25-26, 1963; Lyndon B. Johnson, Sept. 18, 1964 and Oct. 28, 1964; Richard M. Nixon, July 24, 1970, and Oct. 30, 1970; Gerald R. Ford, Nov. 1, 1974; James Carter, Nov. 4, 1978; Ronald Reagan, Sept. 10, 1982, Oct. 29, 1982, and Sept. 3, 1984; George H. W. Bush, Sept. 18-19, 1991, July 17-18, 1992, and Sept. 14-15, 1982; William J. Clinton, Feb. 26-March 1, 1998; George W. Bush, Feb. 8, 2002, Aug. 22, 2005, Aug. 30-31, 2006, and May 28-29, 2008.
In addition, President Barack Obama campaigned in Utah on Aug. 5, 2007, when he was a candidate for the Democratic Party's nomination.
Hundreds gathered near Kimball Junction for a hastily organized rally. Obama told the Deseret News that his reception in the state was wonderful and that the turnout in the "sort of spontaneous" rally made it worth stopping in Utah.
One of the more dramatic pictures is a view of President Harding standing at the open door of a touring car, speaking with fist at his lapel, while a reporter takes notes. Then-Utah Gov. Randall Mabey listens attentively and Harding's wife watches from the back seat.
Some of the images have never been published, such as a photo of then-presidential candidate Eisenhower with then-LDS Church President David O. McKay in 1952.
Others have remained tucked in their original negative folders for decades, forgotten until recently, including images of visits by President Kennedy. The Kennedy negatives show a scene that will never be repeated, since his assassination. Kennedy is in an open limousine along with Utah Sen. Frank E. Moss as they arrive at Hotel Utah in Salt Lake City on Sept. 23, 1963. They are in the midst of dozens of Utahns, who have crowded close for a look.
Two months later, Kennedy and Texas Gov. John Connally were riding in an open limousine in Dallas when a sniper took Kennedy's life and severely wounded Connally.
When in Utah, the country's presidents often paid their respects to leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Historic photos in the newspaper's archives include a 1964 view of President and Lady Bird Johnson with President David O. McKay and his wife. Richard Nixon, running for president in 1968, spoke in the Salt Lake Tabernacle.
On July 24, 1970, President Nixon was greeted at the LDS Church Office Building by the First Presidency, President Joseph Fielding Smith, First Counselor Harold B. Lee, and Second Counselor N. Eldon Tanner. A photograph from Dec. 2, 1978, shows President Carter seated next to Church President Spencer W. Kimball in the Tabernacle.
In more recent years, both Bushes, father and son, George H. W. and George W., visited church officials.2 comments on this story
The most recent occasion was during the latest presidential campaign. On May 29, 2008, when President George W. Bush, not a candidate for this go-round, stopped in Utah and attended a fundraiser in Deer Valley, hosted by Mitt Romney, who was an early contender. During his only official stop, Bush also had a private meeting with the First Presidency, including President Thomas S. Monson. Discussions included comments about President Monson's relationship with the earlier President Bush and his wife, Barbara.
"They had a good visit," White House Press Secretary Dana Perino said afterward. They talked about foreign policy issues, peace in the Middle East, the economy and energy, as well as what Bush would do after his term ended.
Perino added, "(The church leaders) did say that they do pray for the president, they support the presidency and (are) a very patriotic people."