Presidential Transportation

How do Presidents get From One Place to Another?

In the 19th century, the horse was the dominate presidential transportation. The second resident, Thomas Jefferson, ordered the construction of the first White House stable. After the White House was burned by the British in the War of 1812 (they burned the White House in 1814), Jame Monroe constructed a new stable, but this small structure would not be big enough for Andrew Jackson’s many horses.

President Jackson persuaded Congress to fund a new brick stable in 1834. Many White House stables came and went due to fire and the construction of neighboring government buildings. In 1872, a Victorian[what?] structure became the final in the long line of White House stables. Known as a great outdoorsman and rider, Theodore Roosevelt was the last president to use that stable. In 1911, it was torn down, ending the period of the horse as the preferred mode of presidential transportation.

Andrew Jackson

Lincoln Presidential Carriage
This is the carriage that President Lincoln took to Ford's Theater on the night he was assassinated. This carriage is currently on display at the Studebaker National Museum in South Bend, Indiana. Read More →

A train from the 1840s

As the United States expanded towards the west, advancements in transportation technology made traveling long distances easier and less time consuming. Known as the iron horse, railroads were used by presidents for many reasons in the 19th century.

Interior of Railcar One-the presidents’ furnished passenger train car.

President William Henry Harrison (from Indiana!) became the first president to travel by train to Washington, D.C., for his inauguration[what?] in 1841. President Abraham Lincoln expanded the railroad network when he signed the 1862 Pacific Railway Act, which eventually led to the first transcontinental railroad. In 1887, President Grover Cleveland befriended engineer George Pullman[who?] and carried out a goodwill tour across the country in Pullman’s elegant railroad cars. In the 20th century, President Warren Harding participated in a two-month speaking tour of the western United States on a train called the “Voyage of Understanding,” becoming the first sitting president to visit Alaska. President Franklin D. Roosevelt used U.S. Car No. 1, also known as “Ferdinand Magellan,”[who?] for state business, reelection campaigns, and personal trips.

Have you ever ridden on a train?

While railroads continued to be used in the 20th century, the most popular way for presidents to get around was by way of the automobile. At first, many Americans thought the automobile was only for the rich, but Henry Ford’s[Who?] assembly line production gave many people an opportunity to acquire this new technology at an affordable price. William Howard Taft became the first president to bring cars to the White House. An avid automobile enthusiast, Taft’s election prompted Congress to give $12,000 to purchase two motorcars for the presidential residence. Despite some protests, Taft fully supported the new industry. Succeeding presidents increasingly utilized automobiles and helped propel the industry forward. In 1916, President Woodrow Wilson signed the Federal Aid Road Act funding the improvement of roads across the nation. President Warren G. Harding was the first president to ride in an automobile to his inauguration in 1921.

President Donald Trump’s Limousine

Why would a United States President need all this in his car?

By the mid-twentieth century presidents began to use the new technology of air travel. Franklin D. Roosevelt was the first president to travel by airplane while in office and crossed the Atlantic multiple times during World War II. Officially called The Flying White House, a military plane was built to accommodate the commander in chief and was staffed by a United States Army Air Force crew.

FDR’s presidential plane was also known as the “Sacred Cow.”

In 1953, the call sign “Air Force One” came into use to distinguish the plane the president was flying in from any other commercial or military aircraft. President John F. Kennedy was the first president to use a jet rather than a propeller plane for travel. The planes the president flies in are specially modified to provide work spaces and high security.

Journalist Sid Davis Visits President John F. Kennedy’s Air Force One Jet

On July 12, 1957, Dwight D. Eisenhower became the first president to use a helicopter. He flew on a helicopter piloted by Major Joseph E. Barrett and Captain Lawrence Cummings.

While airplanes could not land on White House grounds, a helicopter could. Important in the post-World War II nuclear age, helicopters provided the United States military forces with a reliable and swift method to transport the president away to safety. President Kennedy upgraded the helicopters used at the White House. Before 1976, the Marine Corps and the United States Army shared the duty of flying helicopters for the president. After 1976, the Marines took sole responsibility and the call sign for the president’s helicopter transport became known as Marine One.