Just yesterday afternoon, while going through the last bits of miscellaneous material from the 1870s decade files, I found a few envelopes marked “Special Trains.” One of these special trains turned out to be for General Ulysses S. Grant, who, after a rather scandalous two-term presidency followed by a bankruptcy-inducing trip around the world, decided to run for president again. The CB&Q furnished a train for him from Chicago to Hannibal, Missouri, and another across Iowa, as he campaigned for the Republican nomination in 1879.
Included with the files are timetables for each train, as well as telegrams sent to the Associated Press in Chicago and to CB&Q officials detailing the campaign’s progress. The AP telegrams are descriptive in a familiar way, such as this one from November 3:
“At Red Oak there was another large crowd in waiting. As soon as the train was brought to a stop State Senator Hibbard stepped on the platform & introduced Genl. Grant who said ‘Ladies and Gentlemen I am very glad to see you all and wish I could shake hands with you all. I will make no speech further than thanking you and adding that I am always glad to see people in Iowa & to take them by the hand both at their homes and in the field.’ After the people had cheered and yelled themselves hoarse they united in calling for Mrs. Grant who as the train was starting appeared on the platform and bowed her acknowledgements.”
Another telegram sent the same day from Villisca, Iowa, describes Grant’s appearance there with Governor John H. Gear: “(both) made their appearance on the rear platform & good naturedly went through a rather severe hand shaking ordeal. Some of the crowd in their enthusiasm climbing on the platform and forcing the General to retreat a few steps.”
The telegrams to CB&Q officials are more logistical in nature: confirming timetables and personnel, and managing appearances, such as this communication from Charles E. Perkins to T.J. Potter: “Gear as governor of the state ought to be surrounded with a certain amount of pomp & circumstance and as you will not have to make fast time & as it will be in Iowa only he should I think have a car if it is possible to arrange it.”
And this, from J.M Forbes to Potter: “The citizens of Murray request me to ask if you will have the Grant special stop at Murray five minutes if so they will decorate Depot nicely.”
For all the hand shaking, speeches, and spousal support, however, Grant would eventually lose the nomination to James A. Garfield at the 1880 convention.