Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Campbell: Roosevelt Slept Here!

You know, those San Francisco Examiner writers are awfully mean.

Ninety years ago, give or take, Teddy Roosvelt came through San Jose. I ran across the May 12, 1903 San Jose Evening News article about the visit during my search for anything about the Ham Packing fire. Oh, my it was eventful. Better yet, it had railroad content.

Along with the very proper and factual news article from the Evening News's own crew, the paper also quoted from what the big city journalists were writing, and I've got to say they seem awfully jealous of San Jose. I suspect it's living in that fog all the time that makes them bitter. Or they're not eating enough prunes.

The President Didn't Have a Good Time in the Garden City
This is what Edward H. Hamilton, of the San Francisco Examiner, who has been representing that paper as a member of the President's party since its arrival on the coast, has to say about the visit to San Jose yesterday:

President Roosvelt today had one of the pleasantest and one of the most unpleasant experiences of his entire journey. The pleasant experience was at the Felton Big Trees; the unpleasant one here at San Jose.

Santa Cruz managed her celebration with much tact; San Jose with none. As a consequence this Garden City is having unpleasant things said about it up and down the Presidential train, which has been shifted to a quiet siding at Campbells so the President can sleep.


Nothing seemed to go just right here at San Jose. The stand for the speaking had been erected right at the station. [Broad gauge or narrow station? I'm guessing the narrow gauge station.] When the President was in the midst of a sentence a locomotive sent up two long, shrill blasts. Now, the human lungs are powerless against a steam whistle, and the President was worsted in the contest. Hardly was this annoyance over when another engine began clanking its bell. Then a third began puffing and coughing as it backed along the track. All this was within 200 feet or less of where the President was trying to make himself heard. Had I been President there would have been remarks not on my original program, but Mr. Roosvelt pulled through without any show of annoyance or temper. Harrison would have been very good under similar circumstances.


Hadly was this ordeal over when the President and his party were put to the torture of a drive of two hours in a thick dust. Whoever was responsible for that journey has something coming to him among the torments of the world beyond. The route was to Santa Clara, then to Campbells and then back by another way. Evidently the local committee thought that as the president had been a Rough Rider he would enjoy a rough ride. They gave it to him.

As if there would not be enough dust for the President in the ordinary nature of things, a gallant cavalcade of local riders rode out in front of the President's carriage and kicked up the dust in cloud after cloud. Citizens in carriages and automobiles kept along as near to his carriage as possible, just so there could be no doubt that he could hereafter say "I am of the soil of San Jose." And so for the greater part of two hours, the Presidential procession was a prostrated pillar of dust by day."


Now I can only guess what the President said about that fearful penance, but I know what other members of the party said, and one of them put it tersely in this fashion:

"Hereafter, if you want to prevent a man from getting a Presidential appointment, just say he was on that committee which arranged the San Jose drive."

"There'll be no more tariff on prunes," laughed another.

On the positive side, it wasn't all noise and dust for Roosvelt, for the Evening News reported the following from its own ace reporters:
"Soon after the return of the Presidential party from the drive through the valley last evening the special train in which the night was spent was drawn to Campbell and side-tracked. President Roosvelt was tired with the days experiences and it was decided that his rest would be less disturbed away from the noise and bustle which prevails around the local yards.
So the next time you're out in downtown Campbell, look at the railroad tracks and remember that President Roosvelt slept there.

And a challenge for the South Pacific Coast fans among us: so do you think the Presidential train was a narrow gauge train or a standard gauge train? Newspaper articles say that there was standard gauge all the way to Wrights in 1903 (but not through the summit tunnel). Got a guess? Put it in the comments.


  1. I love this article, thanks! The Coast Line was supposedly complete in 1903, do you suppose the President's train took the SP to Watsonville and up to Santa Cruz from there? I guess that would have meant backtracking from Campbell back up to the junction.

  2. I was assuming the mention of Felton meant Roosvelt went on the narrow gauge, but going around the long way could fit. I wonder if any Santa Cruz newspapers of the era online? They might say more.

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  4. Ah, Roosevelt spoke at the broad gauge depot according to the previous day's newspaper. (See http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=XTAiAAAAIBAJ&sjid=IKQFAAAAIBAJ&pg=4645%2C4588891, and go back one page to the sideways front page. The May 11 newspaper is actually digitally stuck to the May 6, 1903 paper.) Between that and a mention of the "presidential train", it sounds like Roosvelt got to San Jose via Watsonville.

    They also give advance warning of the presidential motorcade (carriage-cade?):

    * First Street to Santa Clara Street to the Alameda, "one square west on Alviso Street". (Lafayette St.?)

    * Then Franklin to Lincoln to Los Gatos Road (Winchester) to Campbell Ave and downtown Campbell. (I wonder if Sarah Winchester came out to wave?)

    * From Campbell: Johnson Ave. (?) to Dry Creek, then to Hicks and Willow Street, past beautiful downtown Willow Glen to Bird, then up to San Salvador, Orchard (Woz Way?), to San Carlos.

    * Through downtown San Jose to the east side of City Hall, the post office, east on San Fernando to First, north on First to Santa Clara, east to Second, to St. John, to Third, to Empire, to Hotel Vendome, and through the hotel grounds to the Presidential train.

    Anyone planning to go back in time and attend should be warned that the west side of St. James Park is reserved for the schoolchildren to wave at the President, and the schoolteachers and principals have been asked to keep the kiddies under control.

    Now, the San Francisco Examiner writer bitched mightily about the dust and the boring orchards,but this sounds like it would have been a pretty nice ride back in the day.

    I'll also be watching local realtor listings to see which houses for sale on Dry Creek now boast "formerly the site of a presidential motorcade!" I'm starting to understand why all those cities back east brag about which motel George Washington slept at.

    1. According to the recent book about Sarah W, "Captive of the Labyrinth", there was a family relationship between the Sarah and the President. The book explained the national politics involved at the time (something with the the Winchester Rifle Company as I recall) would not easily allow for a visit. As a result, Sarah did not wave and Teddy's buggy went right by the house,

  5. Better link to the presidential visit timeline:
    San Jose Evening News, May 11, 1903. (Again, scroll one page to the left - Google News Archive can't link to stories on pages that appear rotated.)

  6. I grew up a block or two from Dry Creek ;) No idea what they meant by Johnson Ave. Union?

  7. Union Ave. is a good guess for "Johnson Ave". The big 1901 county map hanging at the County Administration Building ashows that the area on each side of Bascom between Campbell Ave. and Dry Creek was known as the "Johnson Subdivision". Bascom still existed then as far as Dry Creek, though it was marked as the "San Jose and Los Gatos Road" higher up, zig-zagging at Dry Creek over to Union, then meeting the current Bascom Road again at Union.

  8. I wonder if the location is the same as where they put the circus train in current times, along Winchester ave. I am sure that back then there would have been more tracks and sidings for the Prez train to lay over.

  9. The only sidings along there in 1902 would have been the gravel pit at Camden Ave. and perhaps a packing house near Vasona Junction. I'm betting they put the President either on the siding next to the depot, or on one of the sidings against the Ainsley cannery or the Campbell Fruit Grower's Union. Both plants would have been quiet, as the prunes wouldn't be coming in til late August, and the cannery wouldn't be active til July.

  10. And the guilt parties come out. One of the organizers of the Roosvelt visit was George Keffel, a saloon owner in San Jose. He never got a presidential appointment , so I guess the San Jose visit organizers curse took at least one victim.

  11. Do know that Roosvelt planted a tree at the original Campbell High site across the street (today is a donut shop) and a piece of the tree was planted at the Campbell High site today. When I went to high school there was a plaque at the tree. It is still there.