President Taft's Visit to Olympia: A Contemporary (1911) Newspaper Account

  • Posted 9/11/2009
  • Essay 9040

This is an article printed in the Ledger in October 1911, reporting on the visit of United States President William Howard Taft (1857-1930) to the recently opened governor's mansion in Olympia. The governor was Marion Hay (1865-1933). This article exhibits typical non-neutral tone of news reporting of the day. It is transcribed from a clipping in the Emma Smith DeVoe scrapbook (Scrapbook L: 10/1/1910-12/30/1910) in the digital collections of the Washington State Historical Society. The president's luncheon visit to the governor's mansion is also reported in "Taft at Portland Talks of Columbus," The New York Times, October 12, 1911, p. 6. 

(Special to the Ledger.)

Olympia, Oct. 14. -- Olympia will not soon forget the visit of President Taft, although it was but an hour in length. Attendant upon it were many pretty scenes, which the sorrow that hung over the state capitol because of the death of Public Service Commissioner Harry W. Fairchild could not keep Olympia from appreciating. Taft, the statesman, the President, the logical thinker and forceful speaker, was seen when the President addressed the big crowd at the west end of the capitol building. Taft the merry and fatherly man, talked to the school children on the east side. But it was at the luncheon and reception at the governor's mansion, following the address at the capitol, that the many-sided occupant of the White House, was seen in all the qualities which have made him beloved by all who have come under the influence of his personality.

The women of Olympia made every preparation for a democratic reception that was also a royal one. Assisting Mrs. Hay at the mansion were many of the leading society matrons and misses of the city. Among those who served were: Mrs. A. M. Hoke, Mrs. George Heustis, Mrs. F. J. Lord and Mrs. John Percival. Assisting them were the Misses Garrick, Wyman, Percival, McElroy and Mount and the Mesdames Beattie, Moray, Lewis, Foster, Dallum, Humphrey, Allen and Skillman.

The sitting room was decorated with red cactus dahlias, the hall with yellow dahlias, and the dining room with pink roses. The luncheon was served in bouffee fashion, only the President, Governor Hay and Mrs. Hay being seated. An incident in which the President displayed the ready wit for which he is celebrated, developed when Mrs. J. W. Foster accidentally brushed the President's hand with a hot coffee pot.

"O, I beg your pardon," gasped Mrs. Foster. "I didn't mean to burn you."

"I'll remember you warmly Mrs Foster," replied the beaming statesman.

When Katherine Hay, aged 8, was introduced to Mr. Taft, he said: "My! What a nice, fat little girl! I was a nice, fat little boy once. I hope though, that when you grow up, you can be just the size you want to be."

Little Margaret Elizabeth Hay, aged 10 mos., was given an even more distinguished greeting. The President kissed the baby with a big, round, Presidential kiss, amid general handclapping.

The President received a message from Mrs. Charles Eaton, whose husband, a college friend of the President, died last summer, in which she said it would have been a happy day for him, if he had lived and could have greeted his old friend in the state capitol. The incident visibly affected Mr. Taft.

As the President was leaving, his merry goodbye having been said, a photographer caught him, together with Secretary Hilles, Governor Hay, Congressman W. E. Humphrey, National Committeeman S. A. Perkins, and many of his Olympia hosts, on the walk in front of the mansion steps. "I hope that turns out well," he said to the photographer. "I like to be seen in such company."

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