Presidential Limousines

The Lincoln Carriage
The Lincoln Carriage

 

Before presidents traveled in limousines, they rode in carriages.  The  carriage above  carried  President Lincoln,  Mary Todd Lincoln, Major Henry Rathbone, and his fiancée Clara Harris to Ford’s Theatre on April 14, 1865.  Robert Lincoln, the president’s son, sold the carriage  shortly after his father’s assassination.

President Wilson takes a drive. Photograph by Harris & Ewing LOC
President Wilson takes a drive. Photograph by Harris & Ewing LOC

After  his stroke President Woodrow Wilson used to take a drive in his presidential limousine.  The White House maintained that the ride was a help in his stroke recovery, but the real reason was for the photographers to make  pictures of a president that no one had seen in public for months.  The photographs were to show  the American public that their president was a well and able leader, but everyone could see that Woodrow Wilson was a very sick man.

As part of the inauguration proceedings, it is a tradition for the president- elect to come to the White House and have coffee. 

President Hoover congratulates President Roosevelt sitting in a presidential limousine. Photo by Harris and Ewing
President Hoover congratulates President Roosevelt sitting in a presidential limousine. Photo by Harris and Ewing

The president and the president-elect ride to the Capitol for the swearing in ceremony.

President Truman and Queen Elizabeth II in a presidential Limousine
President Truman and Queen Elizabeth II in a presidential Limousine

Before the Kennedy administration the arrival ceremonies for visiting dignitaries were held on the tarmac  of Washington National Airport.  President Truman and  Princess Elizabeth ride in the presidential limousine in 1951.

Presidential Limousine in front of the Texas School Book Depository Building at the time of the assassination Photograph: Warren Commission
Presidential Limousine in front of the Texas School Book Depository Building at the time of the assassination
Photograph: Warren Commission

The  1961 Lincoln Continental  that carried the Kennedys on November 22, 1963 had a long history of carrying presidents. 

Photograph of the Presidential Limousine Photograph: Warren Commission
Photograph of the Presidential Limousine
Photograph: Warren Commission

After November 22nd the Lincoln was driven back to Washington, DC for investigation.  Later is was armored, fitted with a solid roof and  put back into service.  It was used by presidents Johnson, Nixon and Ford.

Presidential Limo being loaded onto the car plane after a Presidential visit Photo by Dennis Brack
Presidential Limo being loaded onto the car plane after a Presidential visit
Photo by Dennis Brack

Presidential limousines are loaded on jets to carry presidents on foreign trips.  President Nixon was happy for the protection of the limousine during a demonstration during his limit to Rome in 1969.

Demonstrators and President Nixon Limo during his visit to Rome , Italy March 1, 1969 Photograph by Dennis Brack
Demonstrators and President Nixon Limo during his visit to Rome , Italy March 1, 1969
Photograph by Dennis Brack

During the campaign of 1976, President Ford found that the trappings of presidential power, Air Force One and the presidential limousine, were the things that would draw crowds. 

President and Betty Ford at a parade in Traverse City Michigan July 1975 Photograph by Dennis Brack
President and Betty Ford at a parade in Traverse City Michigan July 1975
Photograph by Dennis Brack

President Carter continued to use the convertible limousines on foreign trips.  The parade in Alexandria, Eqypt was one of the best parades for photographs.

President Jimmy Carter visits Anwar Sadat in Egypt. Photo by Dennis Brack
President Jimmy Carter visits Anwar Sadat in Egypt.
Photo by Dennis Brack
Amy Carter sticks her head out of the presidential limo during a parade in Monorvia, Liberia. Photograph by Dennis Brack bb 27
Amy Carter sticks her head out of the presidential limo during a parade in Monorvia, Liberia.
Photograph by Dennis Brack bb 27
A Secret Service agent on the security "Black Miraha" trail limo in April 1976 Photo by Dennis Brack
A Secret Service agent on the security “Black Miraha” trail limo in April 1976
Photo by Dennis Brack

The prize for the longest parade has to go to Liberia.  The Carters got tired of waving to the unending crowds, so they let their daughter Amy do the honors.

The open limousines ended in the Reagan administration.

Presdient and First Lady Nancy Reagan arrive in New York City in October 1988 Photograph by Dennis Brack
Presdient and First Lady Nancy Reagan arrive in New York City in October 1988
Photograph by Dennis Brack

Visitors have to catch a brief view of  presidents and their families as seen through super bullet proof windows of the limousine.  Today a common name for the president’s limousine is “The Beast”.   

The Inauguration of President Barack Obama in Washington, DC on January 20, 2009. Photograph: Dennis Brack
The Inauguration of President Barack Obama in Washington, DC on January 20, 2009. Photograph: Dennis Brack
President George W. Bush in the Presidential Limousine leaves the presidential garage entrance of the Washington Hilton Hotel after the 56th National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, DC. on February 7, 2008. Photo by Dennis Brack
President George W. Bush in the Presidential Limousine leaves the presidential garage entrance of the Washington Hilton Hotel after the 56th National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, DC. on February 7, 2008. Photo by Dennis Brack

  • Picture Day for the White House News Photographers Association “Eyes of History” contest winners.

    Jacquelyn Martin takes a group photo of the winners as they are lined up in the White House Press Briefing Room in the order that each will greet President Obama. Photo by Dennis Brack
    Jacquelyn Martin takes a group photo of the winners as they are lined up in the White House Press Briefing Room in the order that each will greet President Obama. Photo by Dennis Brack

    Since the FDR administration, the president has taken the time to look at the prizewinning pictures of the White House News Photographers Association and  pose for a group photograph.  Still and video photojournalists and editors put on their best dark suits for the relatively quick photo session.  While I have had the task as WHNPA president of introducing each winner to the president in the past, this year a new WHNPA  president did the honors.

    The  WHNPA 2016 Lifetime Achievement Award winner, Rodney Batten, NBC gives a thumbs up to the other winners.  Heidi Elswick, WHNPA general manager, is on right. Photo by Dennis Brack
    The WHNPA 2016 Lifetime Achievement Award winner, Rodney Batten, NBC gives a thumbs up to the other winners. Heidi Elswick, WHNPA general manager, is on right. Photo by Dennis Brack

  • Lincoln assassinated April 14, 1865

    Photo by Dennis Brack
    Photo by Dennis Brack
     The presidential box of Ford's Theater. The place where President Lincoln was shot by John Willkes Booth. Photo by Dennis Brack

    The presidential box of Ford’s Theater. The place where President Lincoln was shot by John Willkes Booth. Photo by Dennis Brack

    Wash-Lincoln-in-boxIn 1865, John Wilkes Booth, an actor and Confederate sympathizer, fatally shoots President Abraham Lincoln at a play at Ford’s Theater in Washington, D.C.

    Photographer Mathew Brady was not there to cover the event.  Since it was impossible to photograph news events or any other  event in this low light, (this was before flash powder), there was very little that he could do to preserve this vital part of history. Lincoln by Brady Brady did a great deal to preserve the history of President Lincoln.  First he helped elect the president.  A quote by Lincoln, “Mathew Brady’s picture and my  Cooper Union  speech made me president of the United States, (click the Lincoln photograph on the right for the full story)

    The Peterson House the house where Lincoln died.Washington, DC  photo by Dennis Brack
    The Peterson House the house where Lincoln died.Washington, DC photo by Dennis Brack

    Lincoln was taken across the street to the Peterson House where is died and Ford’s Theater was closed.  Days after it was closed, Mathew Brady made pictures.  The theater was used as a government office and ware house for years.  Mathew Brady’s photographs were the basis of the restoration of the  Ford’s Theater that is an important part of history.

    The Presidential box where John Wilkes Booth shot President Lincoln  at Ford's Theater in Washington, DC Photo by Dennis Brack
    The Presidential box where John Wilkes Booth shot President Lincoln at Ford’s Theater in Washington, DC
    Photo by Dennis Brack

  • Night Motorcades are always interesting

    Photo by Dennis Brack
    Photo by Dennis Brack

    Most of time, nothing happens and we are always hoping that nothing will happen on every night motorcade.   Often there is no intersection control and the president’s limousine stops.  Quite often the president’s limousine will make the light, but the light will change by the time the press pool vans make the intersection.  The red and blue lights are flashing and there are wishes in the vans that everyone is paying attention.


  • A Secret for the success of White House News Photographers

    Most of the prize winning photographers that ride in the motorcades, fly on Air Force One and cover presidents, quietly, when nobody is looking, slip one or more of these pills in their mouths and follow with a drink of water.  Historical note, in years past, the pill was followed by a stiff belt of bourbon.  Occasionally this method is practiced today.   Please do not share this secret!

    Photo by Dennis Brack
    Photo by Dennis Brack

  • A White House meeting on the day after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

    April 5, 1968:  President  Lyndon Johnson meets wioth Black leaders during the riots in Washington, DC after the assassination of Martin Luther King jr.  Photograph by Dennis Brack
    April 5, 1968: President Lyndon Johnson meets wioth Black leaders during the riots in Washington, DC after the assassination of Martin Luther King jr. Photograph by Dennis Brack

    The day after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., President Johnson invited the black civil rights leaders.  The cabinet room contained the important leaders of the black communities, but the photographers who covered this meeting is the subject of  the book PRESIDENTIAL PICTURE STORIES.  In a few brief minutes, the photographers had to take their pictures.  At the end of the Cabinet Room  were Frank Cancellare, (he made the classic photo of Truman holding the newspaper , “Dewey Wins” ) Stan Stearns, (the John John salutes),  Bob Daughtery, AP, Margaret Thomas,WASHINGTON POST, Thomas Craven Sr, (the Hindenberg  exploding) and Frank Richards, NBC.

    Left to right seated at cabinet room table: President Lyndon Baines Johnson, Mayor Walter Washington,  Washington, DC, Speaker of the House of Representatives John W. McCormack, Rev. Walter Fauntroy , Member, D. C. Council., Miss Dorothy Height , President , Natl Council of Negro Women, Bayard Rustin , Exec Director, A Philip Randolph Institute, Rev. Leon Sullivan, Opportunities Industrialization Center, Inc.,Whitney Young , Jr. , Exec Director, National Urban League, Vice President Hubert Humphrey, Roy Wilkins , Exec Director, NAACP,Richard (Dick) Hatcher, Mayor of Gary, Indiana,Clarence Mitchell. Ill , State Senator, Maryland, Hon. Robert Weaver. Secretary  of HUD, Hon. Clark Clifford, Secretary of Defense,Senator Thomas Kuchel , Rep Carl Albert, House of Representatives Majority Leader, Senator Senator Mike Mansfield. Senate Majority Leader, Supreme Court Justice  Thurgood Marshall

    Standing:Tom Johnston,White House,  Joseph Califano Jr. George Christian,Press Secretary

     

     


  • “Lights!! Thank You!! and the photographers don’t leave the room

    President Barack Obama holds a bilateral meeting with President Xi Jinping of the People’s Republic of China in Washington DC on March 31, 2016 Photo by Dennis Brack
    President Barack Obama holds a bilateral meeting with President Xi Jinping of the People’s Republic of China in Washington DC on March 31, 2016
    Photo by Dennis Brack

    The meeting between a US President and the President of China is always a big deal.  This time it was at the Washington Convention Center for the Nuclear Summit today,  March 31st. The aids yelled light, but we were waiting for a handshake.  It would have made a nice picture but it didn’t happen.  We waited and the presidents of the two superpowers waited–  You can tell what they are thinking by the expressions on their faces.


  • Maddening Crowds: Donald Trump vs George Wallace

    George Wallace in 1976--His second campaign for the presidency Photo by Dennis Brack
    George Wallace in 1976–His second campaign for the presidency
    Photo by Dennis Brack

    There have been many stories comparing the behavior of the crowds of the George Wallace campaigns to the behavior of the crowds on the Donald Trump campaigns 

    The End the Iran Deal rally at the West Front of the U.S. Capitol on September 9, 2015 Photo by Dennis Brack
    The End the Iran Deal rally at the West Front of the U.S. Capitol on September 9, 2015
    Photo by Dennis Brack

    In the sixties and seventies I had been assigned to cover the Wallace campaigns for TIME  and other publications and had a chance to photograph the crowds following Wallace.  I have only photographed Donald Trump a few times so most of the information that I have on the Trump crowds is from the media.

    George Wallace in 1972. Photo by Dennis Brack Photograph by Dennis Brack BB 1
    George Wallace in 1972. Photo by Dennis Brack

    Donald Trump speaks at the End the Iran Deal Rally on the West Front of the United States Capitol on September 9,2015 Photo by Dennis Brack
    Donald Trump speaks at the End the Iran Deal Rally on the West Front of the United States Capitol on September 9,2015
    Photo by Dennis Brack
    George Wallace in 1976--His second campaign for the presidency Photo by Dennis Brack
    George Wallace crowd in 1976
    Photo by Dennis Brack

     

     

    Both George Wallace, like Donald Trump, loved to pit the crowd against the media.  Wallace’s favorite trick was to place the camera stands in front of the crowds attending his rally.  In his speech he would chastise the press for obstructing the view of his fans.  On one Wallace campaign I was assigned by the NEW YORK TIMES MAGAZINE.  Wallace would point to the TIMES reporter and tell the crowds that those two men worked for the NEW YORK TIMES.  He would draw out the  NEW YORK TIMES name.  I think it took him a minute to say the NEW YORK TIMES  name in his disdainful Southern accent. 

    Photo by Dennis Brack
    Photo by Dennis Brack

     

     

     

    Photo by Dennis Brack
    Photo by Dennis Brack

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    While Governor Wallace chastised the members of the media in general,  he never insulted individual members and was always polite in his manner.  He certainly did not have encounters the members of the press like Donald Trump is having it this presidential campaign.

     

     

    The one thing that strikes me about the Trump crowds and granted I have spent very little time with them is that they are a great deal more bitter than the Wallace crowds.  I also think that the Wallace events were colorful and a great deal more fun. 

    Entertainment at a rally for George Wallace in 1976 Photo by Dennis Brack
    Entertainment at a rally for George Wallace in 1976
    Photo by Dennis Brack

     

     


  • THE LAST HUMMINGBIRD, A book by news photographer Rick Wilking

    Photo by Dennis Brack
    Photo by Dennis Brack

    Yes, a picture is “worth a thousand words”, but it is always important  to know the stories behind the photographs.  Everyone has seen the tiny credit under photographs, Rick Willing.  Sometimes it is followed by Reuters or the organization that Rick was employed by.

     

    Rick Wilking has covered five presidents and was stationed in Washington, DC as a staff photographer for Reuters in 1989.  Most photographers come to Washington and stay to the end of their careers, but not Rick.  He moved back to Colorado, but did not stop covering major news stories.  In fact, Rick spent more than a month covering the Iowa  and New Hampshire  campaigns this year.

     

    In THE LAST HUMMINGBIRD Rick Willking tells stories about his presidential coverage, but there is much more.  It is a good read for historians and photographers    http://www.blurb.com/b/6816813-the-last-hummingbird


  • Nancy Reagan, A great first lady and a friend

    .Nancy Reagan waves from the Truman balcony  April of 1981..Photograph by Dennis Brack
    .Nancy Reagan waves from the Truman balcony April of 1981..Photograph by Dennis Brack

    I had the good fortune to photograph the Reagan presidential years from the very start to the finish. Michael Deaver hired me to be the official photographer for Governor Reagan’s presidential announcement trip in 1976.  Later Michael Evans and I became the TIME photographers on the Reagan campaign.  Michael and the Governor got along extremely well and he became the TIME photographer on that story and I was switched to Jimmy Carter. 

    At first, Nancy Reagan came off as being rather aloof and not wanting to having anything to do with the photographers.  After some time she got to know the regulars, Walt Zeboski, AP, Ron Edmonds, UPI and me, she warmed up, but her focus was always on her husband.

    With Nancy Reagan intently watching, Candidate Ronald Reagan talks to press on a plane to Florida in 1976 Photograph by Dennis Brack
    With Nancy Reagan intently watching, Candidate Ronald Reagan talks to press on a plane to Florida in 1976
    Photograph by Dennis Brack

      At the end of the 1976 campaign the Reagans invited the few reporters and photographers up to their ranch, Rancho del Cielo for a barbecue just to say thanks.  The campaign was over and you could see that Nancy thought of that small group as friends. 

    Ronald and Nancy Reagan in front of their home  Ranch Cielo near Santa Barbara California, in  June 1976. Photo by Dennis Brack
    Ronald and Nancy Reagan in front of their home Ranch Cielo near Santa Barbara California, in June 1976. Photo by Dennis Brack

    President Ronald Reagan and First Lady Nancy Reagan at a dinner in Washington where President Reagan endorses Vice President George HW Bush for president.  Photograph by Dennis Brack
    President Ronald Reagan and First Lady Nancy Reagan at a dinner in Washington where President Reagan endorses Vice President George HW Bush for president. Photograph by Dennis Brack

    There were at the very least two photographs to be made on the Reagan campaign. The first would be of the candidate speaking and the second was his wife, Nancy, watching her husband. “The look,” as we called it, was a mixture of concentration and love. The regulars believed it was genuine. You just could not do that so many times without revealing that it was an act. The photographers thought Mrs. Reagan was a lady who most likely did not want to do some of the things or be in some of the places a campaign required. She was a good sport and the regular photographers on the Reagan campaign came to think of her as more  of a mother figure, (maybe a mother  who would scold you if you misbehaved) than a chummy friend. 

    President and First Lady Nancy Reagan at an Inaugural Ball on January 20, 1981 Photograph by Dennis Brack
    President and First Lady Nancy Reagan at an Inaugural Ball on January 20, 1981 Photograph by Dennis Brack

    Most of the regulars were in the tight pool on the night of Reagan’s first inauguration. We waited at the door of the diplomatic entrance of the White House to take the first pictures of the evening when the president and first lady came out to get into their limousine.  Mrs. Reagan wore a sequined white dress and looked absolutely stunning. Oohs and wows came from the photographers, some of us saying, “You look beautiful.” The new first lady looked at us a little sheepishly and said, “Come on, boys, it’s only me.”

    The crowds at the inaugural balls were the largest that Washington had ever seen. In the pool car we could hear the radio traffic between the advance staff, Secret Service, and support staff. One transmission said, “Due to the crowds, the first couple will not have room to dance at the Kennedy Center.” In response, someone said, “There must be some way?” The reply: “No, no way.” There was a long pause. “You don’t understand. Rainbow (the Secret Service code name for Mrs. Reagan) wants to dance at the Kennedy Center.”

    There were so many wonderful pictures of and stories about the Reagan’s in the White House years that everyone is seeing everywhere this week, but I wanted to end with one of the last times that I saw Nancy Reagan.  It was at the top of the stairs of the United States Capitol where President Ronald Reagan was to lay in state.  Nancy Reagan was waiting for the honor  guard and the casket to pass and she wanted to reach out to her Ronnie one more time.

    Nancy Reagan reaches towards her husband's coffin on its way to the rotunda of the US Capitol to lay in state. Photo by Dennis Brack
    Nancy Reagan reaches towards her husband’s coffin on its way to the rotunda of the US Capitol to lay in state. Photo by Dennis Brack