Today, we present another article in our new #MVCJournalFlashback series! This series will focus on previously published articles, snippets and historical gold nuggets from the MVC Quarterlies. Today’s Journal Flashback is about the history of presidential visits to the county, President William McKinley’s visit in particular. It was taken from Volume 26, Issue 1 (1981-82).

The visits of Presidents Nixon and Kennedy to Ventura County in the 1960s were in keeping with an old practice that goes back as far as George Washington. The Father of His Country toured through the nation, as it then existed, to observe in person the condition of the country and to learn at firsthand how the people felt regarding various matters. Other presidents, in their tours, have visited Ventura County.

The earliest known such visit was on April 24, 1891 when President Benjamin Harrison came in a four car special train. He reached Santa Paula about 2:30 p.m., where a large and enthusiastic crowd appeared at the depot. Samples of the county’s beans were presented and also a miniature oil rig executed in various colored roses. After a few words from the rear platform, the party proceeded on to Ventura. President Harrison arrived at 3:20 p.m. to a crowd of over three thousand who had come to see a real, live president. This immense turnout was larger than had ever been gathered in the history of Ventura. At that time the city’s population was only 2,320 and the county’s was 10,071. The stop here was very brief, planned for 10 minutes, during which the president said a few words from the rear platform.

William McKinley, the second president to reach Ventura, came on May 10, 1901. His eight car special train stopped for 10 minutes at Santa Paula. The president spoke from the rear platform to a crowd of three thousand, many from the eastern part of the county. The depot was decorated and an archway was covered with flowers and the word WELCOME.

Ventura was allotted one hour for a program which consisted of a tour of the town and, of course, a talk by the president. The residences and businesses along the route were finely decorated, and the depot was transformed for the occasion from its dingy appearance to the most elaborately decorated building in Ventura. The masterpiece was a floral arch on Main between Fir and Ash Streets that was 25 feet high and 18 feet across between the pillars. It was covered with pepper leaves and more than 10 thousand calla lilies.

Seventeen carriages were in the procession to carry the honored guests and members of the reception committee through the town. They travelled from the depot along Main Street to San Buenaventura Mission, which the president entered and was shown through by the Rev. Patrick J. Grogan, along Poli Street for a view of the ocean, then down to Plaza School where he spoke to the throng, then back to the depot. The Weekly Free Press had a supplement in its next issue showing about 10 or 12 views of this occasion.

By Herbert F. Ricard

Photo 14019 – President McKinley on speakers stand in front of Plaza School. PN 14019, MVC Library & Archives Collection.

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