Harry S. Truman Visits Wheeling on October 23, 1952
Can you imagine more than 3,500 cheering people crammed into the intersection of 17th and Eoff Streets in East Wheeling?
That’s how many showed up 63 years ago today on the morning of October 23, 1952, when President Harry S. Truman rolled into town on his special 15-car campaign train, arriving at the Baltimore and Ohio Passenger station during a Whistle-Stop campaign, stumping for Gov. Adlai Stevenson, the Democratic nominee to replace Truman as president.
Listen to Truman’s Wheeling Whistle-Stop Speech on 17th Street, October 23, 1952. Courtesy the Harry S. Truman Library and Museum, http://www.trumanlibrary.org/
This humble corner, now shared by West Virginia Northern Community College’s Education Center, the Soup Kitchen of Greater Wheeling, and the Ohio County Public Library, was then a hub of activity where the B. & O. Passenger Station’s elevated platform began. The Education Center was then the Wheeling Wholesale Grocery warehouse, the Soup Kitchen was the Central Station and Headquarters of the Wheeling Fire Department, and the library’s site was still a B. & O. rail-yard.
According to the Wheeling Intelligencer, the visit “came off without a hitch and split-second timing prevailed throughout.” Truman arrived promptly, delivered his calculatedly pro-labor speech (calling for the repeal of the Taft-Hartley Act) from the back of the caboose, was handed the key to the city, and was promptly sent steaming his way to Pittsburgh.
“I’ve been riding through Wheeling for 20 years,” Truman quipped, “but this is the first time I’ve been given a way of coming and going without getting caught.”
Apparently, a plot to make the President’s visit even more memorable was foiled as police informed the Truman campaign that an unidentified man had unsuccessfully attempted to acquire 30-40 “stink bombs” at Fette’s News Stand on 15th and Market.
It was not Truman’s first visit to Wheeling, and it wouldn’t be his last. In fact, many U.S. presidents have visited Wheeling over the years, including Ulysses Grant, Teddy Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, Dwight D. Eisenhower, and John F. Kennedy, just to name a few.
Truman also visited Wheeling after his presidency, staying with his wife, Bess, at the McLure Hotel in the summer of 1953 during a cross-country road trip humorously recounted in Matthew Algeo’s Harry Truman’s Excellent Adventure.