Archive for April, 2013

A Red Phaeton for FDR

Monday, April 15th, 2013

At Aviation Day on May 18th, you will have the opportunity to view many old and new planes and many old cars. One of the classics on display will be the “Presidential Cadillac” used on the very important mission described below. To place this in the stream of aviation history, the Staggerwing was introduced in 1933 and the DC-3, in 1935.

On August 5, 1934, one year after the creation of the New Deal Civilian Conservation Corps, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt toured Glacier National Park in HFF’s 1927 Cadillac Phaeton. The tour included West Glacier, Logan Pass, St. Mary, Many Glacier, Two Medicine and East Glacier. In addition to Secret Service personnel, the car transported Glacier Park Superintendent Scoyen, James Roosevelt and Montana Governor Cooney. Mrs. Roosevelt rode in a similar car.

In the course of the day, Mrs. Roosevelt and her three sons swam in the waters of Two Medicine Lake. Blackfeet Indians inducted President and Mrs. Roosevelt and Secretary of the Interior Harold Ickes into their tribe, giving the President the name “Lone Chief.” The First Lady took the name “Medicine Pipe Woman.”

Often referred to as the “picnic car,” this Cadillac has a 150-inch wheel-base with room for seven people and luggage. A special compartment in the rear allows storage of cold drinks. Tires can be inflated while on the road using a built-in air hose and pump that runs off the transmission. The fins controlling the flow of air through the radiator open and close automatically based on indications from a thermostat. The 314-cubic-inch V-8 engine generates 85 horsepower at 3,000 RPM and is capable of 70 miles per hour despite the car’s weight of 4,700 pounds.

In his evening radio address from a cabin at Two Medicine Lake, the President said, “Today, for the first time in my life, I have seen Glacier Park. Perhaps I can best express to you my thrill and delight by saying that I wish every American, old and young, could have been with me today. The great mountains, the glaciers, the lakes and the trees make me long to stay here for all the rest of the summer.”

We hope to create the same feeling on Aviation Day.