Sunday, March 30, 2014

Nice to meet you, Mr. President

My great grandfather, Abraham B. Gunzendorfer, was one of California’s earliest amateur photographers and I’ve read about him taking photographs of President Benjamin Harrison.  But as I cleaned out box after box of family treasures, I put together a separate box of photographs taken by Abe.  It looks like one of his most exciting photo sessions was in May, 1901 when President William McKinley visited Monterey and San Francisco.

Sounds like the buzz of an impending Presidential visit was big news, as reported in the Pacific Grove Review on March 23, 1901.

President McKinley is coming Pacific Grove Review Mar 23, 1901

I can just imagine people of the area bustling about trying to get things ready.  This must have been a huge event for a state so far from Washington D.C.

And look – they had souvenirs for the event!

Official Souvenir

But that, apparently, wasn’t enough for Abe.  Whether he was paid or just took volunteer photos I’ll never know, but he did take photos! 

First up, the Presidential Cabinet “Special” arrived at Del Monte Depot on May 11, 1901.  It must have been such a sight to see this train chugging into the station.

President Special Del Monte

I don’t know who labeled all of the photos but I have several copies of many of the photos and each one is written in beautiful handwriting.  I like to think it was Abe….. or maybe his wife, Bertha Schwartz Gunzendorfer.

Next the President addressed the citizens of Monterey – check out this crowd photo!

Addresses Citizens

And because there is so much of interest to me in this photo, here’s a portion of it enlarged.

Addresses Citizens Close up

A few things stand out to me: 

1)  The building in the background, with the photographers standing on the roof, is my family’s mercantile store, The White House.  I wrote about this store here and here.  It must have been a very busy place and what an honor to have the president address the citizens right outside the front door.

2)  Almost everyone in the photo has on a hat.  I know that was the fashion of the era but just look at those hats!

3)  There are other people standing on the roof of the store.  I wonder if these were early Secret Service agents.

And the next day, the Presidential Special left Del Monte Depot to continue on the voyage.

President Special

It looks like the next stop for the President was the University of California, Berkeley, where he was the speaker for the commencement exercises. 

Commencement Exercises

The upcoming event was described in the San Francisco Call, Volume 87, Number 148, on April 27, 1901 and was stated that they had seating planned for 10,000 guests.  And once the free tickets had been distributed, people were ‘hawking’ tickets for up to $5 each. 

From there President McKinley was busy launching the “Ohio” on May, 18, 1901 in San Francisco.

Launch of Ohio

And the next day he went out for a stroll.

President Strolls

What an experience for Abe to travel along with the President and photograph the events.  I’d like to think he was riding along in the train but I’m guessing that probably isn’t quite how it happened. 


  1. I love these pictures. And how neat that your ancestor took them!

  2. How cool! I wonder where your great-grandfather was standing since he wasn't on the store roof.

  3. Wow. Wonderful photos. We often try to put our ancestors 'in the times'. This surely does that.

  4. What treasures you have! These pictures are wonderful and knowing that you ancestor took them makes them even more so.

  5. What an awesome link to history you have in your great-grandfather's photos, Debi! I love the way you've matted and arranged them to tell his story.