[Guest Post] At the Statehouse: Grover Cleveland visits Indiana, 1887

In 1884, Grover Cleveland became the first Democrat to win the United States Presidency since the Civil War. As he planned to run for reelection in 1888, Cleveland sought ways to promote his campaign and strengthen the Democratic Party nationwide.  In May 1887, a delegation visited the President and asked him to visit St. Louis. Cleveland agreed, and the idea of a “goodwill tour” through the Midwest and South was conceived. At the invitation of Hoosier Senator Joseph E. McDonald, Cleveland decided to make the city of Indianapolis and its nearly completed State House the first major stop of his trip.

Riding on the personal railroad car of train magnate George Pullman, the President arrived in Indianapolis at 8:00 AM on October 1, 1887. While President Cleveland received applause upon his arrival, local papers reported that First Lady Francis (“Frankie”) Cleveland received loud shouts and cheers after stepping out of the eight-horse carriage that pulled them up to the Indiana State House. Thousands of people then descended onto the South lawn of the building to hear orations from Governor Isaac P. Gray and the Chief Executive.

In his speech, President Cleveland reflected on the legacy of Thomas Hendricks, a former Governor of Indiana who served as Cleveland’s Vice President until his untimely death in 1885. He also commended the people of Indiana for electing political leaders who practiced an “economical administration of their public affairs.” Their nearly-completed State House was eventually finished in 1888 under its two million dollar budget ($1.9 million total), to which Cleveland remarked, “in these days of waste and extravagance and miscalculation in regards to public buildings this is a thing so unusual that it should be a cause for congratulation.” Following these speeches, upwards of 20,000 people went through the rotunda of the State House to participate in a reception and greet the President and First Lady.

Cleveland’s “goodwill tour” to gain support for his policies and the 1888 Presidential bid ultimately failed. Voters in Indiana gave the Hoosier state’s 15 electoral votes to long time Indianapolis resident Benjamin Harrison, while Cleveland lost to Harrison nationwide in the Electoral College 233-168.

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President Grover Cleveland in the Indiana State House