Theodore Roosevelt and the First Presidential Car Ride
Roosevelt’s predecessor, William McKinley, was the first president to ride in a car, but Roosevelt was the first to make it part of his official presidential duties when he toured Hartford, Connecticut in 1902. The New York Times reported that Roosevelt was quite pleased with the “handsome Victoria automobile,” finding it to be an effective way to shake a lot of hands in a short period of time.
At least, that’s the snippet he gave the press. In private, Teddy the Rough Rider was less than impressed. “Motor cars are a trial, aren’t they?” he wrote in a letter to a friend in 1905. “I suppose that ultimately we will get them into their proper place in the scheme of nature, and when by law and custom their use is regulated in proper fashion their objectionable features will probably be eliminated; but just at present I regard them as distinct additions to the discomfort of living.”
Though he may have preferred real horses to horsepower, cars would continue to play a part in Roosevelt's career. He chose to ride in a carriage for his 1905 inauguration, but here he is riding in an "objectionable" motor car in Fort Sheridan, Illinois, in 1917: