Photographs, Santee Collection - President Harding's cross-country trip

Howard B. Santee, St. Louis, MO
June 21, 1923

Mr. Santee was one of the engineers to work on the first public address system developed by Western Electric. He accompanied the public address system on its first use in public, when President and Mrs. Warren G. Harding made a train trip through the American West and on to Alaska. The trip was never completed because the president died in San Francisco on the way back to Washington.

Santee’s credential’s for trip

Pres. Harding’s special train

Harding’s 1st speech of the trip.
Notice the loudspeakers atop the caboose
Mr. Santee was an amateur photographer - his scrapbook contains many informal snapshots of Mr. and Mrs. Harding and some of Harding’s cabinet members, including a young Herbert Hoover.

Presidential entourage – Hutchinson, KS

“Maloy & HBS inspecting horns”

Besides Santee’s reports back to Western Electric on the performance of the public address system, the scrapbook contains his White House credentials, postcards sent to his work unit, newspaper accounts, a collision between the President’s ship and another, plus personal notes and news clips about the president’s death.

Denver Post – June 25, 1923

Denver press Club Menu

Santee’s notes on reverse of menu
While visiting Colorado, the entourage attended a dinner at Buffalo Bill’s grave on Lookout Mountain outside of Golden. On the way back to Denver, one of the cars went over a cliff near Denver, killing all passengers.

The President feeds a bear
Yellowstone Park, WY

Sitka, AK, July 22, 1923
Alaska Gov. Bone, Maj. Baldinger,
Sect. Work, Sect. Hoover
Sect. Wallace, Pres. Harding,
Mrs. Harding,Capt. Andrews

This collection is unique in that it documents a presidential journey from the point of view of an expert telecommunications engineer. Mr. Santee pays close attention to the mechanics involved, where an observer trained in another field might have emphasized the personalities involved in the enterprise.

Vancouver, B.C.

Seattle, WA July 27, 1923
“Last address made by President Harding"

1st page of Santee’s report to Western Electric
following the Presidential trip

The collection also includes photos of the dedication of the Lincoln Memorial and the making of The Hunchback of Notre Dame, because Santee was involved with the public address systems used. Some of the miscellaneous materials (such as 1918 photos of the Mauritania returning the first U.S. troops after W.W.I) are interesting, but seemingly out of place in an otherwise fairly coherent collection.

Chronology of the Warren G. Harding tour to Alaska

  • June 20, 1923 – The trip begins in Washington, D.C. and the group travels to Missouri, Kansas and Colorado.
  • June 24, 1923 – The car carrying four secret service officers goes off the road from Lookout Mountain, killing all passengers.
  • July 1, 1923 – The trip continues through Wyoming, Utah, Idaho and Montana. Harding feeds the bears in Yellowstone National Park.
  • July 3, 1923 - The group attends the Oregon Trail Celebration at Meachem, Oregon, then travels through the Columbia River Gorge and on to Tacoma.
  • July 5, 1923 – The U.S.S. “Henderson”sails for Alaska.
  • July 16, 1923 – After touring Alaska, the group returns to Vancouver, British Columbia, then on to Seattle.
  • July 27, 1923 – President Harding gives his last address at a stadium in Seattle.
  • July 28, 1923 – Because the President was feeling ill, the group proceeds directly to San Francisco.
  • August 2, 1923 – President Harding dies in the Palace Hotel. The official cause of death is “apoplexy.”

Howard B. Santee was a patent license manager when he retired from Western Electric in 1956 after 39 years and 11 months with the company. We received the collection from Mary S. Harris, Mr. Santee’s daughter. The collection and many others may be seen at the Telecommunications History Group Archive in Denver.

You can find many more documents in our archives. Contact us at 303-296-1221 or via email for information.

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