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, news about 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 luncheon sponsored by the Denver Press Club 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

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.

See more facts about the events and people surrounding this story at the following links:

FURTHER: Want to see a history of loudspeakers? Click here to learn more.
FURTHER: Click here for more information on President Warren G. Harding.