[“Senator, you’re no Jack Kennedy” — the chastising zinger made by Democratic vice-presidential candidate Senator Lloyd Bentsen (TX) towards Republican vice-presidential candidate Senator Daniel Quayle (IN) in response to Quayle’s mentioning John F. Kennedy during the 1988 United States vice-presidential debate.Notwithstanding, Quayle defeated Bentsen in the 1988 election, becoming the 44th Vice President of the United States. See The Presidential Visits Series in its entirety: James Monroe to Joseph Biden]
Recently, we discovered that on June 17th, 1991 Vice President Dan Quayle and his wife Marilyn spent 3 1/2 hours in Rochester, touring a Xerox copier plant, appearing at a $l,000-a-ticket Republican cocktail party and making an impromptu motorcade stop at a Wegmans in Webster.
In 1988, Quayle carried Monroe County, but lost the county in 1992 to Al Gore.
On October 8th, 1993, Quayle returned as the keynote speaker for the Lakeside Memorial Hospital benefit in Brockport. In Blair Claflin’s Inside Politics column, he notes that Quayle “made no apologies for the Murphy Brown flap.”
During the 1992 vice presidential campaign, Quayle had referred to Murphy Brown, a popular TV character:
It [an example of how popular culture contributes to this “poverty of values”] doesn’t help matters when prime-time TV has Murphy Brown—a character who supposedly epitomizes today’s intelligent, highly paid, professional woman—mocking the importance of fathers, by bearing a child alone, and calling it just another “lifestyle choice.”
Quayle’s jibe roiled the culture wars of the 1990s. To many, the Brown character was a cultural hero who broke glass ceilings as a journalist, while also a role model for single moms. To others, she signaled the decline of traditional values, if not a symptom of feminism gone awry.
Of the vice presidency, Quayle said: The job is just awkward, an awkward job.
Like the mighty Mississippi during flood season, our magisterial series The Presidential Visits Series in its entirety: James Monroe to Joseph Biden, has overflown its banks, now encompassing vice presidents, a king, a marquis, failed candidates and three presidential assassins.
At least 12 sitting vice presidents have definitively visited Rochester: Joseph Biden (Obama), Albert Gore (Clinton), Quayle (George H. W. Bush), Walter Mondale (Carter), Nelson Rockefeller (Ford), Hubert Humphrey (Lyndon Johnson), Richard Nixon (Eisenhower), Alben Barkley (Truman), Calvin Coolidge (Harding). Today we add Richard Cheney (George W. Bush) and John T. Marshall (Wilson) to the monumental series.
[SEE ALL BELOW AT END]
While finding sitting veep visits, I also looked for other vice presidents with at least marginal ties to Rochester.
For example, Roger S. Sherman (R) was raised in Utica, became its mayor and also its representative when Sherman served in New York’s 23rd congressional district. In 1908 when he ran as William Howard Taft’s running mate, Sherman was well known in western NY. During the vice presidential campaign, Sherman visited Rochester, speaking at Convention Hall.
The Democrat and Chronicle backed Taft/Sherman, and its effusive coverage — “Turn Out en Masse,” “Greeted With Unstinting Applause,” “Augurs Party Victory,” “Keeps Interest At A High Pitch” — may have been based on the newspaper’s endorsement.
Alas, Sherman came tantalizingly close to joining the sitting veep club. An August 23rd, 1909, the D & C presented a reassuring headline — Sherman Sure to Be There — in reporting that Sherman was scheduled to speak in Canandaigua at a Civil War reunion of the 126th Regiment, NY Volunteers.
At the last moment, however, the vice president cancelled and was replaced by NY State Senator John Raines. (n 1896, Raines authored the Raines Law, prohibiting liquor sales on Sundays, except in hotels — leading to the unintended consequence of fostering prostitution.
There is no record of any visits to Rochester by Henry Wilson, 18th Vice President who served with Ulysses S. Grant from March 4, 1873 until Wilson’s death on November 22, 1875. Nonetheless, in 1971 University of Rochester students and faculty members celebrated the anniversary of Wilson’s 100th birthday.
Wilson’s long standing and vocal opposition to slavery certainly merited the celebration, one that should have been repeated last February on the 150th anniversary of his birth.
In a 1953 rather snarky article, “Joe Can Name Them U. S. Vice Presidents ‘Forgotten Men,’ Eh? Well, Now, Let’s See,” Arch Merrill tried his hand at uncovering newsworthy trivia on obscure vice presidents, “concentrating on the ‘forgotten men.’ Most of them turned out to be blaring nonentities.” Merrill writes:
I made a bet with myself that I could dig up at least one interesting thing about each “Throttle-bottom,” no matter how obscure. [Merrill takes the term “Throttlebottom” from the musical comedy hit, “Of Thee I Sing,” in which Vice President “Throttlebottom” was depicted as so obscure that when he came to Washington, he couldn’t scare up two references for a library card.] I think I lost but that’s for you to say.
Merrill looks at two vice presidents, Schuyler Colfax (Grant) and Levi P. Morton (Benjamin Harrison), with tenuous connections to Rochester — as Merrill says, “rather remote ‘local angles.'” Merrill fails to mention that Colfax’s papers are held in the Rare Books Collection at the University of Rochester.
(See all the Colfax papers held the UR Rare Books Collection, expires September 6, 2021)
Two of the Vice Presidents have rather remote “local angles.”
One is Schuyler Colfax of Indiana, elected with Grant in ’68. Neat, nimble, pious and always smiling, he was dubbed “Smiler” Colfax when Speaker of the House. He lost his fight for re-nomination as Vice President. Like the man who defeated him, Henry Wilson, Colfax was mildly tarred with the Credit Mobilier brush of scandal. His son, Schuyler Jr., from 1910 to 1918 was head of Eastman Kodak’s – cinematographic (motion picture) division and lived in the handsome stone house at 666 East Ave., until recently the residence of his daughter, Mrs. Harold C. Townson, granddaughter of a Vice President.
I was rather startled to see in a corner of a dining room ot the Clark Haven Hotel at Brockport a marble bust of Levi P. Morton, Vice President under Benjamin Harrison. Morton, who rose from Vermont farm boy to international banking fame and millions, lived in New York City. He was an occasional visitor to that 28-room double house where his nephew, Morton Mynott, a Brockport banker, lived long before it became an inn.
Morton, smooth-shaven, suave, eminently respectable and of generous instincts, had an avid craving for political glory. His prodigious fund raising for the GOP was rewarded by the Governorship of New York and the Ministry to France, as well as the Vice Presidency. What he really wanted was the top place. He was an ally of two mercenary New York bosses, Conkling and Piatt. Political ambitions sometimes brings strange bedfellows.
If you want more substantial data on “the Throttlebottoms,” look up Joe O’Connor any rainy afternoon in the Public Library. Maybe this time he has dug up something interesting about William A. Wheeler. [In the article, Merril writes of Joe O’Connor, then residing at the Powers Hotel and whose hobby was gathering statistics in the Public Library about American statesmen (dead politicians).]
As both Colfax’s residence and the hotel which held Morton’s marble bust are gone, the “local angles” are even more remote — even if you can read Colfax’s letters at Rush Rhees Library or look at his wife’s dress at the RMSC.
During the course of research, I was struck by the relatively few vice presidential visits. The limited number is partly because prior to adoption of the Twenty-fifth Amendment in 1967, an intra-term vacancy in the office of the vice president could not be filled until the next post-election inauguration.
Between the elections of 1830 (about the time when Rochester was emerging as a major city) and 1964, the office was vacant fourteen times: Vice President John C. Calhoun resigned in 1832 to enter the Senate and 13 vice presidents and president died in office. When VP Spiro Agnew resigned in 1973, there was a lag before Gerald Ford’s VP confirmation, and another lag when President Nixon resigned in 1974 and before Nelson Rockefeller’s confirmation as Ford’s vice president.
Remarkably, from 1830 – 1964, the office was vacant for a little over 35 years, or about 26% of the time.
THE OTHER ELEVEN
In 2014, Biden spoke at Monroe Community College; in 2015 at Canal Ponds Business Park
Of the vice presidency, Biden said the job was: a bitch.
Of the vice presidency, Cheney said: It’s an uncomfortable position to be in. The vice president is there sort of as an overall generalist … He’s here as the president’s understudy, in a sense.
In 2000, Gore spoke at the University of Rochester.
In 1984, Bush spoke at the annual meeting of the Monroe County Long-Term Health Care Program. Bush also jogged with the University of Rochester’s women’s track team.
In 1980 during the vice presidential campaign, Mondale spoke to the National Conference of Catholic Charities at United Presbyterian Church. Mondale would be back in Rochester less than two weeks after his defeat. Still Vice President, Mondale stayed at the Hilton Inn on Jefferson Road while traveling to Buffalo to watch his daughter’s St. Lawrence University football team play Canisius College. At the Hilton, Mondale’s entourage paid for 40 rooms at $35 each. That evening, Mondale had dinner in Pittsford with Chris and Nancy Collins.
Of the vice presidency, Mondale said: Over most of America’s history, the vice president has been standby equipment.
In 1976, along with Bob Dole, Ford’s vice presidential running mate, Rockefeller held a joint news conference at the Rochester-Monroe County Airport. Serving as Vice President from December 19th, 1974 – January 20th, 1977, Rockefeller did not seek nomination for a full term at the 1976 Republican Convention.
On LBJ’s vice presidency, Rockefeller said: The “real shocker,'”he relates, was an encounter with an “absolutely frustrated, absolutely furious’ Lyndon Johnson in a hotel room in Miami where “nobody was paying attention to him.”
In 1968 during his presidential campaign, VP Humphrey spoke at the Rochester-Monroe County Airport. Like Mondale, Humphrey returned to Rochester after his defeat, addressing the Kodak Management Club and spending an evening in the Town of Mendon with his friend James P. Wilmot.
In 1960 during his presidential campaign, VP Nixon spoke at the War Memorial.
In 1950, Barkley spoke at a Democratic luncheon at the Seneca Hotel. In 1948, when a Senator, Barkley visited Rochester during his vice presidential campaign.
In 1922, Coolidge spoke to the Rochester Chamber of Commerce,
In 1914, Marshall spoke at Convention Center.
The sub-headline, Too Much Representation Now, He Declares, to me, is confusing. Only the year before, the 17th Amendment — supported by Marshall — was ratified, putting in place the direct popular election of senators. The Amendment gave more representation, yet Marshall says now we have too much representation. In his call to trust men in public life, Marshall seems to claim the exact contours of the electoral schema are not as important as electing trustworthy office holders.
Of the vice presidency, Marshall said: Once there were two brothers. One ran away to sea; the other was elected vice president of the United States. And nothing was heard of either of them again.
In addition, in 1968 then Maryland Governor Spiro Agnew successfully campaigned in Rochester for the vice presidency; in 1948 former Vice President Henry Wallace (FDR) campaigned in Rochester as the Progressive Party presidential candidate; in 1928 then Kansas Senator Charles Curtis successfully campaigned in Rochester for the vice presidency.
Of the vice presidency, Agnew said: It is a damned peculiar situation to be in, to have authority and a title and responsibility with no real power to do anything. I think it is the hardest adjustment for a man to make.
SIX OTHER FAILED VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES CAMPAIGNED IN ROCHESTER
In 1976, Kansas Senator Robert Dole (R) held a press conference at the Rochester-Monroe County Airport; in 1964 New York Representative William E. Miller spoke from the platform of train at the New York Central station.
In 1960, Henry Cabot Lodge II (R), former ambassador to the United Nations, spoke to 5,000 outside the Manger Hotel; in 1956 Tennessee Senator Estes Kefauver (D) spoke to 1,000 at West High.
In 1948, California Governor Earl Warren (R) spoke outside the New York Central Station; in 1920 Franklin Delano Roosevelt (D), former Assistant Secretary of the Navy, spoke at Convention Center.
In 1908, William Jennings Bryan’s running mate John W. Kern (D) was expected to speak at Convention Hall. However, like Sherman in 1909, Kern was a no-show.
In 1912, Theodore Roosevelt’s running mate on the Progressive Party ticket, California Governor Hiram Johnson spoke at Convention Hall. Roosevelt/Johnson won 88 electoral votes.
In 2009, a little over a year after former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin’s (R) failed vice presidential bid, she signed copies of her book, Going Rogue: An American Life, at Borders Books & Music in Henrietta.
Researcher Michael J. Nighan examined four 19th century Rochester appearances by vice presidents before and after their term in office: Aaron Burr in 1798 (later serving as vp with Thomas Jefferson), President Martin Van Buren in 1839 (after serving as vp with Andrew Jackson), President Milliard Fillmore (after serving as vp with Zachary Taylor) and Chester Arthur (as a boy, later serving as vp with James Garfield).