Beach Day by Rodger Bliss
June 2024

Presidential Faux Pas

John knew he had secured his fortune. After his father died in Grand Rapids, Michigan, John began cleaning out the attic. And while going through a scrapbook, he came across the treasure of a lifetime. It was an original letter to none other than Henry Ford, signed by President William McKinley himself, and it came on White House stationery. In the upper left-hand corner, it said The White House, 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington, DC, March 3rd, 1898, and it was addressed to Henry Ford, 58 Bagley Avenue, Detroit, MI 48226

Dear Mr. Ford,
We received your letter dated February 1st. This letter is written to thank you for your offer to present a gift of one two-cylinder, four-cycle gasoline engine-powered quadricycle that you have developed in your workshop in Detroit for use by the President. And while such a vehicle is of high interest to machinists and hobbyists, I do not feel the automobile can be perfected to replace the safety and comfort of the carriages we have available to us here at The White House. Please feel free to write again should you ever design or manufacture standard horse-drawn buggies. I will happily forward that information to my Treasury Secretary, Lyman Gage for possible procurement. Till that time, I must thank you for and yet decline your generous offer.


William McKinley.

He figures it’s going to be worth a fortune and he takes the letter to the curator of the Henry Ford Museum in Detroit. The curator expressed surprise and great interest at the find. But after several readings, he looked at John and said it’s a fake. How did he know?

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8 guesses to Presidential Faux Pas

  • Paul

    I’m not sure about a number of items mentioned, e.g., the Treasury Secretary, whether a 2-cycle quadricycle existed in 1898, or if Ford lived in Detroit in ’98. I do know the President’s residence was not called the White House until the early 1900s, long after McKinley was shot and killed.

  • Dude

    You’re correct, Paul!

    In 1898 it was not called The White House. It wasn’t called The White House until Theodore Roosevelt became President, after McKinley was assassinated. In 1898, it was called The Executive Mansion. It could not have come from The White House in 1898 because The White House didn’t exist as such.

    You’re today’s winner.

  • Alicia

    The White House was not called the White House until 1901. During McKinley’s time it was called the Executive Mansion.

  • Karl Sieger

    The White House name scenario is corrrect. But there’s another tip-off: The zip code for Detroit, 48226, is in the latter, but there were no zip codes til the early 1960’s!

  • Dude

    Nicely played, Karl!

    Kudos to you.

  • Ben Tennen

    Those who state that the White House was not called the White House until 1901 are incorrect. One need only browse to and search for “White House”. When the results appear, just below “Archives” on the left, click “Custom Range”. Enter 1/1/1800 in “From:” and 12/31/1865 in “To:”. You can read articles which show that President Lincoln called it the White House in the 1860s, Henry Clay called it the White House in the 1850s, French and Japanese diplomats called it the White House in the 1850s, and a Hartford Courant newspaper article announced “death at the White House” in September, 1842.

  • Eileen

    The President’s residence was not called the White House until Teddy Roosevelt, who became president when McKinley was assassinated.

  • Eileen

    Correction: it was not *officially* called the White House. The letter would not be on White House stationery because that was not its official designation until Roosevelt.