President Taft’s Short Visit to Dexter, Iowa

Harry S. Truman wasn’t the first President of the United States to pay a visit to Dexter, Iowa.

William Howard Taft was, on September 19, 1910. 

Dexter citizens learned that a special train–meaning it would not be stopping in town–carrying Taft would be zipping right through Dexter headed west on the Rock Island.

W. J. Pilkington, editor of the Merchants Trade Journal and founder of The Pilkington-Dexter Plan, sent a telegram to the Trainmaster in Des Moines, where the president’s train would stop before bypassing the rest of Iowa’s small towns. “Dexter has souvenir for President. Please show up to receive it. Answer if will do so.  Pilkington.”

It worked. The reply: “To Pilkington, ‘Special train will stop at Dexter to receive souvenir, F. G. Weeks, Trainmaster.’”

The pilot engine passed through 12 minutes earlier. President Taft’s “special” arrived at 12:37 p.m., pulling up to the depot platform to meet the whole cheering town of Dexter. The train stopped just long enough for the president’s famous smile and wave. Twenty young ladies carried a twenty-foot long sign, “Watch Dexter, Iowa.”

President William Howard Taft

The souvenir for the president was a small silver spoon and a cup, and the note “To our president who smiles.”

Young and old Dexterites said they would remember seeing their very first president for the rest of their lives.

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Source: 1968 Dexter Centennial history, pages 41-42.



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