One hundred and fifty-one years ago, on his way to inauguration as President of a not-very-United States, Abraham Lincoln made a visit to Troy. Arthur J. Weise recounted the visit in “Troy’s One Hundred Years”:
“One of the memorable incidents of the year was the passage of Abraham Lincoln through the city, on Tuesday morning, February 19th, when going to Washington to be inaugurated president of the United States. In consequence of high water in the river great danger attended the plying of the ferry-boat between Albany and Greenbush, and as there was no other way of crossing the Hudson at that point it was deemed prudent to convey the president elect, his suite, and the delegations escorting him, by a train of six cars to Waterford Junction and thence on the Rensselaer and Saratoga Railroad to Troy. Not less than thirty thousand people were in and around the Union Depot to welcome the eminent statesman. While the train was crossing the bridge between Green Island and the city, a detachment of the Troy City Artillery fired a salute of thirty-four guns. As soon as the cars entered the station, the cheering multitude began struggling to get near the coach in which Mr. Lincoln was seated. It was the last car of the train. A plank was laid from the rear of it to a platform car that was covered with matting and guarded by the Troy Citizens’ Corps. Mr. Lincoln crossed on the plank to the open car, and on it, the Hon. Isaac McConihe, mayor of the city, in a brief address, welcomed him to Troy and tendered him its hospitalities. The president elect, having courteously expressed his thanks for the honor paid him, was then conducted by D. Thomas Vail, vice-president of the Troy Union Railroad Company, to the Hudson River Railroad train; the rear car of which was entered from the one on which the addresses had been made. As the train left the depot, Mr. Lincoln, standing on the platform of the last coach, bowed with uncovered head to the multitude of cheering people.”
And how did the president-elect courteously express his thanks? With the brevity, humility and grace that would come to characterize his public speeches. The Troy Daily Budget reported his remarks as follows:
Mr. Mayor and Fellow Citizens of Troy, New York:—I
am here to thank you for this noble demonstration of the citizens of
Troy, and I accept this flattering reception with feelings of profound
gratefulness. Since having left home, I confess, sir, having seen large
assemblages of the people, but this immense gathering more than exceeds
anything I have ever seen before. Still, fellow citizens, I am not so
vain as to suppose that you have gathered to do me honor as an
individual, but rather as the representative for the fleeting time of
the American people. I have appeared only that you might see me and I
you, and I am not sure but that I have the best of the sight. Again thanking you, fellow citizens, I bid you an affectionate farewell.
The night before, at Albany’s Gaiety Theater, Don Rittner reports that Mr. Lincoln first laid eyes on John Wilkes Booth.