President Barack Obama's scheduled appearance at Marshalltown's Miller Middle School Tuesday marks the first visit of a sitting president to the town in nearly 72 years.
It was Sept. 23, 1940, when the late President Franklin D. Roosevelt spoke to onlookers from his rail car.
He stopped in Marshalltown on his way westward according to the June 6, 1949 Times-Republican publication "Fifty Years of Progress in Marshalltown."
PHOTO COURTESY OF DAVID SHEARER
The late President Theodore Roosevelt is shown wearing an overcoat over his pajamas while speaking to onlookers at the Marshalltown train depot circa 1907.
Historians Dorothy Apgar of Marshalltown and former resident Barb Scafferi now of Northwood, said they did not recall other presidential visits since FDR.
The Marshall County Historical Society has no record of a sitting president visiting since FDR, according to staffer Juli Hinson.
Vahl Vladyka, formerly of Marshalltown and now of Austin, Texas, said he clearly remembers FDR's stop despite the passage of seven decades.
"I did see FDR from ten feet, when he came out on the rear end of his train, while it was taking on water at the old C&NW depot."
First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt accompanied the president.
While the gap between FDR and Obama's visit is 72 years, the town played host to four sitting presidents and one past president from the 1870s to 1940, according to the T-R.
They were presidents Grant, McKinley, Taft, Theodore Roosevelt and FDR.
Grant was first.
"The first president to visit the city was Ulysses S. Grant and his appearance here was the signal for one of the greatest receptions ever given any personage," said the T-R. "The great Civil War leader and later chief executive was here in the 1870s."
William McKinley visited twice.
"His first visit was while he was governor of Ohio when he came to make a short address from a carriage on the Courthouse lawn. His second visit was Oct. 11, 1898 when he was en route to the Trans-Mississippi exposition in Omaha, Neb. The train halted in Marshalltown for an hour or more. A platform had been erected at the east end of the station and McKinley spoke from that."
Former president William Howard Taft made a special visit.
"William Howard Taft visited the city after his term as president (1909-1913) coming to address a graduating class of the Marshalltown High School."
President Theodore Roosevelt of Spanish-American War Rough Rider fame made an unexpected stop and impromptu speech, according to the T-R.
"President Theodore Roosevelt was forced to make an unheralded speech in the city one bright morning just as the sun was coming up. It was known that he was passing through the city en route west, but no stop was scheduled here. Hundreds gathered at the depot, however and held the train until the president could arise and appear on the back platform for a brief talk. He appeared with an overcoat over his pajamas and he made a few personal remarks to Walter L. Smith, when the latter snapped his picture."
Collector David Shearer of Marshalltown who owns a photograph of the visit, said the picture was taken after 1907.
Marshalltown's strategic location where two major rail lines intersected - the M&St.L and C&NW - played a significant role as three of the five visiting presidents staged their presentations on railcars.
Vice-presidents have found there way to Marshalltown, most recently in 2000, when Vice-President Al Gore stopped at a Marshall County farm.
Gore, who had been selected by the Democrats to face Republican George W. Bush, was interviewed by T-R publisher Mike Schlesinger.
In 1988, vice-president George H.W. Bush visited.
Apgar said he walked from downtown to the Iowa Veterans Home for a scheduled appearance.
Charles W. Fairbanks, vice president under Theodore Roosevelt, was in town for a political speech during the 1904 campaign, giving an address at the Odeon Theater.
Marshalltown has been a stop for candidates who later became president.
Then Sen. Obama visited three times in 2007 while campaigning for the Democrat nomination.
First Lady Michelle Obama stopped at the Iowa Veterans Home Jan. 1, 2008 on a campaign stop for her husband.
The late Ronald Reagan, who went on to serve two terms as president, spoke from the Courthouse Square June 20, 1979.
Gov. Mitt Romney, the presumptive Republican nominee for president, has been to Marshalltown.
He made a 2007 campaign stop at the former Lillie Mae Candy Shop on Main Street, according to former T-R reporter Ken Black.
Romney also visited Marshalltown's Fisher Controls in the 1980s as a business consultant, Black said.
Even in death presidents attracted attention.
"I know (President Warren) Harding's funeral train came through town (in 1923). I have pictures of people waiting to see." Shearer said.