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Carnegie Hall's Presidential History: Part II

Earlier in the week, we posted the first part of our look back at Carnegie Hall's own presidential history. With the election now just over a week away, here's part two.

Eleven US presidents have spoken at Carnegie Hall—a chronological line that remained unbroken from Grover Cleveland right through Franklin D. Roosevelt. Cleveland became the first sitting president to address a Carnegie Hall audience on March 3, 1896—less than five years after the Hall opened—when he spoke at a rally for the Presbyterian Home Missions, sharing the stage with educator, author, and orator Booker T. Washington.

The cover of the text of President Grover Cleveland's 1896 address at Carnegie Hall during a rally for the Presbyterian Home Missions. Courtesy of the Carnegie Hall Archives.

Although Cleveland returned to the Hall at least four more times, the record for visits by a presidential figure is held by Theodore Roosevelt. Including his first appearance here in 1895 when he was commissioner of the New York City Police Department, Roosevelt spoke at Carnegie Hall no fewer than 16 times. His final appearance at the Hall took place in November 1918, barely two months before his death.

His appearances in between included a 1902 address—the first of two while in office—at a meeting of the Presbyterian Home Mission Board (apparently a recurring theme for our presidents), where according to The New York Times, he spoke "of his delight at the birth of the Cuban Republic." Roosevelt's wide-ranging interests—and his activities as an explorer—were reflected in his May 1918 address before a meeting of the American Geographical Society of New York on a "Brazilian Program" that was also attended by the Brazilian ambassador to the United States.

Theodore Roosevelt at Carnegie Hall in 1912. Courtesy of the Carnegie Hall Archives.

The last sitting president to speak at Carnegie Hall was Herbert Hoover, almost exactly 80 years ago on November 1, 1932. "President Hoover received an ovation of nearly five minutes," noted The New York Times the next day, "when he made a flying trip to Carnegie Hall last evening to address the overflow audience of 2,500 that had listened to his Madison Square Garden address broadcast in the Hall by means of amplifiers suspended above the stage." Hoover returned to the Hall twice more, his final appearance a V-E Day address on May 8, 1945.

Herbert Hoover at Carnegie Hall on November 1, 1932. Courtesy of the Carnegie Hall Archives.

Herbert Hoover's autograph. Courtesy of the Carnegie Hall Archives.

In the nearly 70 years since, only one US president has spoken at Carnegie Hall—perhaps a reflection of the drastic changes in the media landscape first ushered in by television shortly after that speech by Hoover. The honor belongs to Bill Clinton, who addressed the audience at a Seeds of Peace benefit "Concert for Peace in the Middle East" on June 11, 2001. President Clinton returned to Carnegie Hall in 2011 and addressed the audience as part of James Taylor's gala in celebration of Carnegie Hall's 120th anniversary.

Bill Clinton with James Taylor and Steve Martin on April 12, 2011. Photography: Chris Lee.

Related: Carnegie Hall's History

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