Arts + Culture

The Presidents as Travelers

by Ted Widmer

Ulysses S. Grant

Where The Eagle Landed: Burma, China, Egypt, Germany, India, Ireland, Japan, the Middle East, Thailand, United Kingdom

Home and abroad: Ulysses S. Grant undertook one of the great presidential journeys of the 19th century when he traveled around the world between 1877 and 1879. True, he was no longer president (having happily left office in 1877), but this little-known expedition did an enormous amount of good, introducing a former president to tens of thousands of people in foreign lands. The trip began with Ireland and the British Isles, where Grant appeared before huge crowds and dined with Queen Victoria. He then ventured across Europe, finding a particularly warm welcome in Germany, where Chancellor von Bismarck was fascinated by both his democratic demeanor and his military prowess. From Europe, Grant went to lands that no president would again visit for nearly a century, including Egypt, Turkey (where the sultan gave him two Arabian stallions), the Middle East, India, Burma, Thailand, China, and Japan (where he became the first American to shake the emperor's hand).

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