The First Sitting U.S. President To Receive A Speeding Ticket Was?
Answer: Ulysses S. Grant
When you think of speeding tickets, you likely think of a lead-footed driver getting pulled over in their automobile by the police officer who chased them down with an automobile, light bar blazing. What you likely don’t think of is a policeman chasing down a carriage only to find out that it belonged to the U.S. President—yet that’s exactly how we come to the first instance in history of a U.S. President getting a speeding ticket.
How exactly did this intersection of a speeding president and law enforcement come to be? Ulysses S. Grant, the 18th U.S. President who served from 1869 to 1877, was quite a fan of horseback riding, horsemanship, and by every historical account, potentially the finest equestrian to bear the mantle of President. There was nothing Grant enjoyed more than a good horse race and when he wanted to blow off steam after a day of presidential duties, he’d grab a horse or a horse and carriage and race through the streets of Washington D.C.
During his presidency, however, there was a crackdown around the D.C. area on such antics since racing horses and their carriages had killed several people and the populace was fed up with showy and reckless horsemanship posing a danger to the public. On one fateful day, one William West saw a horse, carriage, and rider rocketing down M Street NW at such a tremendous speed that it took some effort to overtake him and half a block to slow the horse down. Upon bringing the carriage to a halt, Mr. West was greeted with the face of none other than Ulysses S. Grant. By all accounts, Grant was good-natured about the whole affair and owned up to the misdeed, paid the fine, and, by most accounts, kept his horse racing outside the city limits afterwards.
Photo courtesy of the U.S. Library of Congress.