Past Forward

Activating The Henry Ford Archive of Innovation

Morgan Gies: Driver to the Presidents

December 11, 2012 Archive Insight

Image ID THF208776

One of the great pleasures of being archivist at The Henry Ford is the continuing ability to receive interesting collections and to meet the donors. One such person was Edward Gies, who called to ask if we would be interested in some photographs of presidential vehicles. Since we have a number of presidential vehicles in our collection, but not a large amount of support material, I said I certainly was. He said he and his wife were planning a trip to the museum and he would bring the material along. When Mr. Gies arrived, he brought a small but very rich collection not only of photographs but also of ceremonial flags that had flown on a number of our vehicles.

What made the experience even more exciting was to discover that the collection had been gathered by Mr. Gies’ father, Morgan Gies. Morgan Gies was a member of the United States Secret Service and the man in charge of the White House vehicles. He held that position for 27 years, serving five presidents from Franklin Roosevelt to Lyndon Johnson. In addition to overseeing the White House fleet, he was often the driver of the presidential vehicle or the backup car.

Morgan Gies designed the special ramps that allowed presidential vehicles to be transported quickly and efficiently by air to distant locations.

ID THF208770

The 1950 Lincoln Bubbletop when then Princess Elizabeth visited the United States in 1951. She is seated next to President Truman and Morgan Gies is the driver. Elizabeth was crowned Queen two years later in 1953.

The donation also contained three American flags and two ceremonial flags flown on the front of presidential vehicles: Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s (1882-1945) Sunshine Special, Dwight David Eisenhower’s (1890-1969) Bubbletop, and John Fitzgerald Kennedy’s (1917-1963) 1961 Lincoln, all of which are in The Henry Ford’s collection. Other special flags include one for Princess Elizabeth (before she was Queen) flown on the Bubbletop and a special flag for Pakistan that was flown on the Bubbletop when President Eisenhower visited that country while on an eleven nation trip through Europe, Africa and Asia.

Presidential Limo

Image ID THF208758

Presidential Limo

Image ID THF208764

The Ferdinand Magellan rail car was named after the famous explorer. It was identified as U.S Car No.1 and was used by presidents from 1943 to 1958. A custom built wheel chair elevator was installed to lift President Roosevelt up onto the rear platform of the car. The elevator was removed after Roosevelt’s death in 1945.

The two queens mentioned above are not individuals but the two backup cars used in parades. They were named after the two luxurious ocean liners of the era. At that time the President’s car was the Sunshine Special, named so because the top folded down to allow the President to enjoy the sun and open air.

Image ID THF208824

The Morgan L. Gies presidential vehicles photographs collection has been cataloged and most of it has been digitized, too. You can browse the collection online or come in to the Benson Ford Research Center reading room to look at it in person.

Terry Hoover is the Chief Archivist at The Henry Ford.

limousines, presidential limousines

Facebook Comments