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From York to Washington for the Garfield inauguration

Some time ago I wrote a York Sunday News column on Dr. William Bigler’s 1890 trip to Florida to visit his son. In those days of railroads snaking all over the county, it might have been easier to travel from here to many other parts of the United States than it is today. Dr. Bigler lived and practiced in the very small community of Springvale in Windsor Township, just outside of Red Lion. Springvale was a stop on the Peach Bottom Railway (later part of the Maryland and Pennsylvania), so the doctor could catch a train from there. With a few connections, he arrived in Orlando, where his son was living, in a couple of days. Click on this link to read that column.

I was reminded of Dr. Bigler’s trip by a notice in the February 16, 1881 York Daily. It reads:

Excursion to Washington

The Inauguration of General James A. Garfield, as President of the United States, will take place in Washington, D.C., March 4th, 1881.

On this occasion Excursion tickets will be sold March 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 1881, good for the return trip to March 7th, 1881, inclusive, at Excursion rates from York of $4.00, on all passenger trains to and from their regular stopping places.

No Half-Fare Excursion Tickets to be sold. All parties purchasing Excursion Tickets are particularly notified that they will not be allowed to stop off en route, and that the coupons reading from the point of sale must be used only on the date of their issue.

Conductors will not sell Excursion Tickets.

One online calculator figures that $4 round-trip fare would be about $91 today. I checked the closest we could come currently, taking the train from Lancaster to D.C.’s Union Station. Amtrak gave me six “value choices;” and three of them were $92. That doesn’t take into the consideration the additional current costs of driving to Lancaster and parking your car for a few days. The trip might not be more speedy today either. The trains might be faster, but now you first have to go east to Philadelphia and change trains to continue southwest to Washington. In 1881 you would have gone directly south through Baltimore to Washington.

My conclusion is that attending the Garfield inauguration would have been easy and reasonably priced. I wonder how many York countians attended. Have any stories passed down in your family about relatives and friends attending presidential inaugurations?