In the late 1860s and early 1870s, railroad companies, summer cottagers and business leaders lured national figures to visit Atlantic City. The city picked up the tab for the VIP visitors and provided free transportation to and from the resort. Businessmen and hotel workers extended every possible courtesy to ensure their happiness.
The United States Hotel took up a full city block between Atlantic, Pacific, Delaware, and Maryland (the current site of the Showboat Parking lot). These grand hotels were not only impressive in size, but featured the most updated amenities, and were considered quite luxurious for the time.
President Grant accepted this sort of invitation to stay at the United States Hotel. The president had just entered his second term, and both his presence and the manner in which he was brought to the resort made national headlines and created positive publicity for the young city.
Grant wore his “customary seedy and ill-fitting business suit,” puffed on his “usual big black cigar,” and went to a “presidential party,” as a newspaper report described the day. The Civil War and Robert E. Lee’s surrender were still in vivid memory, and it was “General” Grant, rather than President Grant, who got all the attention.
Atlantic City, then a 20-year-old resort town, was buzzing. It had attracted its best celebrity yet: President Ulysses S. Grant.