Today’s post was written by David Langbart, archivist in Research Services at the National Archives at College Park, MD.
Situated as it is in the mid-Atlantic region, the weather in Washington, DC is extremely variable. The region experiences four distinct seasons a year, but within each season there can be wild swings in the weather. This is particularly true in winter and summer. During the winter, the city can experience days or weeks that are cold with lots of precipitation in the form of rain, snow, and sleet but also days that are warmish and pleasant. Summers can consist of periods of stiflingly hot and humid weather or stretches that are coolish and dry.
In February 1959, the threat of inclement weather during the winter months, defined as October through April, led the United States to change the protocol surrounding the arrival of foreign leaders visiting Washington, DC. The Department of State announced that during those months the President would not meet foreign leaders at the airport. During the rest of the year, however, he would.
The Department informed American diplomatic posts of the change in the following Airgram.
While the comments about the winter weather are true and sufficient reason for the change, it also may have had something to do with President Eisenhower’s health condition. Among other things, the President had a heart attack in September 1955, a bowel obstruction that required surgery in June 1956, and a stroke in November 1957.
While it is understandable that the President and his guests would not want to stand outside in the cold and rain or snow, that begs the question of why they would want to be standing around outside on an airport tarmac on a hot and humid day in July, August, or September.
Source: Department of State to All American Diplomatic Posts, Airgram CG-428, February 20, 1959, file 700.11/2-2059, 1955-59 Central Decimal File (NAID 302021), RG 59: General Records of the Department of State.