Ride of a lifetime

President Coolidge getting a horse-delivered letter in 1924

If only all postal employees were so pretty! Actually, the lady here is not a postwoman at all. Her name was  Gwendolen Lazier (Braidwood), and in 1924 she rode 720 miles on horseback to hand-deliver an invitation to the president for the 140th anniversary of the United Empire Loyalist landing in the Bay of Quinte area, to be celebrated June 14, 1924 in Belleville, Ontario.

Not ever having mounted a horse before, she volunteered at 18 for what was then the longest continuous journey of its kind on record. A suitably gentle horse named “Tip” was found, and she set out from Belleville on April 24 for a journey that would take 32 days. As the word of her journey spread, crowds turned out and she was given the keys to cities through which she passed. At West Point, the entire cadet corps turned out for her.

Only at one point did she meet any real danger, when a group of boys waylaid her by parking in front of her on a back road, demanding money. Mrs Braidwood, even then an accomplished hunter, later recalled, “I took out my revolver and shot out their rear tire, then used my spurs on Tip for the only time on the ride.”

Having reached Washington, the young lady was escorted to the White House, where she delivered her letter of invitation to the president. In her words, “It is the only picture you will ever see of Coolidge smiling. Tip had just taken his hat and dropped it on the ground.”

Of course, we know there are more instances of Coolidge smiling on record. But who wouldn’t smile when accepting an invitation from such a pretty young horsemistress? Incidentally, Mrs Braidwood lived to be 102, and died in 2007.

President Coolidge, Gwendolen Lazier, and "Tip"