Green-Wood Cemetery, Where Presidential Aspirants Enjoy an Afterlife



But if Train received any votes, they were write-ins. Green-Wood’s historian, Jeff Richman, said that Train’s disorganized campaign operation did not get his name on the ballot in a single state. Nor was defeating an incumbent any easier in those days. Train, and Greeley, lost to President Ulysses S. Grant, who claimed a second term with 56 percent of the vote.

Greeley’s grave is topped by a weathered statue on a tall pedestal. Imposing as it is, it is not as elaborate as the tomb of the industrialist, inventor and philanthropist Peter Cooper. He was 85 when he ran as the National Independent Party candidate in 1876, making him the oldest presidential candidate in American history. He received only 83,726 votes of 8.4 million cast, or just under 1 percent. His grave kept the stone-carvers busy: The tall monument has 30 lines of lettering.

Green-Wood has a definite Clinton bias. The first stop will be the grave of DeWitt Clinton, who was lieutenant governor of New York when he ran against James Madison in 1812 (and who was not related to Bill Clinton). Lisa W. Alpert, Green-Wood’s director of development, dryly noted that he “would have been the first President Clinton” if he had won.


George Francis Train, who ended up at Murderers’ Row in the New York City prison known as the Tombs a year after his presidential bid, changed a few details on his campaign card.

Green-Wood Historic Fund

Mr. Richman said that there was talk of a Clinton dynasty when the campaign began because DeWitt Clinton’s Uncle George had served two terms as vice president. He was 72, and fading physically and mentally, however. He died in April 1812, seven months before the election. The Federalist nomination went to DeWitt Clinton.

That Clinton presidency was not to be, either. In July 1812, the United States declared war on Britain. Though on the Federalist Party ticket, which wanted peace, Clinton realized he needed the support of Republicans, who were in favor of the war but were disenchanted with their standard-bearer, President Madison. Mr. Richman said Clinton had to say one thing to Federalist audiences and another to Republicans.

Clinton lost by 39 votes in the Electoral College, receiving 89 to Madison’s 128. Then as now, Pennsylvania played an important role. Its 25 votes went to Madison. “But if you subtract those 25 from Madison and give them to Clinton,” Mr. Richman said, “Clinton becomes president.” He would have won by 11 electoral votes.

Clinton went on to champion the Erie Canal, the 363-mile ribbon of locks and water that opened the way to the rest of the country. When he died in 1828, he was buried near Albany “in the plot of a family friend since his had no money,” said Ruth Edebohls of the Green-Wood Historic Fund’, who will lead the tour.


A brass medallion promotes the 1872 presidential campaign of Horace Greeley, one of nine failed presidential candidates now in Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn.

Green-Wood Historic Fund

Green-Wood saw an opportunity. Mr. Richman said that Green-Wood officials “needed somebody as an attraction here at the cemetery.”

“They decided nobody could be better than the deceased DeWitt Clinton, the most revered of all New Yorkers of the first quarter of the 19th century” he said. “They contacted his son Charles and got permission to disinter him.” The body was moved in 1844.

But that was not all. Green-Wood raised money for a statue of Clinton that stood briefly at City Hall Park in Manhattan. “The statue was put up to get people to come to Green-Wood,” Ms. Edebohls said. “They probably had a sign that said, ‘Come and see me at Green-Wood.’”

So in death Clinton helped Green-Wood become the second-largest tourist attraction in New York State, after Niagara Falls. Ms. Edebohls said that was not as morbid as it might sound. Green-Wood was in operation long before the city had its own parks — Central Park opened the year Green-Wood celebrated its 20th anniversary — and the Clinton statue did its job. “People started coming over,” she said.


Horace Greeley, whose presidential hopes were dashed by Ulysses S. Grant, gazes across the cemetery.

Byron Smith for The New York Times

Mr. Richman added: “The idea was people would walk the grounds or ride in carriages on the tour and then say, ‘Do you have any graves available?’ The cemetery would be off and running in terms of sales.” (Eventually the statue was moved and stands atop the grave.)

Other candidates buried at Green-Wood were also-rans among the also-rans. Four, all Democrats, had their Oval Office hopes dashed months before Election Day. They were not even nominated. One was the bullet-in-his-throat candidate, William J. Gaynor. As mayor of New York in 1910, he had been the target of an assassination attempt by an angry former municipal employee. Gaynor’s doctors decided they could not remove the bullet. He recovered and returned to work.

Mr. Richman said that there was talk of Gaynor for president in 1912, and he received one vote on each of six ballots at the Democratic convention. It took more than 40 ballots, but finally the worn-out delegates nominated Woodrow Wilson, the governor of New Jersey, who won in November.

Gaynor died in 1913 on a cruise to Europe. His grave is a circular granite monument with no statue. His wife, Augusta, is buried nearby, not far from the grave of the actress Laura Keene, who starred in the play Abraham Lincoln was watching when he was shot.


The monument to Peter Cooper, the oldest presidential candidate in American history, kept stone carvers busy.

Byron Smith for The New York Times

Train’s grave is in a massive mausoleum built by his father-in-law, George Turnbull Moore Davis, who had been an aide to Gen. Winfield Scott during the Mexican-American War in the 1840s and editor of The Courier of Louisville, Ky. The path to the mausoleum is overgrown, as if no one had stopped by in quite a while to pay respects to one of the most flamboyant candidates in American history.

Train had founded the Union Pacific Railroad and the Crédit Mobilier to finance the transcontinental railroad, and he had taken the trip that caught Verne’s attention, returning home in 80 days, not counting time in a French prison. In 1873, he was jailed again, this time in New York, before a trial on an insanity charge.

The authorities assigned him to the New York City prison known as the Tombs, “in the vain hope,” according to an 1874 history, “that the rigors of the place might terrify him into a flight from the city.”

Train stayed put and became an organizer, starting the Murderers’ Club. Its purpose, the 1874 history said, “was to make the place so much of a hell on earth as to invite the attention of the newspapers, and thus keep Train’s name before the people.”

Of course the Murderers’ Club followed democratic principles. Of course there was an election. Of course Train was a candidate.

And that was how Train finally became a president.

Correction: November 5, 2016

An article on Friday about unsuccessful presidential candidates buried in Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn misstated the number of electoral votes by which one, DeWitt Clinton, would have won the 1812 election had Pennsylvania’s 25 gone to him rather than James Madison. It is 11, not 9.

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