This black-and-white photograph, featuring Walt Disney and the family of then Vice President Richard M. Nixon, at the June 14, 1959, dedication of the Disneyland ALWEG Monorail System, has been hand-signed by Disney Legend and monorail-designer Bob Gurr.
Gurr, a Los Angeles native, studied industrial engineering on a General Motors scholarship at the Art Center College of Design, starting his career with the Ford Motor Company in 1952. After starting his own industrial design business, he was contracted by Disney to help design the Autopia cars for the studio’s most ambitious project to date, Disneyland. Gurr’s successful stint designing the iconic, miniaturized vehicles led to a full-time position with WED Enterprises, where he would go on to develop countless ride and transportation vehicles for multiple Disney parks. In addition to the Disneyland Monorail, some of his notable designs include the fan-favorite Flying Saucers attraction, a number of Main Street vehicles, and even the Audio-Animatronics Abraham Lincoln figure that first appeared in the 1964-65 New York World’s Fair Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln attraction. After a nearly forty-year career as an Imagineer, he left to launch his own design firm, working on such projects as the 1984 Summer Olympic Games, Universal Studios Hollywood, and various additional contracted Disney jobs. He was named a Disney Legend in 2004.
The photograph, which Bob Gurr has personally signed in black ink, shows (from left to right) Walt Disney, Julie and Tricia Nixon, Pat Nixon, and Richard M. Nixon, who would be elected to the Office of the Presidency a decade later. The very first incarnation of the Mark I Red Train (at a length of three cars) can be seen parked on the left, as the Nixon daughters struggle to cut the dedication ribbon with the blunt prop-scissors. A few moments later, Disney would laughingly pull the ribbon apart by hand. He and the Second Family would famously take a two-lap ride in the new attraction, much to the chagrin of the Vice President’s Secret Service, who watched helplessly from the loading platform.
The dedication of the Disneyland Monorail was not the only highlight of the day, as the openings of several other new or refurbished attractions were also celebrated, including the Matterhorn Bobsleds, Submarine Voyage, Autopia, and Motor Boat Cruise. Below is the official itinerary for what constituted the biggest event at Disneyland since its grand-opening festivities.
Itinerary for Sunday, June 14, 1959
7:30am – ABC–TV personnel arrives to set up equipment and rehearse
9:15am (approximate) – Vice President and family to meet with Walt Disney at the Monorail Station for press photographs on the dedication of the Monorail
12:00pm – Parade starts forming. Lunch at Red Wagon Inn for celebrities
12:15pm – On return from Church, the Vice President and family will be guests of Walt Disney at an informal luncheon at his apartment.
1:15pm – Pre–parade steps off from gate by Fire Station. Vice President and party to parade in “horseless carriages” from City Hall to the official reviewing stand.
1:30pm – Parade steps-off from gate by Opera House
2:10pm (approximate) – Matterhorn Show
2:15pm (approximate) – Vice President and family will be escorted from the reviewing stand to the rear of the Carnation Ice Cream store on Main Street for special photographs. Following these photos, the family will return to Walt Disney’s apartment.
3:00pm – Matterhorn Bobsleds, Autopia, and Motor Boats open to the press
3:15pm – The Vice President and his family will be taken to Monorail Station in Tomorrowland for press photography of the Monorail dedication
3:30pm (approximate) – Submarine Dedication ceremony
4:00pm (approximate) – Monorail Dedication ceremony. The Vice President and family will participate in the actual television dedication of the Monorail. Following the dedication, they will be returned to the apartment and the Vice President will be free to conduct any meetings that will be necessary, utilizing the office located adjacent to the patio of Walt Disney’s apartment.
4:15pm – Submarine and Monorail open to press guests
5:00pm – 08:00pm – Press party at Holidayland with buffet and special entertainment
06:15pm (approximate) – Fireworks display
6:30pm (approximate) – Walt Disney will meet Vice President Nixon and family and escort them to the informal press buffet and party in Holidayland
This hand-signed print marks not only one of the most memorable days in Disneyland’s history, but also the Disney Legend who helped make it—and countless memorable attractions throughout the years—possible with his creative talents.