Best Room in the House

Just after Ulysses S. Grant had been named General-in-Chief of the armed Union forces during the Civil War, he and his son traveled to Washington, D.C.

After a long and tiring trip, they arrived on horseback at the Willard Hotel. The harried desk clerk glanced outside at the latest arrivals as they hitched up their horses and gathered their few belongings to bring inside.

From the dimly lit front desk, the clerk didn’t recognize General Grant and took him for another weary, dusty Union soldier; he decided to save his larger rooms on the first floor for any important figures who might pass through town later that day.

When Grant and his son asked for lodging, the clerk replied that the only room he had available would be on the top floor, up a long flight of steps.

Tired from travel, Grant said the small room would be fine. However, when he signed the register: “U.
S. Grant and son,” the clerk recognized his name and realized the significance of the person in front of him. Immediately he told the general that he could stay in the large, more prominent room that Abraham Lincoln had stayed in just before his inauguration as president.

With no change in expression, Grant said that would be fine, too. He hadn’t let his new rank go to his head. He was focused on the job he did by day, not the extravagance of the room he slept in by night.

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