Friday, June 30, 2006

George W. Bush: 43rd President of the United States

George W. Bush: 43rd President of the United States. This illustrated State Department publication features biographic information on President Bush, including his early life, schooling and college years, business ventures, entry into politics, and the road to the White House and re-election. Additional biographies cover First Lady Laura Bush, Vice President Richard Cheney, and Lynne Cheney. Other features include a listing of the president's first-term policy priorities, a historical brief on the inaugural process, and photo galleries featuring the president and vice president's global travels and meetings with world leaders and ordinary citizens.

As a US government produced publication, it is Pro-Bush. There is a definite bias in the information delivery. However, I still think it is an interesting site.

From the site:

George W. Bush, the 43rd President of the United States, was sworn into office January 20, 2005, for his second term. During his campaign for re-election, President Bush set ambitious goals, including making America and the world safer with decisive action to win the war on terror; keeping America on track for a more prosperous future; strengthening health care for millions of Americans; and building a better and more compassionate America for all.

During his first term as president, Bush on the domestic front signed into law initiatives to improve America's public schools by raising academic standards, requiring teacher accountability, and strengthening local control. He signed historic tax relief measures that have provided rebate checks and lower tax rates for everyone who pays income taxes in America. He increased pay and benefits for America's military and is working to save and strengthen the Social Security and Medicare programs.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

"Hot" Carter

I'm taking a class on organization of information and we have been discussing different names that people use for different purposes or at different times of their lives. Now I could give you a technical discussion on what librarians do about this to make it easy for you find people, etc, but that has nothing to do with this blog. BUT what does is that my professor kept calling President Carter "Hot" Carter. Now I had heard a lot of nicknames for President Carter, but never this one so of course this made me curious. So I had to go look!

According to the PBS's American Experience website this is how the nickname originated:
"As a child my greatest ambition was to be valuable around the farm and to please my father," Carter wrote in a book about his childhood, An Hour Before Daylight. "He was the center of my life and the focus of my admiration." This striving personality earned him the nickname "Hot Shot" from his father, who demanded much from his first-born son.

The rest of the section of this site offers a lot of great facts on President Carter as well. The page where I got the nickname information is a nice summary of his life. The site is based from a PBS documentary and you can get the transcript on the site. There is also a great teacher's guide. There are also some great primary source materials available. There is news footage and newspaper article that date from from various days of the Iranian hostage crisis. This site is easy to navigate and offers a lot of excellent teaching tools. This is definitely a good site for educators!

So go learn something new about President Carter - I did!

Monday, June 26, 2006

Roosevelt's legacy shapes U.S. of today

Roosevelt's legacy shapes U.S. of today. The new issue of Time features Teddy Roosevelt on the cover. Teddy remains popular almost a century after he left office.

Here is a list of Teddy articles in this issue:

The War of 1912

The Police Commish

The Self-Made Man

The River of Doubt

Charging Into Fame

Birth Of A Superpower

How To Shrink The World

The Strenuous Life

Fighting the Fat Cats

Lessons from a Larger-than-Life President

From the site:

At home and abroad, he was the locomotive president, the man who drew his flourishing nation into the future.

Just short of a century after he left the White House, in 1909, the collective memory of Theodore Roosevelt's strength and intellect and charisma still lingers.

Today, when the Justice Department goes after Microsoft or Enron, when the Environmental Protection Agency adjusts mileage standards or the Fed tweaks the prime, somewhere his ghost is smiling.

He was the first president to urge wholeheartedly that the U.S. accept its role as a global power. The "imperial presidencies" that followed his, from Franklin Roosevelt to Lyndon Johnson to George W. Bush, all owe something to his example.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Choose a Scandal, Any Scandal

It seems that every president has been touched by scandal in some way either through actions of their own, the action of their family members , or through the action of their associates. We’ve suffered through the sexual misconduct of Clinton, paid attention to the car wreck that was Jimmy Carter’s relatives (Who can forget Billy Beer?), watched Oliver North take the fall for Iran-Contra, and we listened as Deep Throat, Woodward, and Bernstein opened our eyes to Watergate.

President Eisenhower, war hero that he was, suffered through the loss of his chief-of-staff, Sherman Adams, because of an Oriental rug and vicuna coat. Adams was a very hands on, everything comes through me type of man. Eisenhower’s rivals, as well as anyone else who daily made contact with Adams, clucked with glee as Adams was brought down in the court of public opinion.

The problem began when one of Adams’ acquaintances, Bernard Goldfine, was being investigated by the Federal Trade Commission. In 1958, Adams improperly called to check on the investigation from the White House. Later Goldfine would not answer questions about his relationship with Adams. It was revealed that Adams was in the possession of an Oriental carpet and vicuna coat that Goldfine supposedly gave to him. Things simply did not look proper. Adams was forced to resign and he retired form political office.

Harry Truman’s critics have always cited his rise to political power at the hands of Missouri’s political machine, Tom Pendergast. This allegation would seem to be true by a simple examination of the evidence. However, there is just as much evidence to show Truman would defy Pendergast when he felt it was the right thing to do.

Truman was in the U.S. Sentate during Franklin D. Roosevelt’s attempt to increase the number of justices for the Supreme Court from nine to fifteen. Instead of calling Truman directly, FDR contacted Pendergast in order to have “his man” vote the way FDR wished. When Truman heard about FDR’s phone call he cast his vote against FDR’s plan.

Pendergast eventually served time for fraud and tax evasion. Suprisingly Truman boldly attended Pendergast’s funeral even though it had only been a few days since Truman had been sworn in as vice president.

Learn about other presidential scandals here and here.

First Ladies and the State of the Union Address

This is an interesting article that looks at First Ladies and their involvement with the State of the Union Address. Some of the article is very anecdotal (like President Johnson’s grandson caused a scene in the middle of one) while some is more political (Rosalynn Carter edited her husband’s 1978 speech and offered suggestions, some of which he took), but it definitely is a different way to look at the State of the Union address.

Some interesting things to note:
- President Johnson was the first to make a mention of his wife in his Presidential Address (1964)
- Thomas Jefferson through to William Taft did not make an actual speech for their state of the union address – they sent a written address to Congress and then had it printed in newspapers. This was because Jefferson felt the speech was too much of a “pageant” (the article’s word choice) and thus set a tradition was followed until Woodrow Wilson.

All State of the Union Addresses can be found, in text form, at The American Presidency Project. C-SPAN offers some of them (Truman forward) and includes video for some of the more recent ones (really the last three), but I couldn’t get the video links to work. I’m sure they do…if you know what you are doing! Which I proved that I didn’t! But I wanted to include this because, for teaching purposes, videos can be invaluable. Students are used to seeing, rather than reading. Sad but true!

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

LBJ and the Gulf of Tonkin Incident

In August of 1964, President Johnson and his advisors believed that US destroyers had been attacked by North Vietnamese gunboats in the Gulf of Tonkin. The National Security Archives declassified these documents in 2004. Available documents of note are:

Prados' article ends with this comment:
This new evidence permits us to view more accurately the internal deliberations of the Johnson administration. Especially in combination with LBJ's telephone conversations with McNamara, recently made available to the public with transcriptions, the material clearly shows Washington rushing to a judgment on events in the Tonkin Gulf, which it seized upon as evidence in support of its predetermined intention to escalate the conflict in Vietnam.

Just like any event, as times passes we have come to reevaluate and hopefully more fairly judge what happened in 1964. With the release of classified materials, we are able to see what went on behind the scenes in the Johnson administration. Go read the materials and consider what you would have done in the position of Johnson and his advisors.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

White House Recipes

I love to try new recipes and am often looking for interesting ones to clip and save. I found a blog entry of Presidential Recipes. I thought Abigail Adams’ Apple Pan Dowdy looked like very yummy (I haven’t tried it yet though)!

I think looking at this is an interesting commentary on changing tastes in America. Plus the publication of recipes in newspapers is a "public friendly" way to get name recognization. In the last election, I can remember seeing small articles that gave recipes from each of the candidates' wives. Mrs. Bush's Cowboy Cookies were one of them.

I also thought I would add some new First Ladies recipes from my own collection (Source: Margaret Klapthor, The First Ladies Cookbook: Favorite recipes of the all the Presidents of the United States).

Mashed Potatoes (Harriet Lane)

3 large Idaho potatoes
1 tbsp salt
¼ tsp pepper
2 oz butter
2 eggs (used separately)
pastry bag

Peel the potatoes and cut in half. Place in a pan and cover with cold water. Add 1 tablespoon salt, bring to a boil. Let the potatoes simmer until they are soft; drain, return to the pan to dry a little. Beat until smooth, adding butter and 1 egg. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Fill pastry bag with potato mixture. Use rose tube. Pipe large rosettes on butter baking dish, sprinkle with beaten egg. Brown under the broiler, watching carefully so that they do not get too brown.

Clove Cake (Edith Roosevelt)

½ cup of butter
½ cup of milk
½ cup of molasses
2 cups flour
2 eggs, whole
3 cups seedless raisins
1 tsp soda, in the molasses
½ tsp of cloves, cinnamon and allspice
1 ½ tsp nutmeg
½ lb crystallized ginger and butter, for decoration

Mix butter and milk; add eggs, beating well. Add molasses and soda, milk, and flour that has been sifted together with the spices. Beat well. Add raisins. Bake in greased 8-inch tube pan at 350 F for 45-55 minutes.

Brush the top with a little butter, and garnish with overlapping slices of crystallized ginger.

You can have a "White House" dinner night now!

Monday, June 19, 2006

A Young Man From the Waxhaws

I’ve completed several hours of research regarding Andrew Jackson over the last few days. Andrew Jackson and I are old friends. You see I’m from Georgia and, you can’t be from Georgia and not know how Jackson impacted our young state.

Georgia had many of her true natives ripped from their family farms and homes so they could be forced to march along the Trail of Tears. This occurred during Jackson’s presidency. Many of the Cherokees were rounded up and held in open pens close to my father’s property at Fort Buffington. There is no evidence of the fort now, but there is an elementary school near the site. My mom’s family used to hold family reunions at the school and, I would sometimes walk out to the road to read the historical marker concerning the fort.

Jackson is one of those presidents that history teachers simply can’t ignore. His life story is just too good to leave out of our American story. I like to begin introducing Jackson during my colonization unit as we begin talking about the frontier. I always tell students, “Now remember that name…Andrew Jackson… you’re going to hear about him again.” Later he can be brought up during the American Revolution when we discuss how children and women helped in the war effort. Jackson was also very influential in the settlement of Tennessee and served as a military leader during the Seminole Wars. By the time we reach the War of 1812 Jackson has become an old friend to my students. They can look at his entire life and begin to predict his actions or understand some of his choices. Students begin to analyze…a real skill they need in the real world.

Jackson’s contribution to the American war effort during the War of 1812 cannot be ignored, and as I already mentioned he was prominent during the Trail of Tears. Jackson was also a figure during the election of John Quincy Adams that I wrote about in a past post, and Jackson’s presidency was full of interesting events as well.

However, in this post, I want to focus on President Jackson’s childhood.

He was born in the Waxhaw area between North and South Carolina in 1767 to a family of Scots-Irish heritage. His father died while Jackson was still quite young and his mother took her three sons and moved onto property with other family members.

As the Revolutionary War began Jackson and two brothers joined the Continental Army. Jackson was assigned to be a courier as he was only thirteen. Some sources states Jackson’s brother died in battle while others mention Hugh died from heat exhaustion as was the case with many soldiers. More than likely Hugh expired from heat exhaustion during a battle.

Unfortunately Jackson and his brother, Robert, were captured by the British and held at the Redcoat’s pleasure. Jackson found himself alone when Robert passed away in captivity. Jackson exhibited his strong will and stubbornness when a British officer ordered the young man to clean his boots. Jackson refused and was soundly beaten by the officer. At one point the Redcoat raised his sword and slashed towards Jackson who received severe wounds to his hand and face. He was scarred for life. Jackson became an orphan when his mother died from Cholera while nursing soldiers.

Can you image at such a young age loosing your mother and brothers? Many biographers state that Jackson had a burning hatred for the British which is understandable. It is also easy to understand his feelings towards Native Americans, especially the tribes who allied with the British. Students are able to determine what drove Jackson to be so successful in his zeal against the British at the Battle of New Orleans and during the Seminole Wars.

It is true that our past generally shapes our future. Jackson is a clear example of this whether we agree with his actions or not.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Founding Fathers Quiz

The National Trust for Historical Preservation has a founding fathers quiz in honor of Father's Day. Warning - its HARD! Good luck and have fun!

The Vice President: Who's That?

Question: Who was Woodrow Wilson's Vice President? [Answer at end.]

Don't know the answer? Then you probably aren't alone! It seems that we often overlook the Vice President (unless he makes the news because of a hunting accident of course!). I do hope you all know who the current VP is! Unless something happens to the President, it seems an unimportant position. John Adams called it the “most insignificant office that ever the invention of man contrived or his imagination conceived.” (The Complete Book of US Presidents, pg. 26) So I’ve decided to try to rectify some of that!

The Vice President really was given no role by the Constitution. His main job was: “The Vice President of the United States shall be President of the Senate, but shall have no Vote, unless they be equally divided.” (Article 1.3) This infuriated someone like John Adams, who loved to talk. The office, though, is mostly ceremonial and the role we think of, as the President’s replacement if he is incapaciated, wasn’t even official until 25th Amendent was passed in 1967 (Obviously this was seen as the proper succession as John Tyler first succeeded to the Presidency upon the death of William Henry Harrision in 1841. But look at a case like Edith Wilson, who assumed much of her husband’s role when he was sick – there was no law saying that the Vice President should do this instead). The 12th Amendment first required that the Vice Presidents fulfill the same requirements as the President before election (so he could replace the President if something happened to him). Modern Vice Presidents are part of the Cabinet and part of the President’s policy work, but that is more up to the President than any specific law. Now the VP is used as a surrogate for the President – he is sent to meet foreign dignitaries and to give speeches in place of the President. Modern Vice Presidents have a much broader role than John Adams did, but it could change depending on the specific President.

Many Vice Presidents have been little more than figureheads, some of them not even living in DC. Going back to John Tyler, after his election he went home to Virigina (he had a sick wife) and expected to stay there…but got home to the news that Harrison was dead and had to return. Theodore Roosevelt was on vacation with his family hiking when he received news that McKinley had been shot. John C. Calhoun resigned the Vice Presidency to become a South Carolina Senator, seeing that as a more powerful position.

The VP had no official residence until 1974 when Number One Observatory Circle was so designated. One story goes that the Hardings were offered a house for the Coolidges, but Mrs. Harding refused:

Mrs. Harding had always been cordial to the Coolidges, but she spoke her mind about where she thought they ought to be living. The widow of a former Missouri Senator, Mrs. John B. Henderson had offered her house and grounds as an official Vice-Presidential residence and a bill was sent to Congress to accept the gift and to establish an appropriation for the property's upkeep. Dr. Nicholas Butler and his wife were White House guests when the bill was being debated. They said they hoped it would pass. Dr. Butler said Mrs. Harding then "burst into flame and almost shouted "not a bit of it, not a bit of it. I'm going to have that bill defeated. Do you think I'm going to have those Coolidges living in a house like that? A hotel apartment is plenty good enough for them!"

In spite of this report of Mrs. Harding's comments, relations between the Hardings and the Coolidges always appeared to be cordial.(It would be not until approximately fifty years later that an official Vice-Presidential residence was established. Coolidge said it was good from a personal perspective that the residence wasn't established for him, as it would have meant additional expense for him which he would have found difficult to bear.)

The Vice Presidency has seemed so insignificant that New York used it as away to get rid of Theodore Roosevelt and “bury” him (this rather backfired on them when William McKinley was assassinated). While recent Vice Presidents have ran for President (and only has won: George H.W. Bush), it has traditionally not been the jumping stone to the Presidency. That distinction has gone instead to the position of Secretary of State. As a note only four VPs have become President by election (of course other VPs have become Presidents but from deaths or resignations): John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Martin Van Buren and George H.W. Bush.

Some fun quotes on the office of the Vice Presidency (unless otherwise noted, they from this link):

The vice president…is really a fifth wheel to the coach. It is a not a stepping stone to anything but oblivion.
-Theodore Roosevelt (Theodore Roosevelt: A Life, pg. 346)

The vice presidency isn't worth a pitcher of warm spit.
-John Nance Garner

A little over a week ago, I took a rather unusual step for a vice president…I said something.
-Spiro T. Agnew

Look at all the Vice Presidents in history. Where are they? They were about as useful as a cow's fifth teat.
-Harry S. Truman

I do not propose to be buried until I am really dead.
-Daniel Webster, on not accepting the Vice Presidency

Trivia Answer: Thomas R. Marshall of Indiana

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

The Carnival has arrived....

Welcome to the 33rd edition of history carnival! Thanks to everyone who nominated sites - there was a lot of great blogging out there!

Art History Questions

How do we decide what is considered "art?" This is the question that Revise and Dissent asks about Paleolithic paintings.

Now if we know what we define as art, how do we decide what is authentic? This is the question that A Don's Life discusses using the example of a marble bust of the Roman Emperor Commodus that experts are currently debating whether is ancient or modern.

Grotesque art? Check out these strange faces (go look - you will have to redefine your use of the word grotesque) at Giornale Nuova.

Historical Fiction or Non Fiction?

Kevin Levin reviewed Bruce Levine's new book, Confederate Emancipation, at Civil War Memory to investigate the problematic historical debate over blacks in the Confederate army.

If you liked the Da Vinci Code then you will enjoy the tale of the Beale Ciphers at Interesting Thing of the Day. Will the last message ever be encrypted or was the entire thing a hoax?

Miland Brown at World History Blog offers an opinion Matyszak's biography of Julius Caesar, which denotes Caesar as a war criminal rather than the usual laudatory analysis.

Bill at Language Log discusses the problems of the linguistic evidence used in the book 1421: The Year China Discovered America.

A case of mistaken identity in the literary community? Mode For Caleb brings up recent scholarship that proves Emma Dunham Kelley Hawkins, who has been considered an African-American writer, was actually white.

Iraq Comparisons:

New (or not so new?) documents from Kissinger about Vietnam that Jussi Hanhimaki (OUPblog) argues could help shed some light on the situation in Iraq.

Sean's Russia Blog compares the situation in Iraq with the one in Chechnya.

Other (So I couldn't find a way to link this group other than I thought they were worth including...)

Let's mix some history and science. John Hawks has an interesting post on Neanderthal mitochondria.

A new evil number? Read the argument for 42 rather than 666 as the Biblical number of the beast at Early Modern Whale.

How free was the fledging USA? Muhlberger's Early History discusses the plight of African-Americans in early America.

Can you define the world frontier? ElementaryHistoryTeacher delves into the topic of defining the different frontiers of history at History is Elementary.

From a fun and succient look at the Marquis de Sade check out The Skwib.

Reality Check

Natalie just cycled Hadrian's Wall and journals her trip at Philobiblon.

The Civil War is still making the news with the re-burial of six Union soldiers.

Read about the deaths of archeologists in the field at Salto Sobrius.

Upcoming Carnival

Want to contribute next time? Submit your posts to the next edition of history carnival! This will be held July 1st at Chapati Mystery by Sepoy. You can submit via the carnival submission form or email Sepoy: sepoy[AT] For past and upcoming carnivals check out the history carnival index page. For more information on other carnivals, see the uber-carnival page.

American Presidents and Flag Day

Today is June 14th. In the United States, that means today is Flag Day. If you are an American, please take some time to show your respect for the flag.

Several presidents have had a role in the recognition of Flag Day. Wikipedia notes, "In the United States, Flag Day (more formally, National Flag Day), is celebrated on June 14. It commemorates the adoption of the flag of the United States, which happened that day by resolution of the Second Continental Congress in 1777. In 1916, Woodrow Wilson issued a proclamation that officially established June 14 as Flag Day; in August 1949, National Flag Day was established by an Act of Congress."

In addition to Wilson, President Truman also had a role. The History Of Flag Day notes, "While Flag Day was celebrated in various communities for years after Wilson's proclamation, it was not until August 3rd, 1949, that President Truman signed an Act of Congress designating June 14th of each year as National Flag Day."

The President of the United States has a role in designating Flag Day every year. Title 36 of the US Code is the actual statute for Flag Day. It requires, "The President is requested to issue each year a proclamation (1) calling on United States Government officials to display the flag of the United States on all Government buildings on Flag Day; and (2) urging the people of the United States to observe Flag Day as the anniversary of the adoption on June 14, 1777, by the Continental Congress of the Stars and Stripes as the official flag of the United States."

Although the President has the option not to issue a Flag Day proclamation, I do not think that is a likely scenario for any president.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Grand Inquests: The Historic Impeachments of Justice Samuel Chase and President Andrew Johnson

Grand Inquests: The Historic Impeachments of Justice Samuel Chase and President Andrew Johnson. This site has an interview with the late Chief Justice William Rehnquist about his book concerning the impeachment trials of Samuel Chase and President Andrew Johnson.

I found this interview interesting and it makes me want to go and read this book. Rehnquist did a good job in his 2004 Centennial Crisis and I enjoyed reading that. If the quality is similar, I will probably enjoy this earlier work too.

From the site:

BRIAN LAMB: William H. Rehnquist, chief justice of the United States, you have a book out called Grand Inquest. What's it all about?

WILLIAM REHNQUIST: It's about two impeachment trials that took place in the Senate of the United States -- one of Samuel Chase, who was an associate justice of the Supreme Court in the first part of the 19th century, and the second of Andrew Johnson, who was president of the United States right after the Civil War.

LAMB: Why did you write it?

REHNQUIST: Because I thought both the trials had very interesting significance, and I thought they also had kind of a common thread in them. Both represented the Senate in action in a very unusual situation, and both also were kind of victories for the separation of powers that the framers implanted in the Constitution.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

The Carnival is coming to town....

The history carnival will be hosted here on the 15th! I've gotten lots of great submissions, but I'm still missing yours....

If you've already submitted remember to come back on the 15th and see what all got posted!

You can submit via the very easy form at History Carnival! Or email me at coppertop67[AT]

My Third and FINAL Post Regarding Warren G. Harding

Sometimes it takes more than one post to work through a thought, I guess. This has been the case with President Harding and me.

During my research I came across some interesting quotes concerning Warren G. Harding. They made me think not so much about Harding’s character but how presidents are elected and how ‘we the people’ buy into myths. Different biographies I reviewed made me think about the state of the nation after the horrors of World War I and a country that was about to undergo huge shifts in society.

In his book The Available Man (1965) by Andrew Sinclair he contends that “Warren G. Harding became the most notorious president in American history because the myths that had formed him were not adequate to meet with the power and responsibility of the president during the First World War.”

Sinclair clarifies his point further:

“These myths, which formed Harding and in which he mostly believed made himthe available man [for] the Republican party…. There were myths of the Country Boy, of the Self Made Man, of the Presidential State, of the Political Innocent of the Guardian Senate, of America First, of the Reluctant Candidate, of the Dark Horse, of the Smoke-Filled Room, of the Solemn Referendum, and of the Best Minds."

Another biographer, Francis Russell (The Shadow of Blooming Grove, 1968), details other scandals in presidential history and wonders why scandal hit Harding and his reputation in history so hard. Russell theorizes the reason is because the scandals during the Harding administration tended to go on and on over a long period of time. The Teapot Dome trial lasted for several years. Albert Fall did not begin his prison sentence until 1931-----eight years after Harding’s death. Democrats were happy to bring up the scandal in election after election for many years thereafter and who can blame them. On Harding’s 100th birthday love letters he wrote to another man’s wife were conveniently discovered.

Russell further reports Harding’s support of the World Court and his work with the Disarmament Conference could not hold up under such questions as was he a mulatto? Was he a member of the Ku Klux Klan? Did he have an illegitimate child? Was he murdered? What was in the papers burned after his death?

Harding became president at a pivotal time in history. He was a man who having been born in 1865 was still influenced by the Civil War and Reconstruction through his youth yet he became president in the Twentieth Century after the most technologically advanced and horror-filled war in human history up to that time . Russell states that scandal or no scandal Harding deserves to be remembered “not so much for himself,…but because he came at a dividing point in history, where men moved forward and looked back.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Warren G. Harding-Unanswered Questions

Since I posted about Harding yesterday I’ve continued to think about the question I posed. Can you use Harding to teach character in relation to the new standard Georgia will soon be implementing?

Amerloc posted a comment to my teaser post at History is Elementary asking, “So, how do you go about teaching his positive traits?” Polski3 was also kind enough to comment advising some additional factoids regarding Mr. Harding. As always I appreciate the input.

Here’s what I’ve decided…

Sometimes when we teach history it is not necessary to teach the ins and outs of every presidential life or administration. Sure, the time period is important, but the man himself may not fit the student’s needs. Elementary students don’t need to hear about every grimy detail or even every stellar detail for that matter. We would never complete our curriculum if that was the case.

However, I would expect high school and college students to hear about every aspect of the Harding presidency since it occurred at the beginning of the decade we remember as the Roaring 20’s. Many of the administration policies begun during the Harding administration lead us down the road to ‘Brother Can You Spare a Dime’ as well as placing us in a vulnerable position at the beginning of World War II. The more risqué side of Harding’s presidency could even motivate some older students to delve deeper into the culture of the time period to figure out how Americans were making the transition from a Victorian society towards a more modern ‘let’s have fun’ mentality.

As far as my elementary classes go or even middle school students Harding’s presidency can be a great lesson on voter responsibility. Students should learn that voters should investigate candidates on their own. They shouldn’t get caught up in campaign rhetoric and, voters should listen to the candidate and not the pundits. Students should understand the danger of the “smoke-filled room” and presidential appointments such as Harding’s Ohio Gang. Younger students can understand the debacle of such scandals as Teapot Dome and the thefts from the Veterans Administration. Younger students can and should learn about Harding’s foreign policy regarding his refusal to allow the U.S. to join the League of Nations, yet he allowed the U.S. to join the World Court. Students should understand the long reaching effects of the Five Powers Treaty and how it weakened our military.

As far as meeting the Georgia standard regarding teaching character education with historical figures luckily it’s not required with each and every person. I’d probably skip Harding though I will admit I am intrigued by all of the unanswered questions that surround his administration. Our fourth and fifth graders have bigger fish to fry, however.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Can Anything Postive Be Said About Warren G. Harding?

Georgia will be implementing new standards in social studies soon. One of the new standards requires students to name positive character traits of key historic figures and government leaders (honesty, patriotism, courage, trustworthiness).

While doing some research this week on Warren G. Harding I raised a question for myself. Can teachers, especially at the elementary level teach anything positive about Harding?

Hmmmm….let’s look at the facts.

Harding had at least two verified mistresses. He met with one in the Oval office and was alleged to have a child with her.

During Harding’s presidency he kept the White House stocked with bootleg whiskey even though Prohibition was in effect. Harding and his cronies spent a lot of time in the White House playing poker where he once gambled away the White House china.

As a member of the U.S. House and later as a Senator he missed more votes than he showed up for. He introduced no legislation of any real merit during his tenure in office.

His speeches contained so many phrases and incomplete thoughts that William Gibbs McAdoo called them, “an army of pompous phrases moving across the landscape in search of an idea.” Ouch! It would seem that Harding’s main goal was to keep his thoughts so murky with alliterative generalities that he never actually took a clear stand on any issue. H.L. Mencken thought Harding’s English was the worst he had ever heard. He called it Gamalielese in reference to Harding’s middle name, Gamaliel.

Harding was not the first choice for his party’s nomination. The two candidates that were favored most deadlocked in a tie at the 1920 Republican convention. He was chosen because he was a fairly good looking man and party bosses could easily control him.

The electorate voted awarding him with 60% of the popular vote. Many said they voted for him simply because he looked like a president while others elected him due to a postwar reaction to Woodrow Wilson’s international policies. Some historians actually blame Harding’s election on women voters who had the vote nationwide for the first time. Harding was actually surprised to find himself president. He remarked, “I’m not fit for this office.”

His leadership style was one of sitting back and letting his cabinet set policy. He wanted to be liked more than he wanted to lead ( This was fatal to Harding in more than one way.

Many members of Harding’s administration were crooks plain and simple. Charles Cramer sold surplus war goods and took drugs from veteran’s hospitals to sell privately to drug dealers. Albert Fall, Harding’s Secretary of the Interior, sold oil reserves for personal profit in a scandal we remember as the Teapot Dome Scandal. As the series of scandals became known to Washington insiders, Herbert Hoover, Harding’s Secretary of Commerce, urged the President to tell the American people what was going on. Harding was fearful, however. He was clearly troubled by his band of thieves as he remarked, “I have no trouble with my enemies. [It’s] my…friends… that keep me walking the floor at night.”

A higher tariff was established during Harding’s administration and immigration was drastically cut with the Immigration Quota Act of 1921. Harding also refused to allow the United States to join the League of Nations which had been Wilson’s offering for world peace at the end of World War I.

There were some brighter highlights, however. The Five Power Naval Treaty was signed in 1922 which resulted in huge military cuts for the U.S., Britain, Japan and others. Wartime economic restrictions were lifted, taxes were cut, and the federal budget system was created. Harding was also the first president to speak out for Civil Rights while on southern soil. The eight hour day was finally established but it was signed into law eleven days after Harding’s death.

Harding passed away in 1923. Some say he died of complications of ptomaine poisoning…others say it was just a heart attack brought on by the stress of scandal. Some say he was murdered. We’ll never know because his wife denied requests for an autopsy. She also returned immediately to Washington D.C. and burned all of her husband’s private papers. When it became known that Carrie Phillip’s, one of Harding’s mistresses, had a series of letters between herself and the President, they were confiscated through the courts by the Harding family. These letters have been held under protective order and won’t be released until the year 2024. That should be interesting…

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Boilerplate and the Rough Riders

Boilerplate and the Rough Riders. One of the least known facts about the Spanish-American War is that a Victorian era robot named Boilerplate helped Teddy Roosevelt and the Rough Riders on the way to their charge up San Juan hill.

This article explains what happened. It noted, "Roosevelt, sensing the reaction the Spanish might have to Boilerplate, ordered the mechanical man to advance on the position. The effect was dramatic enough: the Spanish troops abandoned the blockhouse and retreated toward Santiago. Only the defenses at San Juan Heights stood between the Americans and the capital of Cuba."

Boilerplate did other things too including aiding in the exploration of Antarctica. For more details, see the main site History of a Victorian Era Robot.

Please note that Boilerplate is a hoax! This is a great site that is a lot of fun but it all springs from the imagination of the site creator. I hope you enjoy it. Something tells me that Teddy Roosevelt may have liked the idea of a robot in general but would have refused to allow one in combat.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Happy Birthday, Ida McKinley!

Tomorrow (June 8th) would be Ida McKinley’s 159th birthday! The National First Ladies Library will be celebrating her birthday all day. If you will be in the Canton, Ohio area you can join them for an open house and reception from 10 AM to 6 PM. The Saxton House (the ancestral home of Ida McKinley) will have free tours all day and there will be refreshments in the courtyard.

The McKinleys never actually lived at this house (the Saxton House) after they were married, but did stay there for extended amounts of time. Ida's sister, Mary, lived there with her family and when Ida and William were in Canton between congressional terms (or gubernatorial terms), they stayed there and William had an office on the third floor. He wrote the Tariff Bill of 1890 in that house.

Can’t come? Take an online tour of the house in honor of her birthday!

Still not sure? How about some fun facts on Ida McKinley:

  • Ida Saxton was very well educated for her time and being a woman. Her father (James Saxton) believed in educating all of his children. Ida’s education, today, would be the equivalent of a Master’s in Fine Arts. Her father also sent her, her sister, and some other local girls on a educational European tour (8 months long).
  • Ida Saxton actually worked before she got married. When she got back from Europe she went to work in her father’s bank until she married William McKinley when she was 24.
  • Ida and William McKinley had two children, but both died young. Katie, their oldest, died of what was probably typhoid fever at 3 ½. The younger, Ida, died at 4 months old. Ida’s “seizures” started after the birth of her second child, which was an exceptionally difficult delivery.
  • James Saxton gave the McKinleys a house as their wedding gift, 723 N. Market Street in Canton, Ohio. This house is no longer standing. The land it was on now holds the Stark County Library. This house was where McKinley's "front porch" campaigns were held from.
  • Ida McKinley, by her own account, crocheted over 3000 pairs of slippers. She gave these away to charities, who would auction them off to raise money for their causes.
  • Mrs. McKinley was the first presidential wife to have her picture used extensively on campaign buttons.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Upcoming History Carnival

We will be hosting the next history carnival here on June 15th! Please submit via the carnival submission form. Submit and then come back and see what were our picks for the carnival!

Monday, June 05, 2006

Coolidge Humor

Coolidge Humor. I really enjoyed reading this page from Silent Cal was rather witty!

Here is my favorite:

President and Mrs. Coolidge once visited a government farm, taking separate tours. Mrs. Coolidge expressed some interest in a prize rooster. The farmer told her that the rooster was able to perform the sex act several times a day. Mrs. Coolidge told the farmer "Tell that to Mr. Coolidge when he comes by." When he got there, the farmer told him about it. Coolidge asked "Is it with the same hen every time?" "No," the farmer said, "it's with a different hen each time." Coolidge said "Be sure to tell that to Mrs. Coolidge."

Friday, June 02, 2006

"I Do Solemenly Swear" - Inaugural Materials from the Collections of the Library of Congress

"I Do Solemenly Swear" - Inaugural Materials from the Collections of the Library of Congress. This is an interesting (and fun!) past exhibit from the Library of Congress. It will be a few years before the next Presidential Inauguration but you can relive some past ones here.

Eighteen presidents are featured in this display including George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Andrew Jackson, William Harrison, James K. Polk, Zachary Taylor, James Buchanan, Abraham Lincoln, Ulysses S. Grant, Rutherford B. Hayes, James A. Garfield, Benjamin Harrison, William McKinley, Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, Calvin Coolidge, Franklin D. Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy.

From the site:

The Library of Congress is the nation's oldest and most comprehensive presidential library. The Library has in its custody the papers of twenty-three presidents, including those men who founded the nation and led it through some of its greatest crises. Among these papers are key documents relating to the early presidential inaugurations.

A special installation within the American Treasures exhibition presents more than forty of these items including photographs, manuscripts, campaign posters, letters, broadsides, and inaugural speeches. This unique selection of items offers a glimpse into the history of American presidential inaugurations.