Monday, July 31, 2006

Presidential Genealogy

I spent all weekend in Columbus at a genealogy workshop (for librarians), hence this post! Michael posted a link to a site a while ago, but I thought I'd include another one!

This genealogy site is part of a larger on royal and noble genealogies if you are interested in more on this topic. This is actually a web version of a book by Funk and Wagnell. There is some interesting information here, but it really only deals with the Presidents and their immediate families. Anyway, it can make for some fun browsing! What I found the most interesting was seeing the parents and siblings - at least what information was presented.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Unanswered Questions Fuel the Love of Learning

I still strive to know as many answers as I can, however, I believe it is acceptable for teachers to be stumped sometimes, and more importantly, I think its permissable to allow students to know their teacher is stumped.

That’s hard for some students, some parents, and even educators themselves to deal with given that teachers should be the ones with the answers. We all want highly qualified educators in our classrooms, but we also want educators who have a love of learning.

Many of my students, as young as they are, comment from time to time concerning the breadth of my knowledge regarding American History and my ability to tie in what they are studying in Language Arts to their Social Studies.

Students say, “Gee, elementaryhistoryteacher, how do you know all this stuff? How do you remember all of those dates? ”

Of course, my little dears have no inkling as to the amount of planning and research that go into a unit. They are clueless concerning the fact that I review a unit for several weeks before teaching it, and I constantly add and take away components of a unit depending on the needs of my learners.

One thing my little dears do have knowledge of is their teacher absolutely loves what she teaches. They understand that I have a rabid love of learning for any type of history and that I love a good question to research.

We would quickly loose our love of learning if we knew all the facts or had all the answers. The hunt for answers is my biggest attraction for what I do, and I want to translate that for my students. I want them to know how to search for answers themselves and string together facts to arrive at an answer.

Yesterday I came across a little factoid that caused me to travel down Internet sidestreets attempting to discover the answer to a question that involved a gold ring, strands of hair, the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, and the presidential inauguration of 1905.

My creation

The assassination of President Lincoln was a horrible time for the American people. During that time of severe grieving many Americans who were at the President’s bedside or at the White House to pay their respects were given or simply took momentos of the occaision that have been handed down to sucessive generations or later donated to various museums and even sold to the highest bidder.

One of the more macabe mementos was locks of Abraham Lincoln’s hair. Some sources state that the first lock of hair was removed by Dr. Charles Leale who was the first doctor on the scene. Upon examining President Lincoln Dr. Leale discovered a clump of hair matted with blood. By removing this clump of hair he had easier access to the wound. Another lock of hair was reportedly removed by Mrs. Schuyler Colfax, wife of the Speaker of the House.

Both locks of hair were presented to Mrs. Lincoln and during the month that followed after the death of President Lincoln she distributed mementos to friends and acquaintances. One of the recipients of a few hair strands was Dr. Charles Sabin Taft, who was the second surgeon to be at the President’s bedside. Dr. Taft had assisted Dr. Leale with getting the President to breath on his own.Dr. Taft willed his Lincoln hair strands along with other mementos to his son, Charles C. Taft.

One of Lincoln’s personal secretaries was John Hay who went on to have a very distinguished career as Secretary of State. In fact Hay was the Secretary of State for President McKinley who himself was assassinated in 1901 thereby bringing Theodore Rooosevelt to the presidency to finish Mckinley’s term. Roosevelt was elected to his own term in 1904.

John Hay purchased six strands of President Lincoln’s hair from Charles C. Taft and put them inside a ring. Before the 1905 inauguration of Theodore Roosevelt, Secretary of State Hay contacted Roosevelt and presented the ring to him along with a note that is purported to say:

“The hair in this ring is from the head of Abraham Lincoln. Dr. Taft cut it off the night of the assassination…Please wear it tomorrow, you are one of the men who most thoroughly understands and appreciates Lincoln…”

Some of the John Hay sources I read mention the mutual relationship of respect and friendship between President Lincoln and John Hay even though they were far apart in age. It would seem that such a memento of his former employer and mentor would be very precious to him. However, some sources say he presented the ring to Roosevelt. The term presented could mean he only allowed Theodore Roosevelt to see and borrow the ring. I find it difficult to believe that Hay would have given it to Roosevelt.

My love of learning has been sparked. I was hoping to discover what happened to the ring. Where is it? Who has it? Is it in a museum? Is there a picture of Theodore Roosevelt wearing it at his 1905 inauguration?

Here is where elementaryhistoryteacher becomes stumped. The research I've conducted so far has only been on the Internet itself. I have not consulted the biographies or autobiographies of Roosevelt, Hay, or even Lincoln.

So, I’m continuing my love of learning by attempting to discover where this ring is. Shooting off an email to Sagamore Hills (the former home of Theodore Roosevelt) might elicit a favorable response, or to the Hay Library at Brown University.

I just love a good mystery!

Your comments are welcome if you have information concerning John Hay’s ring.

information from an ebay auction site
John Hay

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Einstein Letter

The History Channel's recent series The 10 Days that Unexpectedly Changed America had a segment called Einstein Letter. This dealt with Einstein letters to President Roosevelt that helped to inaugurate and then keep the Manhattan Project moving forward. I really enjoyed this particular segment and so thought it would be useful to provide some of the historical documents for this show.

Einstein First Letter in August of 1939 told President Roosevelt of the possibility of a nuclear bomb and that Germany might be also working toward this goal:
In the course of the last four months it has been made probable through the work of Joliet in France as well as Fermi and secularity in America--that it may be possible to set up a nuclear chain reaction in a large mass of uranium, by which vast amounts of power and large quantities of new radium-like elements would be generated. Now it appears almost certain that this could be achieved in the immediate future.

This letter garnered a quick response from FDR, who replied in October that he had acted on Einstein suggestions:
I found this data of such import that I have convened a Board consisting of the head of the Bureau of Standards and a chosen representative of the Army and Navy to thoroughly investigate the possibilities of your suggestion regarding the element of uranium.

In March of 1945, Einstein wrote to FDR again, this time telling him that there were problems between the scientists and the government officials the President had appointed:
The terms of secrecy under which Dr. Szilard is working at present do not permit him to give me information about his work; however, I understand that he now is greatly concerned about the lack of adequate contact between scientists who are doing this work and those members of your Cabinet who are responsible for formulating policy.

Einstein's suggestions to FDR resulted in the creation of the atomic bomb, which President Truman dropped on Japan in August of 1945.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Andrew Jackson Bank Veto Message

Andrew Jackson Bank Veto Message. President Jackson issued this message on July 10, 1832. In it, he vetoed the renewal of the charter of the Second Bank of the United States. The message was actually written by George Bancroft.

The following reasons were noted for the veto:

- it was unconstitutional
- it concentrated an excessive amount of the nation's financial strength into a single institution
- it exposed the government to control by "foreign interests"
- it exercised too much control over members of the Congress
- it favored Northeastern states over Southern and Western states

Quite a bit of America's current debt is owed to "foreign interests" today. I see this is no longer a big concern.

From the site:

The present corporate body, denominated the president, directors, and company of the Bank of the United States, will have existed at the time this act is intended to take effect twenty years. It enjoys an exclusive privilege of banking under the authority of the General Government, a monopoly of its favor and support, and, as a necessary consequence, almost a monopoly of the foreign and domestic exchange. The powers, privileges, and favors bestowed upon it in the original charter, by increasing the value of the stock far above its par value, operated as a gratuity of many millions to the stockholders....

The act before me proposes another gratuity to the holders of the same stock, and in many cases to the same men, of at least seven millions more....It is not our own citizens only who are to receive the bounty of our Government. More than eight millions of the stock of this bank are held by foreigners. By this act the American Republic proposes virtually to make them a present of some millions of dollars.

Every monopoly and all exclusive privileges are granted at the expense of the public, which ought to receive a fair equivalent. The many millions which this act proposes to bestow on the stockholders of the existing bank must come directly or indirectly out of the earnings of the American people....

Friday, July 21, 2006


Well since I'm in the middle of moving (my 3rd in 18 months), it's on my mind. Especially since my phone company has shut off my DSL early...they will definitely be getting a huge piece of my mind if it's not on in the new house tonight (as we paid extra to have un-interrupted service...we should have known that wouldn't happen)!

Anyway, just a quick thought on Presidents moving into the White House. I didn't find much, but I'm sure they probably have staff members who do everything for them. At the Quest for the Presidency, I found a short article on moving day after the 2000 Election. This is the section is what got me:

Perhaps the most important activity cranked into high gear not long after Bush and Clinton climbed into a limousine and left for Bush's swearing-in.

Teams of workers descended on the place and bustled around like ants, painting walls, laying new carpet, replacing light fixtures -- turning the old Clinton White House into the new Bush White House.

I wish some of these people would have came and helped me!

And of course the White House has undergone many renovations. From this article, I found this comment very interesting: "Beginning in 1978, as many as 40 successive layers of paint were removed from the exterior walls."

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

When Kennedy and Nixon Swore

When Kennedy and Nixon Swore. I just discovered this lesson plan from the School of Champions. It is by Ron Kurtus.

This sounds like a fun lesson to teach. I think the students would have some quality learning too. And then the kids can go home and tell their parents that the teacher taught them swear words!

From the site:

During both John F. Kennedy's and Richard M. Nixon's terms in office as President of the United States, Time Magazine published articles that stated how each used profanities in the White House. The articles handled the fact quite differently for the two Presidents, showing a bias that reflected a general attitude about the men.

Questions you may have are:

What did the press say about the profanity?

Why was there a difference between the two?

What can be learned from this?

This lesson will try to answer those questions. There is a mini-quiz near the end of the lesson.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Ronald Reagan at the IMBd

Ronald Reagan at the IMBd. Of course, Ronald Reagan has a page at the Internet Movie Database. However, I just found it the other day when I was looking for some information on a 50s movie that Reagan had a small role in. His page at the IMBd Lists the President's filmography and notable TV guest appearances.

There is also a mini-biography of some substance. It begins, "Ronald Reagan is, arguably, the most successful actor in history, having catapulted from a career as a Warner Bros. contract player and later television star into the governorship of California and two terms as President of the United States." Well, he may have been the most successful man who was also an actor but I would not argue he was the most successful actor ever. He wasn't that spectacular acting...

The biography is also a bit biased against Reagan. Despite the strong start, it continues with "As president, his folksy oratory skills earned him the sobriquet The Great Communicator while his his movie-star charisma helped him avoid responsibility for breaches of the public trust that might have resulted in impeachment for a lesser mortal" and "For that intrepid skill, being able to deflect the muck of partisan politics and the detritus left in the wake of his administration's own insalubrious activities, his reign became known as The Teflon Presidency." I detect sarcasm mixed with awe here.

There is also a nice collection of Reagan trivia and quotes at the end of the biography. However, I found the most fun at this site just clicking on links to the films and TV shows he appeared on with descriptions. Reagan lived one heck of an interesting life.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Medical History of the Presidents

Dr. Zebra offers the Medical history of the US Presidents. While the author admits that there might be mistakes, as he’s not a historian, this is an interesting look at the Presidents.

It offers the trivial medical incidents to the very serious (all of which include source citations which always makes me happy).

Some various illnesses I pulled from the sites:

Martin Van Buren:
As Vice President, Van Buren did not enjoy presiding over the Senate. It has been speculated that the more-frequent-than-usual colds and other ailments he suffered during this period, which often drove him into bed for short periods, may have been an escape.

I rather like this one – I think we’ve all the pulled the “I’m sick” routine to get out of something we didn’t want to do. I guess even our leaders aren’t above that!

Benjamin Harrison:
While campaigning for the Presidency in 1888, there were reports that Harrison was near nervous collapse. These reports were denied, but they probably contained an element of truth

I don’t know about you, but campaigning for President would make me go a little crazy!

John Tyler:
Tyler had little faith in doctors. He regularly "took the waters" at various spas in Virginia. He became a believer in sulfur hydrotherapy. He also took "massive" doses of calomel regularly, which may have contributed to his gastrointestinal problems.

Lyndon Johnson:
Type A personality if there ever was one. But Johnson loved it. "I don't have ulcers. I give them!"

He was a man who was not afraid to show his healing cholecystectomy scar to the press. Famous political cartoon of scar drawn as a map of Viet Nam.

In May 1966, LBJ received a note from his cook: "Mr. President, you have been my boss for a number of years and you always tell me you want to lose weight, and yet you never do very much to help yourself. Now I'm going to be your boss for a change. Eat what I put in front of you and don't ask for any more and don't complain."

These made me smile so I had to include them!

Well, hopefully you learned a few fun tidbits about the medical history of our Presidents.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

The Election of 1800

Georgians can’t turn on the radio or television these days without political commericals. At some point within the last few days everyone in my house from 13 to 46 has stated, “I hate this time of year.” It’s probably the same where you live as well.

Candidates are accusing each other of all sorts of things. Allegations of lying, using the tax-payer’s money for private use, associations with the wrong kind of people, and misuse of government resources are just some of the wonderful things being said about those who are running for office. Voting records are brought up with the candidate in question voting against bills that would help children in some way yet what the voter doesn’t know is some ridiculous rider had been attached to the legislation which necessitated the candidate to vote against it. Things aren’t always as they seem.

A recent Republican debate between Georgia’s Lt. Governor candidates was a continual barb-fest. There were very few issues brought up or discussed without personal attacks being part of the candidates, response.

One of the responsibilities I’m charged with as a history teacher is to help students connect the past to their current lives. I think we do irreparable damage to our collective national memory when we place our Founding Fathers on too high a pedestal. These men did do wonderful things, but they also were not perfect. While we have to remember they lived in much different times than we do today, we also must realize things really haven’t changed when you examine the facts.

The Election of 1800 shows us that many of the men dedicated to the formation of this country were also very cutthroat in their efforts to maintain power for themselves and their friends. Political in-fighting and outragous behavior is not anything new.

Generally educators stick to the basics. The Election of 1800 shows us that the Constitution worked to a point and then presented a slight glitch that was settled by the twelth amendment. Studying this election gives students more knowledge regarding the rise of political parties. This election also shows us how peaceful the change of power is between different leaders and most importantly between political parties. However, a look at historical documents including journals and letters from this time can give students insight into the adversarial relationships which is in direction opposition to what they generally learn.

Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr were the leading electoral vote getters in 1800, however, they were both tied with 73 electoral votes. This meant the incumbent, John Adams, was out in the cold. Sectionalism was already raring its ugly head as Adams received 86% of his votes from the north while Thomas Jefferson received three-fourths of his votes from the South.

Though most Americans have become used to the mud slinging and political strategies using accusations I think they would be surprised at some of the methods used in 1800. An article from relates Federalist newspapers claimed the election of Jefferson would cause “teachings of murder, robbery, rape, adultary, and incest.” There were also charges of strange ritualistic rites being performed at Monticello.

Alexander Hamiliton claimed John Adams was unstable, impulsive and made irrational decisions in a pamphlet Hamilton published. Others said Adams was a poor judge of character and was senile. Republicans claimed Adams was a monarchist and even suggested there was a plot to marry his son to one of King George III’s daughters, however, George Washington had shown up just in time to quash the plot.

The Federalists claimed Jefferson was godless, an athiest nonbeliever, and a reign of terror would be unleashed if he was elected.

Thomas Jefferson, who most modern Americans hold in such high esteem, said the Federalists were a “reign of witches” and they were the party “adverse to liberty.”

This countered his critics who accused Jefferson of being a coward, used his political record while governor of Virginia against him, and accused him of being a Jacobin---the most radical faction during the French Revolution.

The Constitution directed those involved to allow the House of Representatives to settle things. In an web article from Smithsonian Magazine found here, John Ferling correctly states, “Federalist and Republicans appeared to agree on one thing only: that the victor in 1800 would set America’s course for generations to come, perhaps forever.”

During the debates in the House of Representatives there was even talk of disunion and civil war. Two states organized their milita in case Jefferson did not prevail. It took thirty-six different ballots before the tie was broken. Thomas Jefferson was finally named president and as was the custom in those days, the runner up, Burr, became the vice president.

Is it any wonder then that Jefferson would call for reconciliation and a smooth change in power during his inaugural address? Read it here.

Mr Ferling was correct in his idea that the Election of 1800 would set America’s course for generations to come. It gave birth to the modern campaign strategies we see today.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Andrew Johnson Gets Heckled

Presidents are often criticized and attacked. The First Amendment assures that anyone can give their opinion of the President and his performance. However, most of the time, the President does not get heckled by the majority of the audience he is addressing. However, President Andrew Johnson did.

In the summer and fall of 1866, President Johnson was touring the country trying to help build support for his reconstruction policies. The Radical Republicans controlled both houses of Congress and Johnson was trying to help non-Radical Republicans get elected. The tour was a disaster.

A good example of this is the Andrew Johnson Cleveland Speech. It was delivered on September 3, 1866. The crowd was hostile and the President had difficulty in giving his speech due to the heckling. The transcript of the speech has in parentheses some of the crowd comments.

When the President said, "Let me say to those who are still willing to sacrifice my life" the crowd began cheering. When he asked the crowd what his offence was, they replied, "You ain't a radical." The speech did not last long and I am sure Johnson shortened it due to the crowd hostility.

Can you imagine a President today speaking under such circumstances? Hecklers are removed promptly by the Secret Service. Further, it is hard to envision the President giving a speech to a group that was known in advance to be overtly hostile.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

US Currency

I was looking for information on US currency (see my rant on the dollar bill at my personal blog if you are interested in why) and found a fun fact worth sharing here:

Martha Washington is the only woman whose portrait has appeared on a U.S. currency note. It appeared on the face of the $1 Silver Certificate of 1886 and 1891, and the back of the $1 Silver Certificate of 1896. (From the Bureau of Engraving and Printing)

While there have been women on the various US coins, our paper money is completely male and mostly Presidents. The current portraits were all chosen in 1928 and have not been changed since even with the secruity upgrades that began in 1996 to prevent counterfeiting.

It is interesting to see who were the chosen few who made US banknotes (I actually knew all these, but the information can be verified at the link provided below for the larger denominations if you wish):
1 dollar: Washington
2 dollar: Jefferson
5 dollar: Lincoln
10 dollar: Hamilton (non-President)
20 dollar: Jackson
50 dollar: Grant
100 dollar: Franklin (non-President)

There were also some larger denominations that were produced at certain times (but are no longer printed):
500 dollar: McKinley
1000 dollar: Cleveland
5000 dollar: Madison
10,000 dollar: Salmon P. Chase (I provided this link in case you don't know who Chase is)
100,000 dollar: Wilson (this was never circulated in the general public)

It makes you wonder why these Presidents (and three others) made the current cut while others didn't (the US Treasury doesn't provide an answer on this either).

So let's discuss! Some are to be expected: Washington, Lincoln and Jefferson. Alexander Hamilton was the first Secretary of the Treasury and Salmon Chase was also very important in the Treasury Department's history so this also makes a lot of sense - they are important in the history of currency so they should get a place on its front. Andrew Jackson had the big "bank war" that could be a reason...that could be interesting to discuss though. Some of the others really make you think: Why Ulysses Grant? Or Grover Cleveland? Who wants to defend these portraits? Anyone got a recommendation of who SHOULD be on our national currency? I personally think Franklin Roosevelt should get a place (although since our current portraits were decided in 1928, I think its clear why he didn't make it).

[NOTE: The reason why portraits probably have not, nor will be changed anytime soon, is that is how many bank workers are trained to find counterfeits - by the portrait/denomination combination. I'm not actually suggesting that we change them - I just want to discuss why these Presidents made it over others and who else could be considered for inclusion.]

Friday, July 07, 2006

Eleanor Roosevelts takes on the DAR

Eleanor Roosevelt was one of the most influential women of the 20th century. What she did could change opinions and actions and so her consistent stances for improved civil liberties for all made a difference in the US.

In 1939, Marian Anderson, one of the greatest contraltos to ever sing, was refused permission to sing at Constitution Hall by the DAR (Daughters of the American Revolution) solely because she was African-American. Eleanor Roosevelt resigned in protest from the DAR (this link includes a brief history, her letter of resignation and her subsequent column).

Mrs. Roosevelt didn’t stop there though. She helped to make sure Marian Anderson got a concert. Ms. Anderson sang at the base of the Lincoln Memorial on Easter Sunday, 1939 and was broadcast across the country. (There is an audio only link as well as a video link embedded in the text.) She got more than just one concert, but a chance to sing to the entire nation.

The column after the Marian Anderson incident was not Mrs. Roosevelt’s only stand on racism either. Another example is in 1960 when she compared the American south to South Africa in her column. Her recommendations to the civil rights movement were as follows:
As I have said before, I do not think boycotting lunch counters that are segregated in the North has much value except in letting off our own steam. But I do think that refusing to buy South African goods such as lobster tails, diamonds, caracul coats, etc., none of which we buy every day-and at the same time refusing to buy anything at all from chain stores that have segregation of any kind in our South will have a very salutary effect.

Eleanor Roosevelt was an activist First Lady who truly made a difference in this country (She made Time's top 100 people of the century) and this is just one area where she used her influence to bring a message of civil liberties to the country.

Thursday, July 06, 2006



Lindenwald was where Martin Van Buren spent his retirement. I was unsure at first if this site would give me anything of substance (beyond just to see where Van Buren lived at one point), but it really surprised me and offered a lot of great information. The NPS offers many “teaching with historic places lesson plans” and this is one of them. The site offers information readings and then discussion questions. An interesting on is the one called “Home at Last” that describes his retirement at Lindenwald. The site also offers other acitivites that are more politically oriented, like this one comparing Van Buren and Hoover:

Activity 2: Comparing Presidents
Both Van Buren and Herbert Hoover lost their opportunity for a second term when they were blamed for depressions that were not their fault. Have students research the financial panic and depression of 1837 and compare it with the Great Depression that began in 1929. Have them compare the positions of Van Buren and Hoover on the role of government in ending a depression. Facilitate students’ thinking by reading aloud the following: (1) When questioned as to why he did not do more to alleviate suffering during the depression of 1837, Van Buren replied, "It is not the objective of government to make men rich—nor repair their losses"; (2) Hoover claimed that federal aid would cause "degeneration of that independence and initiation which are the very foundation of democracy." Then ask students to write short papers in which they discuss the current accepted responsibility of the president and the federal government for the economic welfare of the nation.

As you can see from this short assignment, this really is a great topic and could add a lot of your class. The lessons are also easily adapted by grade-level. This could be adapted to be anything from some very basic you discussion with your 5th graders to a college level discussion on these depressions.

The site offers a lot more than just a quick glance at Van Buren’s home, but really a lot of meat for your own perusal or for use in the classroom.

For other TwHP, you can visit the NPS.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

What the Presidents Did On the Fourth of July

What the Presidents Did On the Fourth of July. Happy 4th of July! Even if you are not an American, I hope you enjoy the day. I have blogged a site today which gives information on what the presidents were doing on the Fourth of July when they were in office. It has been researched by James Heintze.

This site is a lot of fun. Here are a few examples:

George Washington 1793 - Washington is home at Mount Vernon writing a letter to the Secretary of State;on thatday he also attends a public celebration in Alexandria, Va. (Writings of GeorgeWashington, 33:2-3)

James Monroe 1818 - Monroe is in Washington and issues a proclamation that the trade in "Plaster ofParis" is no longer to be exported to the "Province of New-Brunswick."

James A. Garfield 1881 - Garfield lays gravely ill in Washington, D.C. as a result of an assassin's bulletthere.

Warren G. Harding 1923 - In Meacham, Oregon, President Harding participates in the 80th anniversary ofthe arrival of the first immigrant wagon there. He rides in a Concord stage coach drawn bysix horses and gives a speech.

George Bush 1991 - The President and First Lady Barbara Bush are in Marshfield, Mo., and GrandRapids, Mich., leading bands and floats in the parades and giving speeches, and they laterreturn to Washington, D.C. to watch fireworks on the Mall.

Fro the site:

This chronology gives information on what the presidents were doing on the Fourth of July,but only during their tenures as presidents. Of course, many of the presidents remained in the public eye after leaving office, giving speeches and participating in a variety of activities. Information on some of the significant post-office activities may be found in the general chronology. You will notice that many of the dates have not been filled in. That is because the research is ongoing. Please check back periodically as this chronology is expanded. Information on the presidents and the Fourth of July was researched in various newspapers,including the National Intelligencer, New York Times, Washington Post, as well as other sources.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Cleveland's Fictitious Proclamation

Helena G. Allen, in her book The Betrayal of Liliuokalani, makes reference to a Presidential proclamation issued by Grover Cleveland and published in the New York Sun. It reads:

To My People: Whereas, my good and great sister and fellow sovereign, her gracious majesty, Liliuokalani,queen of Hawaii, has been wickedly and unlawfully dethroned by the machinations of Americans and persons of American descent in those islands, being instigated thereto by the devil, one John L. Stevens; and whereas, my well-conceived plans for the restoration of her sacred majesty have not had the result they deserved but her majesty is still defrauded of her legal rights by her refractory and rebellious subjects, and her position is a just cause of sympathy and alarm; now, therefore, I, Grover Cleveland, President of the United States, do hereby ordain and appoint the last day of April next as a day of solemn fasting, humiliation and prayer. Let my people humble themselves and repent for their injustice to me and my great and good sister, and pray, without distinction of color, for her speedy return to the throne and the discomfiture of the miserable herd of missionaries and their sons, her enemies and traducers. Long Live Liliuokalani, the de jure queen of Hawaii. Done at our mansion in Washington this 25th day of February, 1894.
Grover Cleveland A true copy.
Attest, Walter Q. Gresham, Secretary of State

This proclamation has been cited in several places on the Web now and even inspired one site to call every April 30th Hawaii Restoration Day. There is one problem with this so called Presidential Proclamation. Cleveland never issued it. It appears to be a joke.

Jere Krischel in his article Joke Proclamation wrote, "Helena G. Allen alleged that a proclamation of President Cleveland was printed in the New York Sun, on February 26, 1894. However, an examination of microfilm of the New York Sun, February 26, 1894, shows no such proclamation at all. She mentioned it in the context of discussing the constitution of the Republic of Hawai'i (which is odd, since the constitution of the Republic of Hawaii was not issued until 4 months after the date of the proclamation). " Krischel also notes that this proclamation does not appear in Cleveland's Presidential Papers.

Just reading the text of this proclamation is a give away that this was not issued by President Cleveland in any official capacity. John L. Stevens is called a devil. He also wishes for the "discomfiture of the miserable herd of missionaries and their sons." This choice of wording I think tips of the joke.

Cleveland also supposedly wrote, "my well-conceived plans for the restoration of her sacred majesty have not had the result they deserved." Cleveland did aid in trying to get Liliuokalani put back on the throne. He tried repeatedly to destabilize the Republic of Hawaii. However, there was some secrecy involved in this and I doubt he would be taking credit for it while still in office.

Who created this joke? It may well have been Helena G. Allen. This may have been fabricated for her book or maybe she was fooled by another prankster. It is hard to say. This joke proclamation has taken on a life of it's own and I am sure it will be believed and cited for centuries to come now that it is out on the Internet.

Does anyone know of any other false presidential proclamations making the rounds?

Sunday, July 02, 2006

The week that changed the world?

Nixons at the Great Wall of China

Richard Nixon called his 1972 visit to China “the week that changed the world.” Nixon began his career as extremely anticommunist, but upon becoming President agreed with senior State Department members that China could be useful to the US. In China, leading diplomat Chou En-Lai also saw the importance of a relationship with the US and was able to convince Mao Zedong that it was time to form a relationship with the US.

In February of 1971, Nixon announced his intentions to open a dialogue with Beijing. Both the US and China were willing to compromise on their “one China” stance – for now. In August of 1971 the US withdrew its objection to the People’s Republic of China being admitted to the United Nations. In October they were formally seated on the UN Security Council in place of Taiwan. Henry Kissinger was in China (supposedly secretly) in July of 1971. In February of 1972, President Nixon and Henry Kissinger went formally to China. There they met with Chou En-Lai and Mao Zedong. While the political discussions would have a lasting impact on the world that was not what the American public would remember. It would be the very well publicized visit that gave the US its first peek behind the “Bamboo Curtain.” We always remember what we see don’t we? And President Nixon made sure we saw this very well (he specifically asked for video coverage rather than print)! So let’s take a pictoral look at this visit:

All pictures are from the Ollie Atkins Photograph Collection (I just picked a few, there are lots more if you follow the link).
The politics:

Richard Nixon, Mao Zedong and Chou En-Lai

Nixon and En-Lai

While President Nixon and top government officials met on politics, First Lady Pat Nixon toured China to see the sites and meet the people:

Pat Nixon at the zoo

Pat Nixon meeting a Chinese girl

Some video footage from the visit:

Video clip from visit with Nixon speaking on it (there is a link at the very top of the page)

BBC News article that includes an interview with Pat Nixon and an audio summary

NBC News footage from China visit (you have to scroll down the page and it takes a minute to load but there should be a square box called Video: Nixon in China)

For the teachers among us: Teacher’s Guide to Nixon’s China Policy

So was President Nixon right? Did this week "change the world?" Let us know what you think!