Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Lawnfield: James Garfield’s Mentor Home

I promised a follow-up to my in-law question last week. I asked about James Garfield’s in-laws, the Rudolophs. I was up at the Garfield Home a few weekends ago and was quite impressed by the beautiful house and grounds so thought I would share with you. Lawnfield was the name given the house by reporters covering the 1880 election, the Garfield family simply called it the “Mentor Farm.”
Side View (my picture)
Front view (NPS picture)

The James Garfield National Historic Site is in Mentor, Ohio, which is up near Cleveland. It is part of the National Park Service and the Western Reserve Historical Society. As a note, although this is the Garfield house, they are not buried here (or even in Mentor). James and Lucretia Garfield are both buried in Cleveland (their daughter Molly and her husband are also there) at Lakeview Cemetery. There is a HUGE monument there if you are ever in the area plus other famous graves (like John D. Rockefeller).

The Garfields bought this house in 1876 because James wanted a farm. The house immediately underwent renovations, going from 9 rooms to 20 rooms. This is the house from which Garfield ran his “front porch” campaign and the house was abuzz with campaign activities through 1880. A small building on the grounds was converted into a campaign office, complete with a temporary telegraph.

James Garfield only served a short time before being assassinated and so never returned to his home after his election. It was Lucretia who continued the renovations and even added a memorial library and vault for all her husband’s papers to the house.

Now the interior of the house is a gorgeous testament to Lucretia Garfield’s style. You can take an online tour if you want to see these lovely rooms. Not only did the Garfield family live him, but James’ mother, Eliza, and Lucretia’s father, Zeb, both resided here.

Wedding Window from the outside

The white oak in the house (especially noticeable in the memorial library) is fabulous. Now if you look across this room you will see the circular window (picture from the Western Reserve). I also provided a picture (this one is mine) from the outside of the house. In 1888, Mollie and Harry Garfield both got married here in a double wedding.

Gas House (my picture)

In addition to everything on the inside, there are also a lot of great outbuildings. During the renovations, natural gas was found on the property, so Lucretia had a gas house built and the house was set up to receive it – quite modern of them! I’ve included a picture of the gas house as well as part of the sign (also mine) that shows how the gas was pumped into the house.

Windmill (Mine)

Another innovation was the windmill Lucretia had added. I actually talked about the building of this feature in an earlier post as well. As with the gas house, I’m including a picture of the windmill and then a portion of the sign (also mine) to show how the water was moved from the windmill into the house, giving the Garfield family water in the house.

This house is well worth the time to visit and tour, but if you aren’t going to be in Ohio any time soon, at least take the virtual tour!

What to remember when visiting Lawnfield:

  • From November 1 to April 30th, the house is only open on weekends. In the summer (May 1 to October 31), the house has hours 7 days a week.

  • The tour is guided, but there aren’t specific times so you may have to wait a little. If you have a large group, I would definitely call ahead. The tour fee includes a video on Garfield (can be seen before or after the tour, which works well if you have to wait), the exhibits in the visitors center, the grounds and the house tour.

  • The entrance fee is $8 for adults with discounts for seniors, children (under 12), NPS members, WRHS members and Triple A members.

  • Mentor is a small town and the house is pretty easy to find. There is free parking right at the house and it has plenty of room for buses.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Zod 2008

The authors of this blog do not make endorsements of current Presidential candidates. We also do not give extensive coverage to any of their campaigns. However, the Presidential candidacy of General Zod (originally from the planet Krypton) is unique and worthy of coverage. Full details from the Zod campaign can be found at Zod 2008.

General Zod came to the Earth in the early 1980s. He attempted to conquer the world but got his butt kicked by Superman. He has apparently reformed himself and is now seeking the Presidency of the United States via the ballot box.

His site features his campaign platform. Is anyone familiar with the idea of benevolent fascism? He notes that he does not take orders. He gives them. Both Congress and the Supreme Court will have their power restricted under his administration. Personally, I think this may be unconstitutional but I can see how this may appeal to many voters.

In an attempt to reach voters, he has an "Ask the General" section. Sample Q&A: Question: Hey, Zod, dude - Last time I checked, the Constitution of the United States said you have to be a natural-born American citizen before you can be president. Your bio says you were born some place called Krypton. Zod's Reply: Do you propose proof that I was born on Krypton? I don't think you can. My birth certificate comes from, well, shall we say, Laredo? I have friends there. The same ones who assist with new workers from Mexico. With that said, I challenge you to undo my citizenship. Yes, I, General Zod, was born in Laredo, Texas. Make no mistake about that! Swear allegiance to me and surrender your vote!

He also has a Kids page. It should get the interest of the younger set. From the Fun with Math section: An uprising occurs in a city with 100,000 people and one percent of them are jailed. If 100 people can be re-educated in one month, how long will it take before everybody is free again?

Can Zod bring the country together? Could both Republicans and Democrats unite behind him and let Zod solve all the world's problems? I am skeptical. But as the first major candidate of non-Earthly origins, his candidacy may be historic. Stay tuned.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Poll: Which is your favorite presidential pet?

The poll has closed for the question, "Which is your favorite presidential pet?" And the winner is...

Moo! Pauline Wayne the Cow (Taft) won hands down with 42% of the vote. Socks the Cat (Clinton) and Checkers the Cocker Spaniel (Nixon) were a distant second with 21%. Lost in the votes was Polly the Parrot (Washington) with 9% and Millie the Spinger Spaniel (G.H.W. Bush) with 6%.

Thanks to all who voted.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

President Tyler and the Tragedy of the USS Princeton

It was a beautiful and unusually warm February day in 1844 when President John Tyler, members of his cabinet, and 200 other important guests including Former First Lady Dolley Madison, boarded the USS Princeton for a trip down the Potomac River. The Princeton has caused a sensation upon its arrival in Washington D.C. as it was the first screw steam warship in the United States Navy. The ship’s designer, John Ericsson, was the same person who later would design the USS Monitor of Civil War fame. The presidential trip aboard the USS Princeton would be the fourth such trip down the river since the ship had arrived in the nation’s capital. On these trips the public was not disappointed as the big guns mounted on the USS Princeton were fired several times.

The ship was outfitted with two guns which were called Peacemaker and Oregon. The Oregon could fire a 225 pound shot 5 miles using a 50 pound charge. The gun had a new type of design that was revoluntionary for the time using a series of hoops in the construction. The Peacemaker’s design attempted to copy the design of the Oregon, but instead of the reinforcement with hoops, the metal of the gun was simply made thicker resulting in a gun that weighed 27,000 pounds.

On February 28, 1844 President Tyler and his guests boarded the ship for a trip that would include a formal luncheon. Besides Dolley Madison guests included former New York State Senator, David Gardiner, and his daughter Julia. His family owned Gardiner’s Island which even today is the largest privately owned island in the United States, and it has been owned by the Gardiner family for over 400 years. Julia Gardiner was “the” socialite of the day and, prior to the trip aboard the USS Princeton she had already captured President Tyler’s heart. Letitia Christian Tyler, President Tyler’s first wife had passed away in 1842, and he had met Julia Gardiner on a few other occaisions. Some sources state he had already asked her to marry him. The Tyler Courtship and Wedding, an article here at American Presidents written by Jennie, provides further incite into President Tyler’s marriage to Julia Gardiner.

During the last planned firing of the Peacemaker for the day the gun exploded wreaking havoc on the ship. An excellent article by Ann Blackman found here provides the tragic details in graphic detail. It was a tragedy that not only had an effect on the people who witnessed the explosion and aftermath, but it had a great effect on the Tyler presidency.

Gone in an instant were two of Tyler’s trusted cabinet members. Secretary of the Navy Thomas W.Gilmer was a former congressman and governor of Virginia. He was killed only ten days into his term as the head of the Navy. Also killed was Secretary of State, Abel B. Upshur. It had been Upshur’s secretive efforts on behalf of President Tyler which resulted in the treaty that annexed Texas. President Tyler’s valet, a slave named Armistead, was also killed onboard the Princeton. Some sources erroneous say he had been aboard the famous slave ship; however, President Tyler’s mother’s maiden name was Armistead, so I am surmising the slave had come to Tyler through his mother’s family. Julia Gardiner’s father did not survive the explosion either. It is she said she fainted and fell into the arms of President Tyler when she was told her father was not among the survivors.

Pauline Wayne, Presidential Cow

Pauline Wayne was a cow owned by President Taft. According to Wikipedia (yes, the cow has an entry), "From 1909 to 1913 Miss Wayne freely grazed the White House lawn. She was the last presidential cow to live at the White House and was considered as much a Taft family pet as she was livestock." The 1909 date may be wrong as the New York Times announced her arrival at the White House in 1910.

Pauline was quite famous for a cow in her days. Her coming and going was reported by the media. The New York Times covered her extensively. Her departure in 1913 warranted a headline on February 2nd titled "TAFT COW ON RETIRED LIST.; Pauline Wayne Goes Back to Her Old Wisconsin Farm." The article noted, "Pauline has not been in the best of health in several months. President Taft believes that if she is taken back to Wisconsin and put on Senator Stephenson's farm again, her youthful vigour will revive. The Senator was glad to recover Pauline, as she had supplied milk to the family of the President for two years, and he thought she would add dignity to his herd."

Other facts about Pauline Wayne:

- She was a Holstein-Frisian cow.

- Her Bovine Blue Book number was 115,580.

- She was shipped to the White House in a large crate on an express car on a train.

- Pauline's Aunt (Gertrude Wayne) held a world record for butter and milk production. Pauline herself only produced seven and a half gallons of milk a day.

- Pauline was pregnant when she arrived in Washington. I have been unable to determine the fate of the offspring.

- Nellie Taft referred to Pauline as Mooly-mooly.

- The William Howard Taft Papers at the Library of Congress include a file on Pauline.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Dear Mrs. Roosevelt

I found a great website on the New Deal that is sponsored by the Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt Institute. Now there is a boatload of great material here, but what I found fascinating was section called "Dear Mrs. Roosevelt." This section talks about how the Depression affected children and even includes some of their letters to Mrs. Roosevelt asking for specific things - from things like clothes to bicycles. The site then puts her response with it so you can see what she and her staff wrote back to them. It also includes lesson plans for those of you are who are teachers out there.

I thought I'd include one of the letters and the response to it for you:
Star Route One
Albertville, Ala.
January 1, 1936

Dear Mrs. Roosevelt,

For some time I have wished to be aqainted with you. Or merly to receive a letter from you. I haved wish much to see you, but as I am a poor girl and have never been out of our state that will be impossible I guess.

Mrs. Roosevelt since I have been in high school I have been studying modern things and conveniences. I took your family for my study. I have found the study to be the most interesting subjects I could have found. In the study I, at all times know where you are, by reading all papers I find at school and elsewhere. I find what you are doing. You may never had given this a thought, but to think over our daily lives there is a good story to it.

My life has been a story to me and most of the time a miserable one. When I was 7 years old my father left for a law school and never returned. This leaving my mother and 4 children. He left us a small farm, but it could not keep us up. For when we went back to mother's people the renters would not give us part. and we were still dependent. I have been shoved to pillow to post that I feel very relieved to get off to my self.

I am now 15 years old and in the 10th grade. I have always been smart but I never had a chance as all of us is so poor. I hope to complete my education, but I will have to quit school I guess if there is no clothes can be bought. (Don't think that we are on the relief.) Mother has been a faithful servent for us to keep us to gather. I don't see how she has made it.

Mrs Roosevelt, don't think I am just begging, but that is all you can call it I guess. There is no harm in asking I guess eather. Do you have any old clothes you have throwed back. You don't realize how honored I would feel to be wearing your clothes. I don't have a coat at all to wear. The clothes may be too large but I can cut them down so I can wear them. Not only clothes but old shoes, hats, hose, and under wear would be appreciated so much. I have three brothers that would appreciate any old clothes of your boys or husband. I wish you could see the part of North Alabama now. The trees, groves, and every thing is covered with ice and snow. It is a very pretty scene. But Oh, how cold it is here. People can hardly stay comfortable.

I will close now as it is about mail time. I hope to hear from you soon. (ans real soon)

Your friend, M. I.

Reply to the letter:

January 4, 1936

My dear Miss I:

Mrs. Roosevelt asks me to acknowledge your letter and to express her regret that because of the great number of similar requests, she has found it impossible to comply with them, much as she would like to assist all those who appeal to her.

Assuring you of Mrs. Roosevelt's sympathy, I am

Very sincerely yours,
Malvina T. Scheider
Secretary to Mrs. Roosevelt

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Whose in-laws are these?

HINT: The President in question was from Ohio (while there were a lot of Presidents from Ohio, between the century and the state, you are down to a multiple choice question on this one).

As per Michael's suggestion last week - which 19th century President had this couple as his in-laws? Now I have a hint for this that will narrow it done considerably (make it more of a multiple choice question), but we'll start with nothing beyond the century timeframe and see if anyone can get it from there first. I also have a post to go with this picture after we figure out who this couple is.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Poll: If you had to vote for one of these recent third party candidates for President, who would you vote for?

The latest poll has closed. The question was, "If you had to vote for one of these recent third party candidates for President, who would you vote for?" There was a tie for first.

Ron Paul (1988) and John Anderson (1980) each got 33% of the vote. Ralph Nader (2000) came in third with 20%. Ross Perot (1992 and 1996) came in last with 13%. Thanks to all who participated in this unscientific poll.

Friday, October 19, 2007


It's Friday, so I think that means time to do something a little fun. I found a couple of First Ladies quizzes on for us all to enjoy. See how you do (I did rather well, if I do say so myself).

First Lady Quiz 1

First Lady Quiz 2

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Seven Presidents Nobody Remembers

I'm borrowing a post idea from Miland over at the World History Blog about a CNN article on forgotten American Presidents. Christopher Connolly listed Herbert Hoover, Martin Van Buren, Warren Harding, Chester Arthur, Millard Fillmore, Rutherford B. Hayes, and John Tyler as the most forgotten US Presidents. Now Miland at the WHB takes exception to the inclusion of Harding, Arthur, and Tyler over other more forgotten presidents (Miland's suggestions were Pierce, WH Harrison, and Garfield instead).

So what do you think? We've discussed this before in various ways - our first blogger poll was on this very question. You all came up with Fillmore as the most obscure and then Arthur, so I would say that we, as a group, agree with those two choices for this list.

I have to agree that I don't think Hoover should be on this list - Hoover is remembered for not being able to cope with the Depression if nothing else (not a great reason, but still everyone rememebers him - as a note we talked about an article on Hoover and the Depression at an earlier time if you are interested). I have to say that I think Harding is also usually remembered for the scandals of his administration (see our earlier poll on this question) and then his death (if you want to explore this, check out this earlier post).

I think that a president who should be on this list is Benjamin Harrison - he gets lost between the two terms of Grover Cleveland and often forgotten.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Who is represented by this statue?

We haven't played this game in awhile, so here's a picture for you (I actually took the picture over the summer - that's a clue if you can figure out where I took it since I do post on my presidential travels here) to try to figure out. Who is represented in this statue?

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Using a Lottery to Determine the Dates of Presidential Primaries?

I live in Michigan. This is a state that the Democrats will almost certainly have to carry to win the 2008 Presidential Election. You would think that would mean that Democratic candidates for President would be eager to appear before Michigan voters.

Wrong. All of the major candidates except Clinton have withdrawn for the Presidential primary in Michigan. And Hillary, while appearing on the ballot, will not campaign in Michigan. Why? Because the state thinks that Michigan (a key state in the upcoming election) has just as much right to help determine the Democratic nominee as voters in New Hampshire and Iowa. But the candidates refuse to annoy voters in Iowa and New Hampshire who always get to vote first.

Of course, all of the states (except the privileged few that always vote first) feel the same as Michigan. Many states are trying to move their primary elections up so that the desire of their voters is actually noted before the nomination is wrapped up. However, the snub of Michigan seems down right suicidal for the Democratic candidates.

Maybe the National Basketball Association has the answer. Or so says Charles Euchner of the Boston Globe in an article titled Look to the NBA draft to fix the primary mess. He wrote, "Now that the presidential primary system has become undeniably undemocratic, it's time to develop a new process to select candidates for the White House. Both parties should look to the National Basketball Association for inspiration."

He continued, "No state deserves to determine the range of choices for everyone else, year after year. It's not fair that Iowa and New Hampshire always get to eliminate a raft of candidates before bigger and more diverse states have their say. The parties might use a variation of the NBA draft to schedule primaries and caucuses. The NBA randomly selects one of the 14 teams that do not make the playoffs to the first 14 picks. (The number of ping-pong balls in the machine is weighted to account for the teams' records.) The 16 playoff teams then make their draft selections in the reverse order of their records. To make a primary/caucus schedule on the NBA model, the Democrats and GOP should pick a state from the pool of the 17 smallest states to go first. Then, states from the pools of the 17 biggest and the 17 middle states should alternate chances to pick dates. The parties could move through the three-pool rotation until the schedule is complete."

This sounds like a good plan. I even think they should use lottery balls like the NBA does. Let the nation watch in suspense as the rotating pots (small, middle, large) are drawn from to determine voting order. "And the first state to vote in the primaries in 2012 is...Hawaii! The second state will be Utah! And the third will be Michigan. That completes round one. For round two, the first small state will be..."

And to add a wild element, the US territories who also have convention votes should be throw in a separate bonus pot. Each territory could be drawn and have a random number assigned to it from 1 to 17 to determine which round their primary would be held in. I would love to see the Presidential candidates have to fly out to Guam and campaign there early in the process.

Is a NBA styled draft the solution for Presidential primaries? Maybe not but the current system does not work. If you have a better plan, please drop a comment and suggest it.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Poll Question: Which of these living Presidents would you most like to have dinner with?

The poll has closed for the question "Which of these living Presidents would you most like to have dinner with?" The winner was Bill Clinton with 50% of the vote. George W. Bush got second with 24%. Jimmy Carter came in third with 14%. The first President Bush came in last with 10%.

Thanks to all who voted in this unscientific poll. Also, thanks to Jennie for suggesting this question.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Mamie Doud Eisenhower: The General’s First Lady by Marilyn Holt

I just finished the new biography of Mamie Eisenhower by Marilyn Holt and I was very impressed! Mamie Eisenhower often gets written off as just a housewife (most biographies up to this point have not been very useful), but this book really highlights her contributions and her perfect fit for the American people of the 1950s. It also discusses her early life as a military wife and how that prepared her for her role of First Lady.

I especially liked how the author brought out the ways that Mamie is typically stereotyped and then talked about how she cultivated some of that image and what she was really doing in the background. Mamie was a huge influence on Ike, but she was a big believer in stepping back and staying in her own sphere, although she certainly had opinions and could often be very strong-willed! Mamie in the 50s was a huge change for the White House as entertainment had been very subdued under the Roosevelts and the Trumans (and it makes sense for subdued entertainments during depression and war). She went back to a full schedule of entertainment and strove to serve the people – to the extent that she responded to all letters to her personally (at least signing them herself although she wrote or dictated many personally as well).

This book relies on almost all primary sources – the huge amount of letters that Mamie Eisenhower wrote over the years is the mainstay. The letters give this book a really personal feel of Mamie – you can really hear and see her in the pages. You can also really feel the devotion the Eisenhowers felt for each other throughout their marriage. I feel like I got to know Mamie as I read this book.

Now I want to point out some fun excerpts/facts from the book:
  • Mamie loved card games and one of her favorite one was canasta.
  • Mamie hated flying. Ike wrote that "Mamie...never completely convinced herself that an airplane flies." (95)
  • Mamie was devoted to As the World Turns and White House staff, like J.B. West, learned to avoid her room when it was on or they'd be stuck watching it with her. As West said, "You can't just say, 'I'm sorry, I have more important things to do,' to a First Lady - especially Mrs. Eisenhower." (119)
  • Mamie got along really well with Pat Nixon (although there are stories to the contrary), but she wasn't that impressed with Jackie Kennedy's work on the White House. Jackie, of course, did a huge restoration of the White House, and she gilded what was a silver chandelier in the State Dining Room. Whenever Mamie visited the Johnson or Nixon White House, she always asked, "How did you ever let that woman [Mrs. Kennedy] ruin that beautiful chandelier?" (132)

Holt ends with this great quote about Mamie from Marian Christy. I think the quote really sums up Mamie, so I'm including as my end as well:
There are very few originals in the world. And when one leaves it there is a void. Mamie Eisenhower was an original. She had the courage to define herself rather than have outsiders tell her who she was and what she should be...She set an image for the role of the classic wife, the classic mother, the classic non-political President's wife. She had the guts to be her classic self. She was 'Mamie.' (143)

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Grover Cleveland and the Million Dollar Bill has an amusing story about a bogus million dollar bill that Grover Cleveland appears on. The story is John Doe accused of trying to pass $1 million bill at grocer. I wonder if the guy was expecting change?

From the article:

Guess what happened when John Doe tried to pass a million-dollar bill on Saturday at the Giant Eagle in Pittsburgh?

The man, who refused to give his name, freaked out before he was arrested and was taken to the Allegheny County Jail. Police tell the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review they expect to identify the man by his fingerprints.

The bill featured a portrait of Grover Cleveland. It was phony, police said, noting that since 1969 the $100 bill has been the largest one in circulation. They say the bill may have come from a religious group that used the bills to disguise religious tracts. (Here's a story about that group, and it's eventual confrontation with the Secret Service.)

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Whiskey Ring Scandal

I was looking at the results of our last opinion poll and I have to admit I had guessed that Watergate would win. Why? Because it is within living memory (although I must admit not mine - I was born yet...actually my parents weren't even married yet) and so it stands out more clearly. In any case, it definitely was a major scandal and will stay in the history books as it resulted in the only resignation of a US President thus far.

But for today, I decided to highlight the lowest ranked scandal - Grant's Whiskey Ring. The American Presidency has a nice summary of this event:

Whiskey Ring, The, in American history, a national internal revenue scandal, which was exposed in 1875 through the efforts of Secretary of the Treasury Benjamin H. Bristow. Statistics showed that for some years prior to 1875 the United States had, in St. Louis, Mo., alone, lost at least $1,200,000 of tax revenue which it should have received from whiskey, yet special agents of the Treasury set to work from time to time had failed to do more than cause an occasional flurry among the thieves. The Whiskey Ring was organized in St. Louis when the Liberal Republicans there achieved their first success. It occurred to certain politicians to have revenue officers raise a campaign fund among the distillers. This idea the officers modified later, raising money in the same way for themselves, and in return conniving at the grossest thievery. As it became necessary to hide the frauds, newspapers and higher officials were hushed, till the ring assumed national dimensions. Its headquarters were at St. Louis, but it had branches at Milwaukee, Chicago, Peoria, Cincinnati, and New Orleans, and an agent at Washington, D.C. A huge corruption fund was distributed among gagers, storekeepers, collectors, and other officials, according to a fixed schedule of prices. As a result of the investigation by Secretary Bristow arrests were made in nearly every leading city. Indictments were found against 152 liquor men and other private parties, and against 86 government officials, notably the chief clerk in the Treasury Department, and President Ulysses S. Grant's private secretary, Gen. Orville E. Babcock.

The cartoon is by Thomas Nast and is from March of 1876 in Harper's Weekly.

For more information, check out our earlier blog on this topic as well.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Forever Free: Abraham Lincoln's Journey to Emancipation

If you live within driving distance of Lansing, Michigan, you may wish to check out this exhibit at the Cooley law School. It is titled Forever Free: Abraham Lincoln's Journey to Emancipation. Even if you do not visit, you can find a lot of good information online.

A press release notes:

The Hon. Thomas E. Brennan Law Library at The Thomas M. Cooley Law School is pleased to announce an upcoming special event. The library will host an exhibit entitled "Forever Free: Abraham Lincoln's Journey to Emancipation."

You are invited to attend the opening event, Friday, Oct. 19, 2007 from 6-9 p.m. in the Cooley Center lobby, 300 S. Capitol Ave., downtown Lansing. Dr. William Anderson, director of the Michigan Department of History, Arts and Libraries, will speak, and Cooley Professor Kathleen Butler will narrate composer Aaron Copland's musical tribute "A Lincoln Portrait."

The exhibit has been organized by the Huntington Library and the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, in cooperation with the American Library Association. Major grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission made this exhibit possible.

The exhibit will be on display at the Brennan Law Library in the Strosacker Room from Oct. 18 to Nov. 30, 2007. For more information regarding the exhibit, visit, call Tim Innes at (517) 371-5140, ext. 3303, or e-mail

Friday, October 05, 2007

Poll: Which was the worst Presidential scandal?

The poll for the question, "Which was the worst Presidential scandal?" has closed. Not surprisingly, Watergate (Nixon) won easily with 54%. Teapot Dome (Harding) was second with 14%. Monica Lewinsky (Clinton) and Iran-Contra (Reagan) were tied at third with 12%. The Whiskey Ring (Grant) was last with 5%.

Thanks to all who participated in this non-scientific poll.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

A List of Presidential Libraries

I’m very fortunate to have a presidential library close to my home in Atlanta. I guess that’s one of the perks of having a president from your state. My daughter and I visited the Jimmy Carter Library and Museum a few years back when an original copy of the Declaration of Independence owned by Norman Lear was traveling around the United States. President Carter’s library sits on a piece of land that was saved from a highway construction project while Carter was Georgia’s governor.

The libraries are created to perserve and make available the papers, records, and other materials from each president’s administration. The majority of the presidential libraries are maintained by the National Archives, however funding is handled through private, non-federal sources.

Some of the presidential libraries are maintained by a particular state. The state of Illinois maintains the Abraham Lincoln Library and Museum. Other libraries are maintained by private foundations.

Here are seventeen links to presidential libraries around the country and few extra thrown in for good measure:

1. The Stone Library at Adams National Historical Park

2. Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum

3. Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Center

4. The McKinley Museum

5. Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library

6. Calvin Coolidge Presidential Library and Museum

7. Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum

8. Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum

9. Harry S Truman Presidential Museum and Library

10. Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Library

11. John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum

12. Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum

13. Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum

14. Gerald R. Ford Museum; Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library

15. Ronald Reagan Presidential Library

16. George Bush Presidential Library & Museum

17. William J. Clinton Presidential Library and Museum
Cross-posted at History Is Elementary.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

White House Collector

Set Charles Momjian is a major collector of many fascinating objects, including White House china and First Ladies letters, and it is a small part of his huge collection of White House china that is currently on display at the National First Ladies Library.

As such, Mr. Momjian was at the NFLL last week to discuss his collection and I was able to listen to him speak. This is a man who is full of stories about Presidents and First Ladies and is a general delight to listen to. Mr. Momjian is a retired Ford executive and served as a UN respresentative for the Carter administration. He is a regular at White House functions. He says that White House china is so fascinating because: "White House china shows the personal style of each First Lady and they are the only items that remain in the White House to give us a sense of their tastes and the times in which they lived."

Now if you browse the NFLL's site, you will see some of Mr. Momjian's pieces on display. I thought I would also share a few stories that he told us last week.

There is no Kennedy china - JFK was assassinated before china was purchased, although it was discussed. Mr. Momjian discovered a letter by Jacqueline Kennedy to the china company, which discusses what she wanted her china to look like. He then decided to try to have some made up in the pattern she mentioned (she wanted yellow china), but he never could find a design he felt reflected Jackie's taste. Some time later he was out looking for pieces and he found a plate that seemed to embody what Jackie's letter had said and it included the presidential seal. He immediately asked the price and was asked if he'd seen the letter with it. The letter was from a Kennedy White House maid, who stated that this was a sample plate for Kennedy White House china that the Kennedys ate off for a week to see if they liked it. Mr. Momjian purchased both the plate and the letter immediately.

Mr. Momjian often loans his plates out to musuems and functions as well as uses them for his own entertainments. He was once asked to provide plates for a reunion of Presidential children and grandchildren so each person could eat off a plate from their father/grandfather's White House. He did this and Eleanor Seagraves (a granddaughter of FDR) was very moved by this as she had not eaten off Roosevelt china since before her grandfather had died. She told Mr. Momjian that she would send him something special. So what did she send him? When the Roosevelts entertained the king and queen of England at their home, they used their own china. They also had to come up with a larger table, so had used sawhorses and cobbled a table together and then covered it beautifully. Dinner went along smoothly, but at the end, a heavy dish was set on one end and the entire table when flying. All the china was smashed execpt for two pieces that Eleanor Roosevelt managed to save. One was perfect and one was cracked, but Eleanor Seagraves now had both. She sent Mr. Momjian the perfect plate.

Now the last story that Mr. Momjian tells actually made the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on July 1, 1993. You can access the entire story through any number of major databases (I've included parts of the article here as well). Mr. Momjian was in line for a Fourth of July party at the Reagan White House in 1988 when he noticed as an elderly woman, 83-year-old Frances Green, in line in what was obviously her best dress - about 40 years ago:
"This is the happiest day of my life," the 83-year-old woman said. "The president has invited me to the White House." She explained that she took the train from Davis, Calif., and sat up all the way because she couldn't afford a sleeping compartment. As a matter of fact, she wouldn't have any more money until she got home to her next Social Security check, she told him. But none of that mattered because Frances Green was going to have dinner with the president. Momjian was perplexed. He asked to see her invitation. "Did you see the RSVP card?" he asked her. "Yes, but I was taught you write a letter when you receive an invitation, so I wrote to the president and told him I was coming," she told Momjian. "Her manners were correct," Momjian said. "But because she hadn't looked at the RSVP card, she didn't see that it had a little box to check in front of this sentence: 'Yes, I'll be there. Here is my check for $10,000.' "When Mrs. Green got up to the guard's desk, he couldn't find her name on the list," said Momjian, who tried to talk the guard into letting her join the party. But, no, she had not been cleared and she was not allowed in.

A few hours later when Mr. Momjian came back out of the White House, Mrs. Green was still there, looking very forlorn. He offered to bring her back for a special tour of the White House and then preceded to spend the weekend trying to figure out why she had gotten this invitation to a fund-raiser and if there was anything he could do for her. Well, it turns out she was a regular contributor to the Reagan campaigns - she had sent $1 a year for 8 years and the invitations had went out to all regular contributors - no matter the size of the past donations. Mr. Momjian managed to get Mrs. Green a 11 AM meeting with the president after a tour of the White House, but didn't tell her about meeting Reagan as he knew these things didn't always happen. But he told her to wear her white dress again. Now the Tuesday came and Mr. Momjian picked her up for her tour, but was glad he hadn't told her about meeting the President because it seemed that it wouldn't happen. A US Navy cruiser had just shot down an Iranian airliner and the US Attorney General had just resigned. But Mr. Momjian picked up Frances Green and took her on her tour and at the end, he tells us what happened:
"At 10 to 11, I sat her in chair just outside the Oval Office. She didn't know that was the door. I told her just to rest there awhile. "The door opened and the National Security Council walked out. I thought, 'Oh, no.' But this is why Reagan was Reagan," Momjian said. "On his desk was a note telling him all about Frances Green, why she was there and that she sent him a dollar a year." He invited her in. "Mrs. Green," Reagan said. "I'm so sorry about the other day. Those darn computers fouled up again. Of course you had an invitation. They should have called me from the gate." She understood. These things happen. "I knew it, I knew it," Mrs. Green said. And then White House photographer snapped a picture of Reagan, Momjian and Frances Green on the happiest day of her life.

Mr. Momjian even had a copy of that picture to show us last week!

Now I hope you enjoyed these tidbits, but I have to admit, they were better in person!

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Ike v. Jim Thorpe, the Army-Carlisle Game of 1912

In 1912, Dwight Eisenhower was a cadet at West Point and a member of the Army football team. That year, the football team from the Carlisle Indian School came to West Point to play. The team was coached by Pop Warner and featured Jim Thorpe of Olympic fame.

A book by Lars Anderson is dedicated to this game. It is titled Carlisle vs. Army: Jim Thorpe, Dwight Eisenhower, Pop Warner, and the Forgotten Story of Football Greatest Battle. An excerpt from the book can be found here.

The future president is featured prominently. He intended to make his mark by taking Thorpe "out" of the game. The book notes, "For Eisenhower, this was his chance to create his West Point legacy. Football was the single most important thing in Ike's life, and his reputation as a player who was as relentless as the wind had grown each week of the 1912 season. If he could stop Thorpe -- or, better yet, if he could knock Thorpe out of the game with a blockbuster hit -- Ike didn't believe there was any way his team would lose. Ike always loved challenges, and no challenge in his sporting life was greater than taking on an Olympic legend and the other Indians who were as swift as antelopes."

At halftime, Ike proposed a plan to a teammate. Anderson wrote, "To pull this off, Eisenhower proposed to Hobbs that they give 'that Indian' Thorpe the 'one-two' early in the second half. The 'one-two' meant that Eisenhower, with all the ferocity he could stockpile, would smash into Thorpe's chest while Hobbs plowed into Thorpe's legs as hard as he could. They hoped that the shattering blow would send Thorpe to the sideline -- if not the hospital."

Alas for Eisenhower, the plan backfired. Instead, in attempting to tackle Thorpe, he collided with Hobbs and they both had to leave the game! Carlisle won the game 27-6 much to Ike's chagrin.

This looks like a good book both for presidential and American football history. I will be ordering a copy for the library.

Monday, October 01, 2007

History Carnival

The newest history carnival is now up at the Osprey Publishing Blog.

Ike and Sputnik

Yanek Mieczkowski has an article on HNN this week that discusses and praises Dwight Eisenhower's response to the launch of the Russian satettle, Sputnik. Mieczkowski reports that the launch had "both political parties demanded dramatic government action and greater security, while the White House scrambled to provide leadership on an issue that exploded into the public consciousness on that autumn day."

Yet amid this choas, Eisenhower choose a more moderate and long term approach:
Eisenhower began a space program that eventually took the U.S. to heights the Russians have yet to reach. Just as important, his insistence that America stay in the black to prevail in a long struggle showed a wisdom lacking today. While politicians urged boosting America’s international prestige with a no-holds-barred space program, Eisenhower’s formula for earning world respect involved economic health and a sense of balance.

Ike always had long term vision, even here at what was the beginning of the space race and the Cold War:
Eisenhower often mentioned the "long pull." He predicted a half-century-long Cold War that America's economic strength would enable it to win. Husbanding resources and balancing the budget would be crucial because the nation "cannot continue to prove to the world that we cannot and will not pay our debts as we go along…."

He criticized JFK's later goal to put men on the moon within a decade. Eisenhower's vision was more on economics:
There lay Eisenhower’s prescription for the future. The nation’s place in the world—and space—depended on its economy, which needed restraint. Avoid overstepping, he advised Americans, since they could not beat the Soviets in everything. Instead, he recommended selecting areas where they could compete and win. Above all, one competition Eisenhower shunned was war. He called it "the ultimate failure of everything you've tried to do as a country." Intimately familiar with war's extreme cost in lives and resources, he preferred international trade, factories and farms, and grocery stores stocked with food, to military battle.