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.


ashley said...

I totally remember Hoover. How could you forget the man that did nothing for Americans when they slumped into the depression?

Someone I think is missing from the list is Polk. It was only this year in my Poli Sci Presidency class that I realized Polk's high status in examining the Schlesinger Poll on American Presidents. Polk was rated as a "Great" included with Lincoln, Washington, and FDR (and a few more). Now maybe this is just me, the inexperienced history student, but I never really even studied Polk in depth.

Jennie W said...

I'm glad you agree on my Hoover comment - you are right, we always remember those who have problems!

I have to admit I'm a bit of Polk fanatic, but I agree he is often overlooked, yet he really was a great president. He was the only president to fulfill all his campaign promises - that is a pretty big accomplishment in 4 years! If you want to read a good political biography of Polk, I recommend Seigenthaler (I reviewed it here: - it isn't even that long. I do think history teachers should spend more time on him - so many important events happened during his presidency, but his role in them gets forgotten (like settling the Oregon question).

Samuel Stephen Ross said...

One has to remember that the MOST forgettable end up being remembered. I think Millard Fillmore is so often noted for being forgettable, that he has indeed become more familiar to people as a result.

Here's my list of the 7 most forgettable:
Benjamin Harrison
Franklin Pierce
Rutherford B Hayes
John Tyler
Chester Alan Arthur
William Henry Harrison
James Buchanan

The 20th Century Presidents are too fresh in our memories (or at least in our Parents/Grandparents'). But Gerald R Ford will top this list 100 years from now.