Friday, October 30, 2009

Buchanan's Wheatland

I've actually been on the road, hence the lack of posting. Last weekend, we were in Pennsylvania and we toured James Buchanan's Wheatland in Lancaster County (this is part of the Lancaster County Historical Society). This is really a very interesting tour. I have always had a fairly negative view of Buchanan (hey, I'll admit it), but this really is a very positive one (go figure right?), but helps to balance out what we know about his presidency. They talk a fair bit about his decision to defend the Union posts in the South - like Ft. Sumter.

Buchanan, although a bachelor, had a large extended family who he was always willing to take in, like his niece, Harriet Lane. The house is nicely kept up and shows really well. They have a fair selection of both Buchanan's and Harriet's personal belongings and dishes (including china used in the White House).

The ground are also lovely, although, it was pouring while we were there, so we didn't get to explore much. The most interesting part outside that I saw was the outhouse - seriously! The original owner (who Buchanan bought it from) had a lot of kids and so created a children's and adult's portion and the children's portion has a variety of seat levels for smaller and larger kids! Quite fun!

Things to remember if taking a tour:
  • They are all guided tours and start on the hour, so make sure to pay attention to time.
  • They do have seasonal hours, so make sure to check that as well.
  • This is pretty easy to find once you get to Lancaster, but you can call for directions if unsure.
  • The house is on the same grounds with the historical society, so you'll have to pay attention to see where to start (you start in the gift store where you watch a video).

If you are in Pennsylvania, this is worth the time to tour.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

TR's Glass

I was doing some research on the web for information on the assassination attempt on TR for a discussion my US history class was having and I found this piece. The Wisconsin Historical Society has the glass TR used after that attempt and have an online exhibit on it:
On the night of October 14, 1912, Theodore Roosevelt was addressing 9,000-12,000 people in Milwaukee Auditorium when he stopped to take a drink of water from this glass. Nearby doctors took this opportunity to advise the former president to stop talking. Roosevelt was pushing himself with no heed to the fact that lodged in his chest was a bullet that had been fired by a would-be assassin earlier that evening.

The site also posts the story of the attempt and TR's refusal to stop his speech:
Roosevelt was in Milwaukee on the presidential campaign trail, stumping as the candidate of the new, independent Progressive Party, which had split from the Republican Party earlier that year. Roosevelt already had served two terms as chief executive (1901-1909), but his dissatisfaction with his chosen successor William Taft had led him to seek the office again as the champion of progressive reform, much to the dismay of his progressive rival, Wisconsin's own Senator Robert M. La Follette, Sr. Roosevelt's Progressive Party had been dubbed the "Bull Moose Party" after the candidate's proclaimed vigor and strength.

Unbeknownst to Roosevelt, a New York bartender had been stalking him for three weeks through eight states by the time he arrived in Milwaukee. Intent on killing the candidate and having missed several opportunities to do so, John Schrank saw his chance when Roosevelt left Milwaukee's Hotel Gilpatrick for his speaking engagement at the auditorium. As his touring car prepared to depart, the ex-president stood to wave to the gathered crowd and Schrank fired the .38-caliber revolver he had hidden in his coat. The crowd pounced on Schrank and as policemen apprehended him, Roosevelt tried to calm the throng.

On the way to the auditorium, Roosevelt's aides realized that he had been hit in the right side of the chest. Seeing the blood on his shirt, vest, and coat, they pleaded with him to seek medical help, but Roosevelt trivialized the wound and insisted on keeping his engagement. Fortunately, Roosevelt's life was spared by the contents of his breast pocket -- his metal spectacle case and the thick, folded manuscript of his speech -- which absorbed much of the force of the bullet.
When Roosevelt appeared before the crowd at Milwaukee Auditorium, the chairman of the Progressive Party speakers' bureau, Henry Cochems, announced that the candidate had been shot. Roosevelt confirmed the news by opening his vest and the assemblage was stunned. He made light of the wound throughout his eighty-minute speech, declaring at one point, "It takes more than one bullet to kill a Bull Moose."

Following the engagement, Roosevelt was rushed to Milwaukee's Johnston Emergency Hospital, where an X-ray confirmed that the bullet had lodged in his chest wall. At 12:30 the next morning, Roosevelt boarded a train for Chicago's Mercy Hospital, where doctors conducted further tests. Seeing that the bullet posed no threat to internal organs, they decided to leave the bullet where it was; Roosevelt carried the bullet inside him the rest of his life.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

George Eliot's Poetry by Rose Elizabeth Cleveland

Grover Cleveland's first hostess was his sister, Rose Elizabeth, who I wrote on earlier. Rose Elizabeth was a scholarly woman and wrote several books. This book, George Eliot's Poetry, earned her a considerable sum and definitely showed that she was willing to really critique the works she wrote on! Rose, as you'll see, was not impressed by George Eliot's poetry! I found the entire book on Google Books for you, but am just posting an excerpt here for you. You can read the entire thing online if you are interested.
I come at once to the consideration of George Eliot’s verse in the mention of two qualities which it seems to me to lack, and which I hold to be essentials of poetry.

The first of the two qualities has to do with form, and is a property, if not the whole, of the outside, that which affects and (if anything could do this) stops with the senses. Yet here, as elsewhere in this department of criticism, it is difficult to be exact. I ask myself, is it her prosidy? And am I obliged to find it faultless as Pope’s. There is never in her metres a syllable too much or too little. Mrs. Browning’s metre is often slovenly, her rhymes are often false. Yet, explain it who will, Elizabeth Browning’s verse has always poetry and music, which George Eliot’s lacks.

What was work to write is work to read. Ruskin’s dictum- “No great intellectual thing was ever done by great effort” – I suspect to be wholly true, and that is pre-eminently true in the production of poetry. Poetry must be the natural manner of the poet, and can never be assumed. I do not mean by this to ignore the aids which study gives genius; I only mean to say that no mere labor and culture can simulate poetic fire, or atone for its absence. George Eliot puts her wealth of message into the mould of poetic form by continuous effort…

George Eliot has been said to possess Shakespearean qualities. Perhaps just here, in the relation of manner to matter, is seen her greatest differences. No writer, all concede, ever carried and delivered so much as Shakespere, Never was human utterance so packed with wealthy meaning, so loaded with all things that can be thought or felt, inferred or dreamed, as his. And it all comes with gush and rush, or with gentle, murmuring flow, just as it can come, just as it must come. He takes no trouble, and he gives none. From his plays, replete with his incomparable wit, wisdom, and conceit, you emerge as from an ocean bath, exhilarated by the tossing of billows whose rough embrace dissolves to tenderest caress, yet carries in itself hints of central fire, of utmost horizon, of contact with things in heaven and earth undreamt of our philosophy. You come from one of George Eliot’s poems as from a Turkish bath of latest science and refinement,- appreciative of benefit, but so battered, beaten, and disjointed as to need repose before you can be conscious of refreshment.

The irony of fate spares not one shining mark. George Eliot cared most to have the name poet. But her gait betrays her in the borrowed robe.

A second quality which George Eliot’s poetry lacks is internal and intrinsic, pertaining to matter rather than manner, though, as will be suggested later on, standing, perhaps, in relation to manner of cause and effect. It is that, indeed, which all her works lack, but which prose, as prose, can get along without it; call it what you will, faith or transcendentalism; I prefer to define it negatively as antipode of agnosticism.

To epitomize, then. George Eliot’s pages are a labyrinth of wonder and beauty; crowded with ethics lofty and pure as Plato’s; with human natures fine and fresh as Shakespeare’s but a labyrinth in which you lose the guiding cord! With the attitude and utterance of her spirit confronting me, I cannot allow her verse to be poetry. She is the raconteur, not the vates, the scientist, not the seer.

Rose Cleveland devoted much of her life to literature and teaching. She even helped to publish a literary magazine, Literary Life, for awhile. She actually died in Italy, a victim of the 1918 flu epidemic, in her 70s and is buried here.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Thoughts by Jackie Kennedy

The National First Ladies Library has been doing a tribute program to the writes among our First Ladies (specifically Louisa Adams, Rose Cleveland and Jackie Kennedy) and while we are offering mostly pieces that aren't widely available, I was able to find one of Jackie's poems online to share with you:
I love the Autumn,
And yet I cannot say
All the thoughts and things
That make me feel this way.
I love walking on the angry shore,
To watch the angry sea;
Where summer people were before,
But now there's only me.
I love wood fires at night
That have a ruddy glow.
I stare at the flames
And think of long ago.
Nostalgia - that's the Autumn,
Dreaming through September
Just a million lovely things
I always will remember.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Lincoln and New York

The New York Historical Society is hosting an exhibit titled Lincoln and New York. Information can be found at The exhibit runs until March 25th, 2010. I hope the keep this website up after it closes.

From the site:

Abraham Lincoln was a Westerner who kick-started his presidential run in New York. This Lincoln Bicentennial exhibition of original artifacts, iconic images, and documents, many in Lincoln’s hand, fully traces for the first time the evolution of Lincoln’s relationship to New York: from his 1860 Cooper Union address, to his efforts to preserve the Union, and to the wartime threat to civil liberties. Lincoln’s evolving stance on slavery alternately infuriated and pleased African-American New Yorkers, many of them veterans of the anti-slavery movement and Underground Railroad activism. In a period in which New York supplied the Union with manpower, funding, image-making, and protests, Lincoln grew as a leader, writer, symbol of Union and freedom, and, ultimately, as national martyr.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

The Legacy of Abraham Lincoln

If you live in Michigan, please join us at Central Michigan University on October 28th at 7:00 p.m. in the Park Library auditorium. The Clarke Library presents Dr. William Anderson, who will speak on the legacy of Abraham Lincoln. Dr. Anderson is chairman of the Michigan Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Committee and has long been interested in Lincoln. This event is free and open to the public. A reception will follow in the Clarke Historical Library.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Eleanor at 125

This week (October 11th) is Eleanor Roosevelt's 125th birthday. There is a nice article at HNN on her this week. You can also find information at Val-Kill, which is the NPS site of Eleanor Roosevelt. Time has a really nice photo essay on her younger days - some really beautiful photographs.

Eleanor Roosevelt was a tireless worker for equal rights for everyone and is best known for these efforts. I thought I'd pull some information on this out from the HNN article for you:
In the deep South, she took an ice cream cone from a black man's hand and ate from it – an act of integration rarely seen in those days, particularly involving so distinguished a woman. She sat in the middle of the aisle between blacks and whites at a segregated meeting, answering a question about the purpose of her presence by saying that she was “bearing witness.” Refusing the protection of the Secret Service, she drove through the back roads of the South, while she was on the Ku Klux Klan's most wanted list, to advise a group of black people about fighting for their freedom (which had to have involved elements of civil disobedience). In the early 1930s, she brought leaders of the NAACP and African American universities together at the White House to communicate.

She continued her work after her husband's death:
The “moral conscience of the New Deal,” as she was called, did not limit her activism to her husband's administration. She prodded John F. Kennedy to act more decisively on civil rights, and served as intermediary between Martin Luther King, Jr., and JFK, who was fearful of losing support within his own party by being too close to a black activist. As a delegate to the United Nations (its first woman delegate) during the Truman administration, following the horrors of World War II and the Holocaust, she developed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, defining and outlining the rights of all human beings, in language that many countries and cultures were able to relate to and accept. Her efforts on behalf of civil rights and other causes often resulted in accusations of Communist sympathies. She bore it all with the quiet dignity that she wished for all human beings.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Nobel Peace Prize or Bo's Birthday?

For the Obama daughters, Bo's birthday was just as exciting (if not more) than their father's peace prize. I thought the lead-in from Obama's Rose Garden speech on the Nobel Peace Prize really cute (and very much like all children):
Well, this is not how I expected to wake up this morning. After I received the news, Malia walked in and said, "Daddy, you won the Nobel Peace Prize, and it is Bo's birthday!" And then Sasha added, "Plus, we have a three-day weekend coming up." So it's good to have kids to keep things in perspective.

You can read the rest at the White House's website, but I thought that was cute enough to share.

When Nobel Prize rewarded failure

Julian E. Zelizer has an interesting article at CNN called When Nobel Prize rewarded failure. It contrasts President Obama with President Wilson and the cirumstances in how each was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

From the article:

On December 10, 1920, Albert Schmedeman, the American Minister to Norway, accepted the Nobel Prize on behalf of President Wilson, who was being honored for his work in creating the League of Nations. The president had first been nominated in 1918, but strong internal disagreement within the committee delayed his receiving the prize. It was his actual campaign to gain ratification for the League of Nations agreement in 1919 that persuaded the committee he had earned the recognition.

Schmedeman read a statement from Wilson, who was in poor health after suffering a stroke, that said: "In accepting the honor of your award, I am moved by the recognition of my sincere and earnest efforts in the cause of peace, but also by the very poignant humility before the vastness of the work still called for by this cause."

Wilson realized that the award came toward the end of a presidency where he had failed to achieve many of his goals. There was a certain irony that the prize was awarded right at the time that President Wilson had failed to persuade the U.S. Senate to ratify the Treaty of Versailles, the agreement signed at the end of World War I.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Martha and George's Letters

Martha Washington destroyed all her correspondence with George before her death. Only a few letters have ever surfaced because of this. As I was cruising around Mt. Vernon's website earlier, looking for information my smallpox post, I happened to notice this one, that was found and purchased in 2003:
My Dearest
[Mount Vernon, 30 March 1767]

It was with very great pleasure I see in your letter that you got safely down [to Williamsburg.] we are all very well at this time but it still is rainney and wett I am sorry you will not be at home soon as I expected you I had reather my sister woud not come up so soon, as May woud be much plasenter time than april we wrote to you last post as I have nothing new to tell you I must conclude my self
your most Affectionate
Martha Washington

You can find find two others through the Papers of George Washington at the University of Virginia. I thought I'd post one from George to Martha for you from this site:
Phila. June 23d 1775.
My dearest,
As I am within a few Minutes of leaving this City, I could not think of departing from it without dropping you a line; especially as I do not know whether it may be in my power to write again till I get to the Camp at Boston—I go fully trusting in that Providence, which has been more bountiful to me than I deserve, & in full confidence of a happy meeting with you sometime in the Fall—I have not time to add more, as I am surrounded with Company to take leave of me—I retain an unalterable affection for you, which neither time or distance can change, my best love to Jack & Nelly, & regard for the rest of the Family concludes me with the utmost truth & sincerety Yr entire
Go: Washington

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Kennedy on Civil Defense

My US history class is deep into the Cuban Missile Crisis right now and I happened to notice on the “This Day in History” widget I have in our class that October 6, 1961 Kennedy discussed civil defense, encouraging Americans to build bomb shelters, so, of course, I had to point it out to them. I thought I’d post the letter here as well, which was to the members of Congress and read by Stewart Pittman: Gentlemen:

I was gratified to learn of the productive meeting of the Committee on Civil Defense of the Governors' Conference on September 17 in the Pentagon. The basis was well laid for continuing and close cooperation between your committee and all of us concerned with the federal civil defense program.

There is need for a nationwide understanding of what each level of government, each private organization and each citizen can do to bring about and maintain the best attainable protection for the civilian population against the major effects of a thermonuclear attack. Information is in preparation which I will use to inform the American people on what individuals should know and can do for their own protection. In the meantime, your committee may wish to inform the Governors of the goal towards which the Federal Government, the state governments, industry and other institutions in the United States should work.

In simple terms, this goal is to reach for fallout protection for every American as rapidly as possible. Radioactive fallout, extending down-wind for as much as several hundred miles, could account for the major part of the casualties which might result from a thermonuclear attack on an unprotected population. Protection against this threat is within reach of an informed . America willing to face the facts and act.

The Federal Government is moving forward to bring into operation fallout shelter space for large groups of people under very austere conditions. Many homeowners, communities and business firms can and will provide more adequate and better located shelter space for their own needs. The Federal Government is backing this effort with a massive dissemination of technical information. In addition, we will inform those who cannot afford costly structures on low-cost methods of improvising shielding against fallout radiation. The people of this country will be urged, by me, by the Governors and by other leaders to do what is within their means.

The state governments have a vital role to play in accelerating attainment of the goal of full fallout protection. Shelter can be provided in new construction of state and local public buildings. State and municipal laws and ordinances can be adapted to encourage private initiative in this effort. State and local leadership in organizing people to prepare, and communities to operate, during and immediately after an attack is a cornerstone of any successful civil defense effort.

I look forward to the closest cooperation between all levels of government in the United States to move rapidly towards this goal. Your committee is making a major contribution in stimulating participation by the state governments in the nationwide civil defense effort.



Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Franklin Roosevelt: Presidential Stamp Collector

Franklin Roosevelt was an avid stamp collector. You can find this fun online exhibit on his stamp collecting as well as the stamps he helped design as president from the Smithsonian's National Postal Museum. FDR's first stamp design was to help promote Admiral Byrd's second Antarctic expedition:
The President's sketch, calling for a commemorative-size stamp arranged vertically, shows the eastern coast of the United States and South America, the western areas of Europe and Africa, and the routes of Byrd's trans-Atlantic, North Pole and South Pole flights.

In preparing the model for this stamp, the artists at the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, where the stamp was produced, took certain liberties with the "chief’s" suggestions, but obviously retained FDR’s major concept. Instead of showing only certain coastal areas, a globe was implemented, to show the routes of Byrd's journeys more clearly. Later, when this original sketch was reclaimed from the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, the President autographed it "Franklin D. Roosevelt" in pencil and dated it. The Polar Stamp was issued on October 9, 1933.

President Roosevelt insisted that the Post Office Department carry mail bearing this stamp to the expedition base in "Little America" for canceling and return. The President understood that collectors would pay dearly for the special cancellation. Each collector paid 53 cents per cover to get the "Little America" postmark - 3 cents for the stamp, and 50-cents to finance Byrd's expedition. Admiral Byrd was, of course, deeply appreciative, and wrote the President: "Dear Franklin: I am greatly moved by the wonderful way in which you have helped me at this time of great crisis in my life. My expedition has been so costly that I have been threatened with bankruptcy. ... It is rather beautiful, Franklin, the way you have come to the rescue of your old friend." Roosevelt's sole request of Byrd was "a letter for my stamp collections." Naturally, FDR received quite a few.

FDR once sent a present of some stamps and an album to the son of an important Massachusetts family, who then wrote him back thanking him for the stamps. That boy just happened to be Bobby Kennedy. You can read FDR's birthday note to Bobby as well as Bobby's response from the FDR library (they are buried in this file...not sure why these are all mashed together like this, but oh well, still fun to see).

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Do accept postage due mail?

Well, Zachary Taylor didn't and so he never recieved the notification that he was nominated for President as he refused to pay the postage! Someone finally arrived in person to tell him the news!

At this time, postage stamps were not mandatory in the US and Taylor had been receiving so mail from admirers (remember he was a famous general) that he couldn't afford the postage and so instructed his postmaster to refuse all postage due mail.