Monday, March 31, 2014

Ida's tiara

Ida McKinley's tiara was featured on Pawn Stars.  The McKinley museum is trying to raise the money to bring the tiara back home to Canton:
Wm. McKinley Presidential Library & Museum has started a fund-raising campaign to purchase the diamond-crusted tiara from “Pawn Stars” celebrity Rick Harrison for the amount he purchased it — $43,000 — from a Canton family.


“We knew it existed. We borrowed it twice to display at special events,” said Kimberly Kenney, curator at the McKinley museum. “It came down through Ida’s sister’s family. When we borrowed it, it belonged to a woman who was a great-great-neice of Ida’s. She passed away and it was her family that sold it.”

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Grover Cleveland's Affair

You can check out this article which talks about both sides of the Cleveland affair scandal.  Cleveland's side of the story was one of merely being a helpful friend:
At the time, the campaign provided this rationale: Cleveland was a bachelor, and Halpin had been rather free with her affections, including with some of Cleveland’s friends—prominent Buffalo businessmen all. As the only unmarried man of the bunch, Cleveland, though not certain the child was his, claimed paternity and helped Halpin name the boy and place him with a caring family. Really, he’d been looking out for his friends and for a woman in unfortunate circumstances. The scandal was, of course, unfortunate, but the governor’s involvement was far from nefarious, and certainly shouldn’t preclude him from serving as president (especially not when Blaine had already made it clear he was not a man to be trusted).

Halpin's story was quite different:
In an October 31, 1884, interview with the Chicago Tribune, she proclaimed, “The circumstances under which my ruin was accomplished are too revolting on the part of Grover Cleveland to be made public.”


Halpin was a 38-year-old widow in 1874, according to the Tribune, which also reported:
Halpin said that Cleveland had pursued her relentlessly, and that she finally consented to join him for a meal at the Ocean Dining Hall & Oyster House. After dinner, Cleveland escorted her back to her boarding house. In an 1874 affidavit, Halpin strongly implied that Cleveland’s entry into her room and the incident that transpired there was not consensual—he was forceful and violent, she alleged, and later promised to ruin her if she went to the authorities.


Halpin said she told Cleveland she never wanted to see him again, but “five or six weeks later” was forced to seek him out because she was in the kind of trouble only Cleveland could help her with.
The trouble, of course, was pregnancy.


Nine months later, Halpin’s son was born and promptly removed from her custody. Halpin was admitted under murky circumstances to a local asylum for the insane. Doctors from that institution, when interviewed by the press during the 1884 campaign, corroborated Halpin’s insistence that she was not, in fact, in need of committing.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Nickname or not?

We've all heard Lucy Hayes referred to as "Lemonade Lucy" and here views on alcohol are well known but the actual nickname cannot be dated to her time in the White House:
A teetotaler since her youth, the First Lady strongly her husband’s decision – but she would nevertheless be ridiculed for the policy: caricatured on a wine bottle with a prudish expression, smiling in a water bottle. The nickname "Lemonade Lucy" cannot be specifically dated to the Hayes Administration, although there were anecdotes about her serving lemonade that was reddish in color and which she feared was wine until the President was posed as calming her that it was only a mashed berry in the lemonade. "Water flowed like wine," joked Congressman James Garfield, who was elected the succeeding President." She was nevertheless credited with giving temperance supporters enough courage to now publicly express their views and held up as a moral example for Ohio schoolchildren who read about her in their textbooks.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Primary Sources and Grant

This is a great teaching article on using primary sources and uses the Grant paper as an object lesson. Here is the authors insight on using the papers on the Vicksburg campaign:
It would be impossible to discuss every document which exists in the enormous Grant Collection, but it would be instructive to discuss, as an example, that part of the material which relates to Grant’s famous Civil War Vicksburg campaign of 1863. How might a historian use the Grant Collection to evaluate Grant’s role in this pivotal campaign?

The first place to go is the Mississippi State University Libraries online catalog. Here, materials in the Vicksburg Campaign are listed: Edwin Bearss’ three volume The Campaign for Vicksburg; Terry Winschel’s Triumph and Defeat: The Vicksburg Campaign; Michael B. Ballard’s Vicksburg: The Campaign that Opened the Mississippi and Pemberton: The General Who Lost Vicksburg; and the personal memoirs of Confederate General John C. Pemberton. The Grant Collection contains more than 1,100 titles of American Civil War books and journals that provide researchers a list of secondary sources (that is, published books and articles on various Grant topics).

If one was interested in Grant’s communications with General Pemberton during the siege, for example, the Grant Association’s online edition of The Papers of Ulysses S. Grant provides a wealth of information, specifically in Volume 7 and Volume 8. These two volumes contain numerous accounts of Pemberton’s whereabouts during the Vicksburg campaign, references to his correspondence which the Union Army seized, and his personal correspondence with Grant.
Searching through the Grant Collection website, a researcher will also find subject files devoted to the Vicksburg campaign. These files contain notes on the battle, articles written about the siege, comparisons between Vicksburg and Gettysburg, as well as the research notes of noted historians.
In Series III, Unpublished Files, a historian will find all of the documents in the collection which were not published in The Papers of Ulysses S. Grant. Here are found dispatches, special orders, and pieces of correspondence from the Vicksburg campaign, including incoming and outgoing records from Grant’s headquarters. In addition, there is correspondence between John C. Pemberton and Grant’s headquarters immediately following the surrender of the city.

In Series X, the researcher will find additional information on the Vicksburg campaign in the papers of another participant. Orville Babcock, an engineer, would later become one of Grant’s aides. In the small diary he kept in 1863, Babcock chronicles his days in Ohio and Kentucky in early 1863 before joining the Union attempts to break the stronghold of Vicksburg through the siege, beginning in June of 1863. He describes the work done on fortifications, the skirmishes around the city, and the eventual surrender of the Confederates. He also discusses the burning of the city of Jackson and the conduct of the soldiers as the capital fell. This Union officer, who would go on to become one of President Grant’s most trusted presidential advisors (and greatest liabilities), offers a unique perspective on the American Civil War in Mississippi.

Grant’s The Personal Memoirs were first published in 1885 and have since been republished many times. The Grant Collection contains multiple editions of the Memoirs, including first editions. The collection also contains, on microfilm, copies of Grant’s handwritten drafts of his memoirs. Researchers can thus read the story of the siege of Vicksburg in the general’s own hand.
For the first time in the history of the Grant Collection, it is available for research. Noted historians are using it for future books, and students are writing term papers from it. Thus, the work of historians, professional and neophyte, continues.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Polk's religion and burial

I was reading about Polk's religion today, which interestingly enough was Methodist, despite the fact that his wife was a devoted Presbyterian:
Although Polk was a religious man, his faith seldom equaled the stern beliefs of Sarah's outspoken devotion. Raised a Presbyterian, Polk had never been baptized due to a family argument with the local Presbyterian minister in rural North Carolina. At age thirty-eight, Polk experienced a religious conversion to Methodism at a camp meeting, and thereafter he thought of himself as a Methodist. Out of respect for his mother and wife, however, he continued to attend Presbyterian services even if he was not overly fond of their Calvinist content. But whenever his wife was out of town or too ill to attend church, Polk worshiped at the local Methodist chapel. On his deathbed, he summoned the man who had converted him years before, the Methodist Reverend John B. McFerrin, who at last baptized Polk.

The issue with the ministers over Polk's original baptism was that his father and grandfather were deists:
Polk's father and grandfather were deists, which prevented James from being baptized as a child (the minister refused to baptize James unless his father reaffirmed his faith, which he would not do), and eventually led to the Polk family's move from North Carolina to Tennessee. Polk's mother, on the other hand, was a strong Presbyterian, and her influence seems to have had a more lasting effect on Polk.

Polk was actually buried three times. I found these various stories at the Nashville Cemetery Association that talks about the progression of spots that ended with both Polks being buried on the State Capitol in Nashville (I have actually been to this gravesite). This tells about the final internment:
Yesterday in the bright sunlight of a glorious September day, this community once more did honor to the memory of President James K. Polk and the wife who shared his honorable career. At 5 am the morning the immediate family gathered about the tomb at Polk Place and lovingly transferred the two caskets to the house, a hundred yards distant, and there they were placed in the cedar boxes and sealed. The caskets are of copper and both were in a perfect state of preservation. The ceremonies were set for 11 o’clock. By 10 o’clock the yards from both Park avenue and Vine street contained a large gathering of people of all ages and classes, among them gray-haired men who were present at President Polk’s burial in the old City Cemetery on June 16, 1849, and again at his removal to Polk Place in May of the following year. And there were younger people, who know of President Polk only as a figure of history, whom they have been taught to regard as worthy of their patriotic regard. Inside the mansion, the near friends of the family, the pall-bearers and a few of the prominent older citizens of the city occupied the parlor, drawing rooms and halls. The caskets rested under the mantel-piece in the drawing room and immediately above hung oil portraits of President and Mrs. Polk and President Washington. Flowers were seen here and there about the house, but on top of each of the cedar-boxes was simply a wreath of Mermot roses tied with a satin ribbon, placed there by the grand-niece of Mrs. Polk, Mrs. G.W. Fall, and the latter’s daughter, Mrs. M.M. Gardner. There was one other floral token, it may be added --- a simple bunch of violets, placed by Miss Jane Thomas, 91 years old, a school-mate of Mrs. Polk’s. The boxes bore each the date of death of the two distinguished deceased…
 
Just before the procession moved from Polk Place, the Washington Light Artillery began firing twenty one guns, finishing as the hearse reached the Capitol grounds. A thousand people were awaiting its arrival there. They filled the grounds on the east side of the building, terraces, esplanades, and occupied the east balcony and even the cupola. They were of all classes and both races, and the inevitable crowding was prevented only by a detachment of polite policemen under the command of Sergt. Mitt Marshall from obstructing the passage of the cortege to the elevated spot. Arriving there a passage way just wide enough to permit the pall-bearers and attendants to go through was made from the driveway to the place of entombment. There the principal actors in this historic event gathered around the spot and the caskets were reverently lowered.
 
Dr. S. A. Steel, pastor of McKendree Methodist Church delivered a prayer…
 
A benediction by Dr. McNeilly closed the ceremonies and assemblage dispersed. It was the intention of the family to remain until the grave was filled, but as it was attended with construction of more or less masonry, they retired after the benediction…
 
The final resting place of President James K. Polk and his wife is a gentle well-shaded knoll in the northern section of the grounds surrounding the State Capitol, and about 300 feet from the equestrian statue of President Andrew Jackson. It was selected by the near relatives of Mrs. Polk, in company of Gov. Turney and his official staff last spring, in pursuance of a resolution by the last General Assembly providing a resting place on the Capitol grounds. The expense of the removal, estimated at $1,500, and which included the removal also of the tomb at Polk Place, will be borne by the heirs to President Polk’s estate. The tomb will be taken down and erected on selected within a short time. It is a four-pillared canopied structure and is appropriately inscribed…

Friday, March 14, 2014

The Never Sent Christmas Card

This showcases the 1963 White House Christmas card that was never sent.   The Kennedys had ordered Christmas cards already and even started signing them, but, of course, they would never be sent.  This article also talks about the few Christmas presents that Jackie Kennedy gave that year:
Jackie inscribed it “For Robert McNamara—The President was going to give you this for Christmas—Please accept it now from me—With my devotion always for all you did for Jack. Jackie, December 1963.”

To Dave Powers, part of the “Irish Mafia” and an aide throughout Kennedy’s political life, she inscribed another copy of the same book: “With my devotion always for all you did to give Jack so many happy hours. You and I will miss him most. Jackie.”

She also gave Powers a framed set of three black-and-white images of Powers playing with her son John Jr. She inscribed the mat around the photograph: “For Dave Powers—Who gave the President so many of his happiest hours—and who will now do the same for his son, John Jr. With my devotion always—for your devotion to Jack/Jackie, Christmas, 1963.”

Friday, March 07, 2014

How we know Abraham Lincoln

This article discusses how John Hay and John Nicolay, Lincoln's two private secretaries, helped create the image we have of Abraham Lincoln:
“The boys,” as the president affectionately called them, became Lincoln’s official biographers. Enjoying exclusive access to his papers—which the Lincoln family closed to the public until 1947 (the 21st anniversary of the death of Robert Todd Lincoln)— they undertook a 25-year mission to create a definitive and enduring historical image of their slain leader. The culmination of these efforts—their exhaustive, ten-volume biography, serialized between 1886 and 1890—constituted one of the most successful exercises in revisionism in American history. Writing against the rising currents of Southern apologia, Hay and Nicolay pioneered the “Northern” interpretation of the Civil War—a standard against which every other historian and polemicist had to stake out a position.

Hay and Nicolay helped invent the Lincoln we know today—the sage father figure; the military genius; the greatest American orator; the brilliant political tactician; the master of a fractious cabinet who forged a “team of rivals” out of erstwhile challengers for the throne; the Lincoln Memorial Lincoln.





That Abraham Lincoln was all of these things, in some measure, there can be no doubt. But it is easy to forget how widely underrated Lincoln the president and Lincoln the man were at the time of his death and how successful Hay and Nicolay were in elevating his place in the nation’s collective historical memory.

These two also had some of the best access to Lincoln:
As Abraham Lincoln’s private secretaries, Nicolay and Hay became closer to the president than anyone outside his immediate family. Still in their 20s, they lived and worked on the second floor of the White House, performing the functions of a modern-day chief of staff, press secretary, political director and presidential body man. Above all, they guarded the “last door which opens into the awful presence” of the commander in chief, in the words of Noah Brooks, a journalist and one of many Washington insiders who coveted their jobs, resented their influence and thought them a little too big for their britches (“a fault for which it seems to me either Nature or our tailors are to blame,” Hay once quipped).

...Hay and Nicolay were party to the president’s greatest official acts and most private moments. They were in the room when he signed the Emancipation Proclamation, and by his side at Gettysburg, when he first spoke to the nation of a “new birth of freedom.” When he could not sleep—which, as the war progressed, was often—Lincoln walked down the corridor to their quarters and passed the time reciting Shakespeare or mulling over the day’s political and military developments. When his son Willie died in 1862, the first person to whom Lincoln turned was John Nicolay.
The two felt it was important to share their vision of Lincoln with the American public:
Hay and Nicolay had begun planning a biography of Lincoln as early as midway through their White House tenure. The president’s death upended whatever initial scheme they had in mind. Over the next five years, the secretaries turned their attention to other endeavors. Nicolay took pleasure in travel and family life with his wife and daughter before settling in the nation’s capital, while Hay kept busy as a newspaper editor and poet, for the most part in New York City, and devoted time to his courtship of Clara Stone, a daughter of wealthy Cleveland industrialist Amasa Stone.

By 1872, however, Hay was “convinced that we ought to be at work on our ‘Lincoln.’ I don’t think the time for publication has come, but the time for preparation is slipping away.”

That same year, Charles Francis Adams—a scion of the famous Massachusetts family (and father of Henry Adams) who had served in the Lincoln administration as minister to Great Britain—delivered a memorial address on William Seward that portrayed him as the glue that kept the government together in perilous times. “I must affirm, without hesitation,” he avowed, “that in the history of our government, down to this hour, no experiment so rash has ever been made as that of elevating to the head of affairs a man with so little previous preparation for the task as Mr. Lincoln.” Only by good grace and luck did Lincoln possess the wisdom to appoint as his first minister Seward, the “master mind” of the government and savior of the Union. The speech enraged Lincoln’s stalwart defenders, first among them Gideon Welles, secretary of the Navy in Lincoln’s cabinet, who issued a stinging rebuke.

Then, in his popular account of the war years, The American Conflict, the ever-erratic newspaper editor Horace Greeley portrayed Lincoln as a bungling leader who squandered multiple opportunities to end the war early, either on the battlefield or through negotiation. Lincoln acolytes might have rolled their eyes, but he sold books, so his opinion mattered.

Shortly after Seward’s death, Nicolay wrote once more to Robert, urging him to allow for the “collection and arrangement of the materials which John and I will need in writing the history we propose. We must of necessity begin with your father’s papers.” Robert agreed to grant access in April 1874.

That summer, several dozen boxes made their way from Illinois to Washington, D.C., where Nicolay, who had been appointed marshal to the Supreme Court in 1872, deposited them in his office. There, in the marble confines of the Capitol building, they would be safe from fire, water damage or theft.
Hay and Nicolay were especially troubled by the historical amnesia that was quickly taking hold over the reunited states. In popular literature and journalism, the war was being recast as a brothers’ squabble over abstract political principles like federalism and states’ rights, rather than as a moral struggle between slavery and freedom. Magazines and newspapers commonly took to celebrating the military valor of both Confederate and Union soldiers, as though bravery, rather than morality, were the chief quality to be commemorated.

The authors pointedly emphasized the salient moral and political issues that had divided the nation before, and in many respects after, the war. The conflict had been caused by “an uprising of the national conscience against a secular wrong” that could never be blotted out by the romance of reunion.

By 1875, the secretaries were fully immersed in research and slowly coming to appreciate the mammoth task for which they had volunteered. The biography would consume them for the next 15 years. During that time, both men held other jobs: Nicolay remained at the Supreme Court until 1887, while Hay worked for his father-in-law and served briefly as assistant secretary of state under Republican President Rutherford B. Hayes. Their labors were frequently interrupted by their own illnesses or those of their wives and children. Editors begged them for an advance peek at the work. Publishers courted them. For the time being, they held their suitors at bay. “We [are] in no hurry to make arrangements,” Hay told one hopeful.

The final product was huge:
Reviews of the massive Nicolay-Hay work—in its final form, Abraham Lincoln: A History was ten volumes and 1.2 million words—were mixed. Some reviewers were baffled by its scope. Even a friendly newspaper remarked that “no one will suspect the writers of being lukewarm Republicans.”

William Dean Howells, the dean of American literature who, as a young man, had written Lincoln’s campaign biography in 1860, called it “not only...the most important work yet accomplished in American history” but also “one of the noblest achievements of literary art.” By far, the critic whose opinion held the greatest sway with the authors was Robert Lincoln, and he was “much pleased...with the results of your long work,” he told Hay. “It is what I hoped it would be.” “Many people speak to me & confirm my own opinion of it as a work in every way excellent—not only sustaining but elevating my father’s place in History,” he assured his friend of three decades. “I shall never cease to be glad that the places you & Nicolay held near him & in his confidence were filled by you & not by others.”

Hefty and expensive, Abraham Lincoln: A History sold only 7,000 copies, but for every person who bought the collection, 50 others read extensive excerpts in its serial run. More important than sales was the book’s intellectual reach. For at least half a century, the Nicolay-Hay volumes formed the basis of all major scholarship on Lincoln.

Which US President are you?

I am posting this here mostly because I found this quiz ridiculous.  I was hoping for fun....not really.  I felt their questions were silly (and often easy to figure out who was who) and totally pointless. I got Ronald Reagan, by the way......anyway, I am more posting just to complain in case you haven't figured it out. If you are going to do something like this, let's TRY for something useful and amusing rather than just ridiculous. But I guess that's what I get for clicking "take this quiz...."

Monday, March 03, 2014

Jeopardy Question

My parents just called me....and asked me the question they just saw on final Jeopardy. So (without looking it up!), can you answer it?  I don't know the exact wording (I wasn't watching Jeopardy....my parents are currently stranded somewhere and bored...), but the gist is who was the 19th century president who had the same VP over two terms.