Tuesday, October 26, 2010
--Known as "Old Rough and Ready," Taylor had a forty-year military career in the United States Army, serving in the War of 1812, the Black Hawk War, and the Second Seminole War. He achieved fame leading American troops to victory in the Battle of Palo Alto and the Battle of Monterrey during the Mexican–American War.
--Initially uninterested in politics, Taylor nonetheless ran as a Whig in the 1848 presidential election, defeating Lewis Cass and becoming the first President never to have held any previous elected office. Taylor was the last President to hold slaves while in office, and the last Whig to win a presidential election.
--The true cause of Zachary Taylor's premature death is not fully established. On July 4, 1850, after watching a groundbreaking ceremony for the Washington Monument during the Independence Day celebration, Taylor sought refuge from the oppressive heat by consuming a pitcher of milk and a bowl of cherries. On this day, he also sampled several dishes presented to him by well-wishing citizens. At about 10:00 in the morning on July 9, 1850, very ill, Taylor called his wife to him and asked her not to weep, saying: "I have always done my duty, I am ready to die. My only regret is for the friends I leave behind me." Upon his sudden death on July 9, the cause was listed as gastroenteritis.
After questions raised about the possibility that Taylor had been poisoned, his body was exhumed in 1991 and tissue samples taken. It was concluded that Taylor had indeed attempted to cool himself with large amounts of cherries and iced milk. “In the unhealthy climate of Washington, with its open sewers and flies, Taylor came down with cholera morbus, or acute gastroenteritis as it is now called.” He might have recovered, but his doctors “drugged him with ipecac, calomel, opium and quinine (at 40 grains a whack), and bled and blistered him too."
Taylor died just 16 months into his term, the third shortest tenure of any President. Only Presidents William Henry Harrison and James Garfield served less time.
--While modern scientists believe that Taylor died of acute gastroenteritis, few have guessed at the true culprit--a death curse handed down by the angry shade of George Washington, who preferred a monument in the shape of a pyramid, not an obelisk.
Thursday, October 21, 2010
--In the presidential election of 1928, Hoover easily won the Republican nomination, despite having no previous elected office experience (Hoover was the Secretary of Commerce under Presidents Warren G. Harding and Calvin Coolidge). To date, Hoover is the last cabinet secretary to be directly elected President of the United States, as well as one of only two Presidents (along with William Howard Taft) to have been elected President without electoral experience or high military rank.
--When the Wall Street Crash of 1929 struck less than eight months after he took office, Hoover tried to combat the ensuing Great Depression with volunteer efforts, none of which produced economic recovery during his term. The consensus among historians is that Hoover's defeat in the 1932 election was caused primarily by failure to end the downward economic spiral.
In his campaigns around the country during the run-up to the Presidential election of 1932, Hoover encountered perhaps the most hostile crowds any sitting president had ever faced. Besides having his train and motorcades pelted with eggs and rotten fruit, he was often heckled while speaking, and on several occasions the Secret Service halted attempts to kill Hoover by disgruntled citizens, including capturing one man nearing Hoover carrying sticks of dynamite, and another already having removed several spikes from the rails in front of the President's train. He lost the election by a huge margin to Franklin Roosevelt, winning only six out of 48 states.
--Hoover invented his own sport (called 'Hooverball', naturally) to keep fit while in the White House. The game was a combination of volleyball and tennis, and he played it every morning. The Hoover Presidential Library Association and the city of West Branch, Iowa, co-host a national championship each year.
--The character played by James Cagney in the 1949 film "White Heat" was unofficially inspired by Hoover, who suffered from severe headaches and often pretended to be a gangster. He daydreamed about committing daring robberies, and enjoyed indiscriminately spraying machine gun fire while wandering the White House grounds. In fact, the movie made use of Hoover's famous catch-phrase, "Top of the world, Ma!", which he would shout into his wife's face every night before going to bed.
Sunday, October 17, 2010
--George W. Bush is the eldest son of President George H.W. Bush, who served as the 41st President, making him one of two American Presidents to be the son of a preceding President (6th President John Quincy Adams, son of 2nd President John Adams).
--Bush is the only President to have earned an MBA (Master of Business Administration).
--Bush was widely known for giving nicknames to various people (Dick Cheney ="Big Time"/"Vice"; Vladimir Putin ="Pootie-Poot"; Karl Rove ="Turd Blossom"), but as the years went by Bush's nicknames grew increasingly lengthy and complicated. British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, for example, became "Englebert Sandwiches O'Hilloughsby Oaxaca Rose-Newton", and his nickname for wife Laura, previously "Bushie", expanded into a bizarre 240 character designation that also incorporated an impression of a barking sea otter.
Wednesday, October 13, 2010
--Chester Alan Arthur was the fourth U.S. President who entered the White House as a widower, following Jefferson, Jackson and Van Buren. His wife, Ellen, died of pneumonia twenty months before Arthur took office.
--James Garfield won the election on November 2nd 1880, and assumed office on March 4 1881. Six months later, following the death by assassination of President Garfield, Vice President Arthur assumed the presidency, sworn in at his Lexington Avenue home.
--The Arthur Administration enacted the first general Federal immigration law--Arthur approved a measure in 1882 excluding paupers, criminals, and the mentally ill. Following, in response to anti-Chinese sentiment in the West, Congress passed a Chinese Exclusion Act. The act would have made illegal the immigration of Chinese laborers for twenty years and denied American citizenship to Chinese Americans currently residing in the United States who were not already citizens and who were not born in the United States. Arthur vetoed this, but signed a revised bill making Chinese immigration illegal for ten years instead of twenty. The bill was renewed every ten years until 1924.
--Arthur was the last incumbent President to submit his name for renomination and fail to obtain it. He sought the nomination halfheartedly, as Arthur had known since a year after he succeeded to the Presidency that he was suffering from Bright's disease, a fatal kidney disease. He died two years after he left office. His post-Presidency was the second shortest, longer only than that of James Polk who died 103 days after leaving office.
--He reportedly kept 80 pairs of pants in his wardrobe and changed pants several times a day.
--Chester A. Arthur wrote the lyrics to the song "Cowgirl in the Sand", later performed by Neil Young and Crazy Horse.
Saturday, October 9, 2010
--Enormously popular in the North after the Union's victory, Grant was elected to the presidency in 1868. Reelected in 1872, he became the first president to serve two full terms since Andrew Jackson. As President, he led Reconstruction by signing and enforcing civil rights laws and fighting Ku Klux Klan violence. He helped rebuild the Republican Party in the South, an effort that resulted in the election of African Americans to Congress and state governments for the first time.
--However, his administration was probably the most corrupt in U.S. history, and his image was tarnished by corruption scandals. By most accounts Grant himself was innocent of such things, but he chose very poorly in picking his Cabinet and federal appointments, and fostered a climate of unaccountability.
--Grant and his wife, Julia, were supposed to attend Ford theater with Lincoln on the night of his assassination, but declined since there had been a previous quarrel between Grant's wife and
There is evidence to suggest that Grant, himself, was a target in the Lincoln assassination plot by Booth. Before Lincoln was mortally wounded that night, Grant and his wife, while riding in a carriage late in the afternoon to the Union Station, were chased and stared down by a fierce looking man riding a horse, possibly Booth conspirator Michael O'Laughlen. That evening there was an alleged attempt to kill Grant by an unknown assailant, again possibly O'Laughlen, while on a train bound for Philadelphia. However, the railroad car that the Grants were in was locked and kept the intruder out.
--Ulysses Grant was the first president to have both his parents still living as he entered office.
--Grant's tomb is the largest mausoleum in North America. However, Grant is not buried there--instead, the contents of Grant's tomb are: an ancient clockwork device of unknown origin, the mummified remains of Sahure, the 2nd king of Egypt's 5th Dynasty, and a copy of Time magazine dated June 2003. How these items came to be interred within, and the whereabouts of Grant's remains, is an adventurous tale for another time...
Thursday, October 7, 2010
Tuesday, October 5, 2010
--The first of the post-WWII 'baby boom' generation to become President, Clinton was also the first member of the Democratic Party since Franklin D. Roosevelt to win a second full term as President.
--His impeachment by the House of Representatives in 1998 was only the second impeachment of a President in American history, following the impeachment of Andrew Johnson in 1868, and was the first impeachment of an elected President. He was acquitted by the Senate after a highly partisan trial and vote.
--To date, Clinton is the most widely-traveled President in U.S. history.
--Bill Clinton can perfectly mimic whalesong.
Friday, October 1, 2010
--Eisenhower was the last President to be born in the 19th century. He was also the first President to appear on color television.
--His grandson, Dwight David Eisenhower II, married Richard Nixon's daughter Julie in 1968. The best man was Gopher from the Love Boat. No foolin'!
--Eisenhower was the first outgoing President to come under the protection of the Former Presidents Act. Under the act, Eisenhower was entitled to receive a lifetime pension, state-provided staff and a Secret Service detail.
--In 1961 Eisenhower, who was the oldest elected president (and the oldest president) in history at that time, handed power over to John Kennedy, who was the youngest elected president.
--Eisenhower was the first President to hire a White House Chief of Staff, an idea that he borrowed from the United States Army, and that has been copied by every president after Lyndon Johnson (Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter initially tried to operate without a Chief of Staff but both eventually gave up the effort and hired one.)
--In 2006 historians voted Eisenhower "U.S. President Who Most Resembles Gollum" (John Quincy Adams came in 2nd).