Tag Archives: Presidents

Happy Birthday, Thomas Jefferson

   

Thomas Jefferson Postcard postcard  

“We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”  ~ Thomas Jefferson, author of the Declaration of Independence.  

I’m sure I’ve been smitten with Thomas Jefferson ever since my parents first took me as an infant to the Jefferson Memorial, where the great man’s statue towered over me the way he does over United States history.   We also visited Mount Rushmore many times in the Black Hills, where my father’s family lived, and Jefferson’s sculpture there loomed even larger.  

After an introduction by my parents, Tom and I meet! It would have been love at first sight if I could have kept my eyes open.

Jefferson’s birthday on April 13th is a holiday for me.  Happy Birthday, Tom!  Thomas Jefferson wouldn’t have welcomed any attention to his birthday, however.  

“In 1803, citizens of Boston wrote a letter to President Thomas Jefferson asking to make April 13, his birthday, a holiday.  Jefferson courteously turned them down, saying he disapproved of ‘transferring the honors and veneration for the great birthday or our Republic to any individual.’  For the rest of his life, he refused to reveal to the public the day he was born,” wrote Peter Gibbon in an article published in the Philadelphia Inquirer in 2007.   

Among his many political offices, Jefferson was the third U.S. President, second vice president, first Secretary of State, Ambassador to France and Virginia’s second governor. Jefferson was cofounder and leader of the Democratic-Republican party, which favored states’ rights, while the Federalists  favored a strong national government. These differences continue in some form in the U.S. political parties today.  

Years after our first meeting, here are Tom and I on another date. I should have worn heels. My friend Anita captured this moment.

Accomplished in many fields, Jefferson was a horticulturist, political leader, diplomat, attorney, architect, archaeologist, paleontologist, inventor, and founder of the University of Virginia.  He played the violin and was a dedicated diarist of his daily life.  He was a brilliant writer.  He invented many conveniences and devices, such as the swivel chair. The entry hall of Monticello contained a natural history display of items collected by Lewis and Clark on their expedition, and which are now re-created in a display for visitors to see.   

In 1962, when President John F. Kennedy welcomed 49 Nobel Prize winners to the White House, Kennedy said, “I think this is the most extraordinary collection of talent and of human knowledge that has ever been gathered together at the White House — with the possible exception of when Thomas Jefferson dined alone.”  

Thomas Jefferson by Charles Willson Peale, 1791.

Scholars rank Jefferson as one of the greatest of U.S. presidents.  

How did Jefferson view his own accomplishments? It was Jefferson’s wish that his tomb stone reflect the things that he had given the people, not the things that the people had given to him, so his epitaph at his burial place at Monticello reads: HERE WAS BURIED THOMAS JEFFERSON, AUTHOR OF THE DECLARATION OF AMERICAN INDEPENDENCE, OF THE STATUTE OF VIRGINIA FOR RELIGIOUS FREEDOM AND FATHER OF THE UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINA.  

However, not everyone appreciated Jefferson’s many gifts, talents and contributions.  In his own time, members of the rival Federalist Party called Jefferson the Antichrist.  Though he was a brilliant writer, he was a poor public speaker and had a lisp.   His estate at Monticello never earned enough to pay his expenses, and he was forced to pay the debts of others, as well.  At his death, his estate and its belongings were sold.  Jefferson liked to live well, introducing exotic foods such as olives and capers and serving French wine nearly every night.   He introduced many new crops and tried to grow grapes for wine, but they didn’t prosper.  There were plenty of political guests to be entertained, which caused him to go deeper and deeper into debt each year because his salary didn’t cover the bills. He agonized over both personal and public debt.  These days, our top leaders jet around and entertain at public expense.  

My husband surprised me with a trip to Monticello for the 250th anniversary celebration of Thomas Jefferson's birthday in 1993. (The trip just happened to coincide with a Grateful Dead concert in Washington , D.C., that we also went to.) Years earlier, we'd driven to Monticello as part of our honeymoon, made it to the parking lot, but both were so stricken with colds that we lacked the strength to even go inside. He knew I'd always wanted to go back.

His beloved home Monticello was designed on neoclassical principles.  Jefferson constantly worked to improve it over the more than forty years he lived there.  After his return from France, he added the dome. It looks much larger than it actually is, perhaps because of its stately lines.  A private non-profit organization, the Thomas Jefferson Foundation, operates the houses as a museum.  Monticello is the only private home in the United States that is designated as World Heritage Site.  

Even today, Jefferson catches flak even from people who might otherwise admire his devotion to the Constitution.  According to the New York Times,  in a recent fight over what would be included in Texas textbooks, “Cynthia Dunbar, a lawyer from Richmond (Texas) who is a strict constitutionalist and thinks the nation was founded on Christian beliefs, managed to cut Thomas Jefferson from a list of figures whose writings inspired revolutions in the late 18th century and 19th century, replacing him with St. Thomas Aquinas, John Calvin and William Blackstone. (Jefferson is not well liked among conservatives on the board because he coined the term “separation between church and state.”)  

“The Enlightenment was not the only philosophy on which these revolutions were based,” Ms. Dunbar said.

Jefferson loved books. After the British burned Washington, D.C. and the Library of Congress in August 1814, Jefferson offered his own fifty-year collection of books to the nation to rebuild the Library of Congress. Congress accepted his offer, appropriating $23,950 for his 6, 487 books.  After watching the carts haul away the books, Jefferson wrote to his old friend and one-time adversary John Adams, “I cannot live without books.”  He immediately began to buy more. I know how he feels.  I can’t imagine life without them and am now sure that I’d feel the same way about books on electronic devices. I need the smell, the feel, the bulk of them lined up on my shelves. Jefferson was widely knowledgeable about a great deal of topics and liked to expound on them.  A recent book has even suggested that Jefferson had Asperger’s Syndrome, a form of autism.  I doubt it, but the author, who lived in my area, made an interesting case for it. 

 “I never considered a difference of opinion in politics, in religion, in philosophy, as cause for withdrawing from a friend,” Jefferson wrote, but he had his differences and fallings out with friends over politics, including John Adams.   

 Years later, mellowed with age, Jefferson and Adams resumed their friendship by letter.  On July 4, 1826, at about the time Jefferson died, Adams whispered, “Thomas Jefferson survives.”  Adams died later that same day, the Fourth of July.  The spirit of Jefferson does survive. 

Here in 1993, researchers dig and sift the dirt around Monticello to look for household goods and other items from Jefferson's time.

Some of Jefferson’s opponents accused him in print of being an alcoholic and of other moral weakness, which may explain Jefferson’s ambivalence about newspapers.  He also used them against others, as well.  

 “The man who reads nothing at all is better educated than the man who reads nothing but newspapers,” he said.   Another famous quote of  his:  “Advertisements contain the only truths to be relied on in a newspaper. ” 

This time, Tom brought along some of his stellar presidential friends. I've been making this pilgrimage to Mount Rushmore in the Black Hills of South Dakota since I was a toddler. (I'm not sure it's such as good idea to blast giant sculptures in a mountain, but it was a great childhood memory.) UPDATE: On the April 16, 2010, episode of Jeopardy (my favorite show) there was a question about Jefferson's position on Mount Rushmore.

Yet he also said, “Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.” 

He was a strong advocate of educating the public, saying “Whenever the people are well-informed, they can be trusted with their own government.” and  “Where the press is free and every man able to read, all is safe.”  I wonder what he would make of today’s endless noise on the internet.  

According to Willard Stern Randall, “No presidential election since 1800 has taken place without an attempt to damage at least one candidate’s reputation by innuendo, rumor, and ridicule in order to make him appear unworthy of the nation’s highest office, but none has more brutally combined these tactics than the 1800 campaign, which left Jefferson stunned and the country deeply divided for years.”  

This is my ticket to Monticello for the 250th anniversary of Thomas Jefferson's birth, when many of his belongings and furniture were returned. A few years later, I painted a mural of Monticello and its grounds in my kitchen in a house inspired (in a modest fashion) by Monticello. (Okay, it was a rectangle and had red brick and white pillars on the front porch.)

The political parties were bitter foes, and violence wasn’t unusual.  While Jefferson’s vice president, Aaron Burr killed Alexander Hamilton, a Federalist, in a duel. (See link below.)  

Accusations against Jefferson about his alleged sexual liaisons were widely publicized as a way to discredit him.  He denied them or ignored them, but some, such as his relationship with his slave, Sally Hemings, were very likely true.  DNA analysis of Sally’s descendants show that they are related to at least some member of Jefferson’s family. Jefferson’s granddaughter pointed the finger at another family member as the father of Sally’s children.  Even if the rumors had not been true, Jefferson, the fervent writer of documents on freedom, was a slave owner. He was troubled by slavery but only freed seven of his slaves, two during his lifetime, all probably related to him.  Although Jefferson was an outspoken abolitionist, biographers have pointed out that his slaves were encumbered by debt and mortgages, which Jefferson never overcame.

Tom and I enjoy some quiet time together after a busy day on the slopes at Beaver Creek, Colorado. Tom finally got to see the great West that fascinated him so much. Of course, he's writing about it here.

Further ickiness:  Sally Hemings was the half-sister of Jefferson’s wife Martha.  Three-quarters white, Sally was said to look very much like Martha, who was long dead before Sally entered the Jefferson household.  While a Virginia legislator, Jefferson succeeded in passing an act prohibiting the importation of slaves but not slavery itself.  On March 3, 1807, Jefferson as president signed a bill making slave importation illegal in the United States.  

Here is a Thomas Jefferson First Day of Issue Stamp. I think I bought it in the Monticello gift shop. Jefferson and Monticello have been featured on several stamps. Jefferson is portrayed on the U.S. nickel and the two-dollar bill.

Jefferson favored states’ rights and a strictly limited federal government, yet one of his most significant acts as president was the Louisiana Purchase in 1803 of 828,800 square miles of territory from Napoleon Bonaparte.   This purchase now comprises 23 percent of the current United States.  Many Americans opposed the purchase as being possibly unconstitutional.   Jefferson himself thought that the U.S. Constitution did not contain any provisions for acquiring territory, but he decided to purchase Louisiana to prevent France and Spain from having the power to block American trade access to the port of New Orleans.   Jefferson believed that a U.S. President did not have the Constitutional authority to make such a deal.  He also thought that to do so would erode states’ rights by increasing federal executive power.  But the potential French threat outweighed his constitutional queasiness.  Additionally, Jefferson had always been fascinated by the west and its people and animals and began drafting plans for a western exploration as early as 1793.  Immediately after his election, he began to plan for an expedition to explore as far as the Pacific, so the prospect of buying the land from the French must have been irresistable.   In 1803, Jefferson sponsored the  Lewis and Clark expedition to explore this newly purchased land.

Thomas Jefferson founded and designed the buildings of the University of Virginia, Charlottesville. Along with Monticello, the University of Virginia is one of only three modern U.S. sites designated as a World Heritage Site. Of this University, Jefferson explained, "This institution will be based on the illimitable freedom of the human mind. For here we are not afraid to follow truth wherever it may lead, nor to tolerate any error so long as reason is left free to combat it." The University also followed the direction that higher education should be completely separated from religious doctrines.

It’s probably obvious that I have a crush on Thomas Jefferson.  I’m a Tom Girl.   Though very cerebral and devoted to reason, Jefferson was also passionate.  While in France, he became smitten with Maria Cosway, an Italian artist married to a much older man, a celebrated miniature artist.  William Sterne Randall writes in his biography of Jefferson: ” Thomas Jefferson fell in love with Maria Cosway the moment he met her.  For four years he had been faithful to the vow he had made to his wife on her deathbed.  There is no hint that he had made even the briefest liaison with any of the many Frenchwomen he had met in Paris. But no sooner was Jefferson introduced to the Cosways than he began to devise how he could spend every possible moment with this lively, languid, beautiful Maria, with her musical, slightly Italian accent.”  

Maria and Jefferson spent almost every day together for weeks in Paris, which could partly explain Jefferson’s love of that country, if not its government.  Once while dashing to his carriage to meet Maria, Jefferson fell and broke his right wrist, which made playing the violin very difficult after that. He wrapped his wrist and went ahead to meet her, despite the agony.  Later, struggling to write with his left hand, he penned his now famous “My Head and My Heart” letter to Maria in which reason battled emotion.   

Jefferson, at 29,  married the 23-year-old widow Martha Wayles Skelton. During their ten years of marriage, they had six children, but only two survived to adulthood, including the oldest, Martha Jefferson Randolph.  Jefferson’s wife Martha died on September 6, 1782, after the birth of her last child. Jefferson never remarried, honoring his wife’s deathbed wish. He destroyed all correspondence between them.   After his wife’s funeral, Jefferson refused to leave his room for three weeks. Then he spent endless hours riding horseback alone around Monticello. He didn’t resume a normal life until mid-October, but suffered from depression for years afterward.  

 Martha Randolph, who had twelve children, was considered the third First Lady, acting as hostess to her father, because her father was a widower.  

It’s impossible to do Jefferson’s life justice in this post.  I recommend reading Willard Sterne Randall’s “Thomas Jefferson – A Life.”  I also read Fawn M. Brodie’s  “Thomas Jefferson: An Intimate History.”  

For more information here are some Wikipedia links are Thomas Jefferson  Monticello  Jefferson’s Democratic-Republican Party   The Federalist Party  Aaron Burr-Alexander Hamilton Duel  The University of Virginia

A great website is Monticello — The Thomas Jefferson Foundation.  

Additionally, I’ve selected many of Jefferson’s quotes, all of which I think ring true today.  

  • It is incumbent on every generation to pay its own debts as it goes. A principle which if acted on would save one-half the wars of the world.
  • We may consider each generation as a distinct nation, with a right, by the will of its majority, to bind themselves, but none to bind the succeeding generation, more than the inhabitants of another country.

    On my most recent visit to Washington, D.C., with my friend Anita, I finally visited the Jefferson Memorial -- the first since I lived in Alexandria, Virginia, as a baby. The dome of the Jefferson Memorial suggests the one topping Jefferson's home, Monticello.

  • It is more dangerous that even a guilty person should be punished without the forms of law than that he should escape.
  • To compel a man to furnish funds for the propagation of ideas he disbelieves and abhors is sinful and tyrannical.
  • A democracy is nothing more than mob rule, where fifty-one percent of the people may take away the rights of the other forty-nine.
  • A wise and frugal government which shall restrain men from injuring one another, which shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned-this is the sum of good government.
  • All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent.
  • Conquest is not in our principles. It is inconsistent with our government.
  • Delay is preferable to error.
  • He who knows best knows how little he knows.
  • I hope our wisdom will grow with our power, and teach us, that the less we use our power the greater it will be.
  • I hope we shall crush in its birth the aristocracy of our monied corporations which dare already to challenge our government to a trial by strength, and bid defiance to the laws of our country.
  • I have come to a resolution myself, as I hope every good citizen will, never again to purchase any article of foreign manufacture which can be had of American make, be the difference of price what it may.
  • I’m a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work the more I have of it.
  • General Washington set the example of voluntary retirement after eight years. I shall follow it. And a few more precedents will oppose the obstacle of habit to any one who after a while shall endeavor to extend his term.
  • I never told my own religion, nor scrutinized that of another. I never attempted to make a convert, nor wished to change another’s creed. I have ever judged of others’ religion by their lives…for it is from our lives and not from our words, that our religion must be read.
  • The happiest moments of my life have been the few which I have passed at home in the bosom of my family.
  • Were it made a question whether no law, as among the savage Americans, or too much law, as among the civilized Europeans, submits man to the greatest evil, one who has seen both conditions of existence would pronounce it to be the last; and that the sheep are happier of themselves, than under the care of wolves.
  • Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government. I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the later.
  • When angry, count ten before you speak; if very angry, an hundred.
  • I have ever deemed it fundamental for the United States never to take active part in the quarrels of Europe. Their political interests are entirely distinct from ours…They are nations of eternal war. All their energies are expended in the destruction of the labor, property and lives of their people.
  • We are not to expect to be translated from despotism to liberty in a feather bed.
  • I own that I am not a friend to a very energetic government. It is always oppressive.
  • I would rather be exposed to the inconveniences attending too much liberty than those attending too small a degree of it.
  • No freeman shall be debarred the use of arms.
  • My reading of history convinces me that most bad government results from too much government.
  • No man will ever carry out of the Presidency the reputation which carried him into it.
  • No occupation is so delightful to me as the culture of the earth, and no culture comparable to that of the garden
  • None but an armed nation can dispense with a standing army. To keep ours armed and disciplined is therefore at all times important.
  • Nothing can stop the man with the right mental attitude from achieving his goal; nothing on earth can help the man with the wrong mental attitude.
  • Nothing gives one person so much advantage over another as to remain always cool and unruffled under all circumstances.
  • Nothing is unchangeable but the inherent and unalienable rights of man.
  • One loves to possess arms, though they hope never to have occasion for them.
  • Peace and friendship with all mankind is our wisest policy, and I wish we may be permitted to pursue it.
  • Peace, commerce and honest friendship with all nations; entangling alliances with none.
  • Politics is such a torment that I advise everyone I love not to mix with it.
  • Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason, than that of blind-folded fear.
  • Speeches that are measured by the hour will die with the hour.
  • Taste cannot be controlled by law.
  • That government is the strongest of which every man feels himself a part.
  • The advertisement is the most truthful part of a newspaper
  • The boisterous sea of liberty is never without a wave
  • When we get piled upon one another in large cities, as in Europe, we shall become as corrupt as Europe.
  • When you reach the end of your rope, tie a knot in it and hang on.
  • Whenever a man has cast a longing eye on offices, a rottenness begins in his conduct.
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Filed under History, Politics, Presidents, Thomas Jefferson

Old Photographs of the Famous and the Not-So-Famous

My mother is holding me outside the White House in the 1950s.  Look how stylishly everyone is dressed.

A collector just paid $50,000 for a tiny photograph of a barely discernible Abraham Lincoln standing outside the White House. Almost a hundred years later, my father photographed me in my mother's arms outside the White House. Collectors aren't clamoring to buy this photograph, but that's okay, because it's priceless!

In January, Ulysses S. Grant VI discovered a photograph in his great-great-grandfather’s album of President Abraham Lincoln standing next to the White House.  Lincoln is especially “hot” right now, because his birthday was 200 years ago this year.   A collector paid Grant $50,000 for the tiny photograph, which is thought to be the last one taken of Lincoln. (See story at the bottom.)

I’ve been looking through old family photographs, too.    My mother just acquired a stack of old sepia and black and white photographs left by relatives who’d died.  Are they worth anything?  Heck, yes!  They have enormous sentimental value.  Monetary value?  Unlikely. (We do have a blurry photograph of President Dwight Eisenhower.  Collectors?)

Photography collector Keya Morgan holds what he believes is a rare, unpublished photograph of Abraham Lincoln, the only image of the 16th president in front of the White House and the last sitting of Lincoln in 1865 before he died, in Beverly Hills, Calif., Friday, March 6, 2009.  The image by photographer Henry F. Warren was uncovered in the personal album of Gen. Ulysses S. Grant.  (AP Photo/Reed Saxon)

Photography collector Keya Morgan holds what he believes is a rare, unpublished photograph of Abraham Lincoln, the only image of the 16th president in front of the White House and the last sitting of Lincoln in 1865 before he died, in Beverly Hills, Calif., Friday, March 6, 2009. The image by photographer Henry F. Warren was uncovered in the personal album of Gen. Ulysses S. Grant. (AP Photo/Reed Saxon)

Some are duplicates my parents made for my grandparents, including photographs of my young parents holding me at various tourist spots in the Washington. D.C. area, where we lived.  I don’t remember seeing these photographs before.  It’s great to see my parents in their youth before I really knew them.

Others are of long-dead relatives, but who are they?  Why aren’t there any names or dates?  Even if I don’t know who they are, I can’t toss these portals into the past. There are First Communions (twin brothers solemnly holding lit candles and prayerbooks), weddings, family reunions (Hey, I recognize those eyebrows!), school groups and a group shot of  the band at Fort Meade, South Dakota, in 1898.

Through the years, photographs pile up  — a record of people our descendants never knew and may not care about.  Tossed in a box, the photographs curl in the damp basement or fade in the attic.  Worse, they might appear on some comical greeting card!  

How many millions and millions of old photographs are out there?  If you laid them end to end would they reach to the moon?  Digital cameras make it so easy to document every event, no matter how trivial or ridiculous (I’m guilty!).  Even your phone is a camera. Most of these digital shots don’t make it into print and are almost as ephemeral as the moments they captured.  Maybe this is a good thing, some would say.  Live in the moment, save some trees and chemicals.   As for me, I’m glad to visit these moments frozen in time.

My father is holding me at Mt. Vernon, Virginia, George Washington's home, which was just down the road from Fort Belvoir, where my dather was stationed with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

My father is holding me at Mt. Vernon, Virginia, George Washington's home, which was just down the road from Fort Belvoir, Virginia, where my father was stationed with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

WASHINGTON – A collector believes a photograph from a private album of Civil War Gen. Ulysses S. Grant shows President Abraham Lincoln in front of the White House and could be the last image taken of him before he was assassinated in 1865.

If it is indeed Lincoln, it would be the only known photo of the 16th president in front of the executive mansion and a rare find, as only about 130 photos of him are known to exist. A copy of the image was provided to The Associated Press.

Grant’s 38-year-old great-great-grandson, Ulysses S. Grant VI, had seen the picture before, but didn’t examine it closely until late January. A tall figure in the distance caught his eye, although the man’s facial features are obscured.

He called Keya Morgan, a New York-based photography collector and Lincoln aficionado, who helped identify it as Lincoln.

“I was like, ‘I don’t know who this is, Keya,'” said Grant, a Springfield, Mo., construction business owner.

Although authenticating the 2 1/2-by-3 1/2-inch photo beyond a shadow of a doubt could be difficult, several historians who looked at it said the evidence supporting Morgan’s claim is compelling and believable.

Morgan talked Grant into taking the photo out of the album and examining it for clues, such as the identity of the photographer.

“Not knowing who the photographer is is like not knowing who your mother or father is,” Morgan told Grant.

Grant carefully removed it and was shocked to see the handwritten inscription on the back: “Lincoln in front of the White House.” Grant believes his great-grandfather, Jesse Grant, the general’s youngest son, wrote the inscription.

Also included was the date 1865, the seal of photographer Henry F. Warren, and a government tax stamp that was issued for such photos to help the Civil War effort between 1864 and 1866.

Morgan recalled the well-documented story of Warren’s trip to Washington to photograph Lincoln after his second inauguration in March 1865. Lincoln was killed in April, so the photo could be the last one taken of him.

Warren, a commercial photographer from Massachusetts, enticed Lincoln into his frame shortly after the inauguration by taking pictures of young Tad Lincolnand asking the boy to bring his father along for a pose, according to the book, “Lincoln in Photographs: An Album of Every Known Pose,” by Charles Hamilton and Lloyd Ostendorf.

“This is the first act of paparazzi ever toward a president,” Morgan said. “Lincoln is not too happy at all.”

Historians say it has been decades since a newfound Lincoln image was fully authenticated. And in the Grant photo, it’s not obvious to the naked eye who is standing in front of the executive mansion.

You can see the White House, a short gate that once lined the building, and, on the lawn, a Thomas Jefferson statue that was later replaced with a fountain. Five people can be seen standing in front of the building. The tall man’s face is obscured, but zooming in on the image with a computer reveals a telling beard.

“Once you scan it and blow it up, you can see the whole scenario — there’s a giant standing near the White House,” Morgan said.

At 6-foot-4, Lincoln was the tallest U.S. president.

Morgan, who has sold photographs of Lincoln and other historical figures to the Smithsonian Institution, the White House and others, said he purchased the image from Grant for $50,000 in February. It will be added to Morgan’s $25 million collection of Lincoln artifacts and original images.

Several historians say Morgan has a good case.

Will Stapp, who was the founding curator of the National Portrait Gallery‘s photographs department and who now appraises fine art and photographs, said he’s usually cynical about such claims. But he said he was “very satisfied that it’s Lincoln” in the picture.

“It looks to me like Lincoln’s physique,” he said. “I can see his hairline. I can see the shadow of his beard.”

White House curatorWilliam Allman said the photo appears to include Lincoln. “I guess there’s always an element of doubt,” he said. “It feels pretty likely, though.”

Even if it’s not Lincoln, it would be among the oldest photographs of the White House.

Lincoln artifacts have recently been hot commodities leading up to the 200th anniversary of his birth, and President Barack Obama has evoked his memory several times for his work to unify the nation.

The significance of the photo is difficult to judge, Stapp said. It does show the relative freedom Lincoln had compared with presidents today, and offers a unique view of the White House from the 1860s, he said.

“We don’t so much think of (Lincoln) as living at the White House,” Stapp said. “In that respect, I think it’s an important find.”

Keya Morgan Collection: Lincoln Images.

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Filed under Abraham Lincoln, History, Humor, Life, Personal, Photography, Presidents, Random

Bushwalking Down Under

Sydney Opera House on New Year's Eve 2008. Photo by Anita Doll.

Sydney Opera House on New Year's Eve 2008. Photo by Anita Doll.

Gone bushwalking Down Under.  See you again on February 8th!  Don’t miss the “Come to Australia!” in the video below.

If you want to check out any of my fascinating older posts, be sure to click on the headline to bring up the photographs.  When I return, I’ll be adding to the tens of millions of words already written about Abraham Lincoln, but to tide you over here’s a link to a post I wrote about Lincoln earlier.  In Search of Abraham Lincoln.   Lincoln was born two hundred years ago –February 12, 1809, the same day as Charles Darwin.

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Filed under Australia, Friendship, Life, New Zealand, Personal, Random, Travel

Forty-Four Presidents — From George Washington to Barack Obama

From George Washington To Barack Obama – A Long Way – Original Video

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Filed under Abraham Lincoln, History, Life, Politics, Presidents, Thomas Jefferson

John F. Kennedy

John F. Kennedy’s opening statement during the 1960 presidential debate.

 

My first airplane trip, my first (and, thankfully, only) airplane emergency landing and my “sighting” of John F. Kennedy all happened on the same day.  That day began my fascination with politics.  Fortunately, it didn’t dampen my enthusiasm for travel, either.

November 20, 1959.  I was seven years old. My father’s father had just died, and my mother, baby brother and I were on our way to the funeral in Sturgis, South Dakota.  My father and a sister and brother were already there.  I missed my grandpa, but I was excited about my first airplane ride.

A poster like this was greeted my mother and I at the Wichita, Kansas, airport, in November 1959. Kennedy had stopped by to speak to supporters.

A poster like this one greeted my mother and I at the Wichita, Kansas, airport, in November 1959. Kennedy had stopped by to speak to supporters.

Our trip began at the airport in Wichita, the air capital. My father was an engineer for Boeing in Wichita, and his enthusiasm for airplanes was infectious.  Airplanes roared overhead all day, every day.  I loved the noise.  It thrilled me. Now I was going to fly in one of “my father’s” airplanes.

As we walked to our gate, my mother paused at a poster of a man with a huge smile.

“John F. Kennedy is speaking here today,” she said.  “He’s running for president.”

Kennedy hadn’t officially announced — he’d do that in January 1960 — but he was gathering support across the country.  I’d heard his name during the last time we’d visited my grandfather as the relatives talked about current events.  Here was a Catholic candidate who had the first real chance to be president.  I wasn’t sure what the problem was.  Nearly everyone I knew was Catholic.  How could that be bad?

Even so, not all of my Catholic relatives voted for Kennedy, I later learned.  They didn’t let religious affiliation trump their political views, although they felt an affinity to Kennedy.

As Catholics, my relatives were also talking about the Third Secret of Fatima, which was supposed to be revealed in 1960.  What was the secret?  Would the Soviet Union be converted to Christianity? Would it be the end of the world?  I was fascinated and scared.

We settled into our seats on the TWA Boeing jet.  The first leg of our trip would take us to Denver. My mother held my nine-month-old brother as we buckled in and waited to take off.

“Do you see Kennedy?” my mother asked, looking out the window of our airplane. 

I saw a large crowd gathered on the pavement beyond our airplane. 

She pointed.  “There he is.  See?”

After Kennedy was assassinated, I mailed a letter of condolence to Jackie Kennedy.  I was deeply shocked by his death.  I received this photograph in return.  I was eleven years old.

After Kennedy was assassinated, I mailed a drawing and a letter of condolence to Jackie Kennedy. Like the rest of the country, I was deeply shocked by his death. I received this photograph in return. I was eleven.

Everyone was so small, I couldn’t tell one person from the next.  I nodded anyway.  I wanted to think I saw him.  I definitely was going to tell all of my friends at school that I had. 

I didn’t realize we were witnessing the beginning of a new age in campaigning.  Kennedy and his staff used all the modern tools of the day: air travel, television, advance men who arranged for huge, friendly crowds to meet him and then make sure these crowds were depicted in the news.  It was the first modern campaign, according to Gary A. Donaldson, who wrote a book by the same name.  

My mother, brother and I took a Frontier propeller airplane from Denver, headed for Rapid City. A stewardess came by, offering us water, milk or hot cocoa.  She also asked us in Spanish and French.  We hadn’t been in the air very long, when smoke started to fill the airplane. One of the engines was on fire.  The pilot made an emergency landing in Alliance, Nebraska, where we crammed into a tiny airport for twelve hours.  At first there was nothing to eat but glazed donuts brought in from a nearby shop.  Later, sandwiches were delivered, but I was already stuffed on donuts. (Homer Simpson would be proud.) I didn’t have anywhere to sit so I lay under my mother’s chair. She had my baby brother to tend to. Now that I’ve had my own children, I know how stressful the experience must have been.

I was so excited when I saw this envelope (cropped) in the mail. I wondered why there wasn't a stamp or a postmark, but my mother said it was "franked," meaning Jackie Kennedy was allowed to send mail without stamps.

I was so excited when I saw this envelope (cropped) in the mail. I wondered why there wasn't a stamp or a postmark, but my mother explained that the envelope was "franked" with Jacqueline Kennedy's signature. Jackie Kennedy was allowed to mail envelopes without a stamp to respond to all of the people who wrote to her with their condolences.

We finally made it to Rapid City on another airplane.  When we got there, we found out that the airline had told my father that we were spending the night in Nebraska, so he’d left.  Luckily, a family friend who’d been on our flight from Denver drove us to Sturgis, where we met my father and grandmother at my grandparents’ hotel.  It was one of the last times I’d ever stay at the Fruth Hotel, a scene of so many happy childhood memories.  We said good-bye to my grandfather, who had been an important figure in my life.

You don’t forget something like an engine fire, but even at my young age I realized that Kennedy was the most exciting part of the flight.  Everyone at St. Mary’s grade school was excited about Kennedy’s candidacy when he finally announced it.  Even though I was just a second-grader, I felt I was a part of history because I’d kind of, sort of, maybe saw Kennedy.

Students named Kennedy and Nixon attended our grade school, so we had informal mock elections.  Even though it was a Catholic school, we were in a Republican state, so it wasn’t entirely one-sided.   My parents had followed the career of Dwight Eisenhower when we lived in Alexandria, Virginia, where I was born. They had gone to the airport once to see him arrive with Mamie and get into a limousine.  And now we lived in Eisenhower’s state.

A Front Runner's Attractive Wife.  Life Magazine, August 24, 1959.

Jackie Kennedy: A Front Runner's Appealing Wife. Life Magazine, August 24, 1959.

The students in my school cheered when Kennedy was elected.  His words “Ask not what the country can do for you, but what you can do for your country” rang across the country and are still often repeated.

This was the time in my life when I began to look to the wider world.  It was an awakening, which was both engrossing and frightening. 

A couple of months after his inauguration, Kennedy established the the Peace Corps. The Bay of Pigs invasion disaster a few months later in April 1961 took the shine off of the new president’s glow.   More anxiety was created when the The Berlin Wall appeared on August 13, 1961 (my birthday).    

We trooped to the school cafeteria to watch rockets launched into space. We worried about the Soviet Union surpassing us in the space race.  John Glenn orbited the earth in 1962.  Also in 1962, The Cuban Missile Crisis was the first time I was really frightened and realized that the world could be a very dangerous place. There was a growing interest in fallout shelters.  Eighteen Titan II Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) complexes  were located in the farmland around Wichita, adding to our anxiety. (I later toured a silo with my Girl Scout troop during high school.) We knew that nearby McConnell Air Force Base and Boeing’s military airplane factory could be targets.  There were many who didn’t like Kennedy and much we didn’t learn about until later, but in my world, his presidency marked the first and last time I was enthusiastic about a president.  Perhaps, it was the naivete of youth. Cynicism creeps in as you realize how fallible our leaders are.  The Vietnam War darkened my outlook even more.

The launch of astronaut John Glenn's "Friendship 7."

The launch of astronaut John Glenn's "Friendship 7."

The American people fell in love with Jacqueline Kennedy.  Her charm, beauty, sophistication and glamor was as appealing, if not more so, than her husband’s.  I was crazy about her, myself.

Jackie Kennedy seemed to be on the cover of every popular magazine.  She wanted to make sure the White House was a private home for her family but recognized that it as also a national institution.  She formed the White House Historical Association to help in restoring the building.  Her filmed tour of the redecorated White house was broadcast to 50 million people on television on Valentine’s Day 1962. I was one of those 50 million.  She received an honorary Emmy Award for her achievement. I remember her efforts towards the preservation of Egyptian antiquities from the flood waters of the new Aswan Dam in Egypt.   I became very enthusiastic about Egypt when I saw it featured in Life Magazine, a major source of my news about the world (along with National Geographic.)  I became enamored of Elizabeth Taylor and her role as Cleopatra.  She and Jackie seemed to alternate on the cover of popular magazines.

Jacqueline Kennedy requested the eternal flame for her husband's grave at Arlington National Cemetery.  Above is Robert A. Lee's house, which he left at the onset of the Civil War. He and his family never returned to the house or the land, which is now the site of the cemetery and the Pentagon.

Jacqueline Kennedy requested the eternal flame for her husband's grave. Above is Arlington House, the home of Robert E. Lee, who left it at the onset of the Civil War. He and his family never returned, and now the land is the site of the national cemetery and the Pentagon. I visited Arlington for the first time as an adult this year.

Four years after that day at the Wichita airport, I was cutting out paper turkeys in my sixth grade art class for Thanksgiving decorations when an ashen-faced Sister Kathleen came into our classroom to tell us that President Kennedy had been shot.  It was November 22, 1963. Over the next few days, we were in shock as we watched the events unfold on television.  Lyndon Baines Johnson was sworn in, Jack Ruby shot Lee Harvey Oswald, the funeral cortege with Jackie, Caroline and little John John saluting as his father’s casket passed, the horse with the backwards boots.   It was the first national mourning for a president on television.

For more about John F. Kennedy, including links to audio and video clips, go to John F. Kennedy.

Here’s a video about Jacqueline Kennedy, including her work on the restoration of the White House.  The next video is more of the Kennedy-Nixon presidential debates.

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All the News That Fit to Print

President Thomas Jefferson.

President Thomas Jefferson.

I’m a news junkie.  I can’t get enough, but it’s also a curse.  I don’t like being addicted and sometimes I get p.o.’d at what I read, but I can’t help myself.

Thomas Jefferson, one of my favorite presidents, had a love-hate relationship with newspapers, which were as full of scandal, calumny and innuendo in his day as they are in ours.  Nevertheless, he defended his firm beliefs in freedom of the press against attacks against the First Amendment of the Constitution.  He was often the object of a newspaper attacks, but he also knew how to use newspapers to advance his political career and that of his party, according to Willard Sterne Randall’s biography of Jefferson.

Here are some of Thomas Jefferson’s quotes, which show his mixed feelings about the “press.”

  • Advertisements contain the only truths to be relied on in a newspaper.
  • Educate and inform the whole mass of the people…They are the only sure reliance for the preservation of our liberty.
  • Information is the currency of democracy.
  • The man who reads nothing at all is better educated than the man who reads nothing but newspapers.
  • Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.
  • Where the press is free and every man able to read, all is safe.
  • Wherever the people are well-informed, they can be trusted with their own government.
  • The abuses of the freedom of the press here (Washington) have been carried to a length never before known or borne by civilized nations.
  • I have been for some time used as the property of the newspapers, a fair mark for every man’s dirt. Some, too, have indulged themselves in this exercise who would not have done it, had they known me otherwise than through these impure and injurious channels.  It is hard treatment, and for a singular kind of offence, that of having obtained by the labors of a life the indulgent opinions of a part of one’s fellow citizens.  However, these moral evils must be submitted to, like the physical scourges of tempest, fire, &c.–
  • Were I to undertake to answer the calumnies of the newspapers, it would be more than all my own time and that of twenty aids could effect.  For while I should be answering one, twenty new ones would be invented….But this is an injury to which duty requires every one to submit whom the public think proper to call into its councils —
  • Our newspapers for the most part, present only the caricatures of disaffected minds.
  • I have given up newspapers in exchange for Tacitus, and Thucydides, for Newton and Euclid, and I find myself much happier.

   Here are some bonus Jefferson quotes on the current economic situation:

  • I sincerely believe that banking establishments are more dangerous than standing armies, and that the principle of spending money to be paid by posterity, under the name of funding, is but swindling futurity on a large scale.
  • I predict future happiness for Americans if they can prevent the government from wasting the labors of the people under the pretense of taking care of them.
  • It is incumbent on every generation to pay its own debts as it goes. A principle which if acted on would save one-half the wars of the world.
  • Never spend your money before you have earned it.

And lastly, a Jeffersonian thought about political candidates:

  • Whenever a man has cast a longing eye on offices, a rottenness begins in his conduct.

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Queen Elizabeth II’s Scone Recipe

In 1960, Queen Elizabeth II of Great Britain sent President Dwight D. Eisenhower her recipe for “Drop Scones,” which she had promised to give to him when he’d visited her at Balmoral Castle. Eisenhower was an avid cook.

Elizabeth II doesn’t seem like a likely cook, but she was an auto mechanic during World War II.  She could probably stir up a batch of scones, if called upon in the line of duty.

A photograph of the recipe she sent him is in a book about Eisenhower entitled, The Ike Files: Mementoes of the Man and His Era from the Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum, which was published by Kansas City Star Books and the Dwight D. Eisenhower Foundation.

The Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum is in Abilene, Kansas, which is where Eisenhower grew up.  It was the first presidential library I ever visited, which makes sense since I lived in Kansas.  (Although many people never visit the sites in their own states.)

We already had a “history” with Eisenhower, though. My parents had taken me as a baby to Eisenhower’s presidential inaugural parade in 1953, when we lived in Alexandria, Virginia.

Here’s Queen Elizabeth’s scone recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 4 teacups flour
  • 4 tablespoons caster sugar
  • 2 teacups milk
  • 2 whole eggs
  • 2 teaspoons bi-carbonate soda
  • 3 teaspoons cream of tartar
  • 2 tablespoons melted butter

Beat eggs, sugar and about half the milk together, add flour, and mix well together adding remainder of milk as required, also bi-carbonate and cream of tartar, fold in the melted butter.

The recipe was typed, but at the bottom, written in ink and underlined, was the line: Enough for 16 people.

I don’t have the Queen’s instructions for what to do with the dough. Here’s a scone recipe from Epicurious.com that describes how to work, shape, cut and bake the dough.

Hearty Scottish Scones

Blogging friend Paula’s photos of scones and jam inspired me on this topic.  Here’s a link to Paula’s “Jamming” post.  She also included a recipe for scones and more information in her comment below.  Check it out.

To learn more about the Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum, which sells the book, go to www.eisenhower.archives.gov  I don’t get any royalties. In fact, don’t tell them I sent you.

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