More Abraham Lincoln Pets and the First Presidential Turkey Pardon

Despite the fact that they left their dog Fido behind in Springfield, the Lincolns had other pets in the White House. Tad and Willie had two goats named Nanny and Nanko, both of whom had the run of the White House. The goats drove the staff crazy by chewing almost everything in sight and eating the flower bulbs in the garden. In addition, the Lincoln boys would hitch the goats to either chairs or carts and have the goats pull them around. On one occasion, Tad scared White House visitors by driving one goat-pulled chair through the East Room while shouting, “Get out the way!”

Lincoln told Elizabeth Keckley, his wife’s seamstress, “I believe they are the kindest and best goats in the world.” According to Keckley, Lincoln and the boys would play with the goats in the yard “and when he called them they would come bounding to his side.” The White House staff was so frustrated with Nanny, however, that she was taken to the Soldiers Home. Unfortunately, she also chewed up the garden there and was sent back to the White House. Nanny, probably confused by the move, disappeared one day. Lincoln reported the loss to Tad who was on a trip with Mrs. Lincoln. “Poor Nanny goat is lost,” he wrote. By the next spring, Nanny was either found or replaced by another goat. Lincoln sent his wife a telegram saying “Tell Tad the goats and father are very well– especially the goats.”

If goats made for unusual White House pets, Tad managed to find yet another exotic friend. In 1863 the Lincolns were sent a live turkey. It was to be eaten at Christmas dinner. Tad became attached to the turkey and named him Jack. When Tad found out his new friend was going to be cooked for Christmas dinner, he interrupted Lincoln during a cabinet meeting to plead for the bird’s life. Lincoln stopped the meeting and wrote an “order of reprieve” for the turkey. Jack continued to live at the White House.

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Lincoln and his Cabinet. William Seward, who gave Lincoln kittens, is seated in front of the desk.

The tradition of presidents pardoning turkeys was thus started by Lincoln even though his turkey was for Christmas dinner. The presidential turkey pardon did not become an annual tradition until years later. John F. Kennedy was the first modern president to let a Thanksgiving turkey go.

Lincoln himself seem to derive the most comfort from the company of cats. When asked if her husband had a hobby, Mary Lincoln might’ve answered cats.  Lincoln received two kittens as a gift from Secretary of State William Seward. He named them Tabby and Dixie. He reportedly spent quite a few hours of his time talking to them. At one point he exclaimed that they “were smarter than my whole cabinet.” During one White House dinner, Lincoln had Tabby seated next to him. This embarrassed Mrs. Lincoln but did not seem to trouble her husband.

Lincoln was also fond of stray cats, but he didn’t bring them home too often because Mary didn’t appreciate it. While visiting Gen. Ulysses S Grant at army headquarters in 1865, Lincoln spotted three stray kittens. He scooped them up and petted them. Before he left he made sure that someone would look after them. Grant aid Horace Porter stated that it was a “curious site at army headquarters upon the eve of a great military crisis” to watch the president “tenderly caressing three stray kittens. It well illustrated the kindness of the man’s disposition, and showed the childlike simplicity which was mingled with the grandeur of his nature.”

Lincoln’s Former General: The Presidency of Ulysses S. Grant

As a young man Grant hated working in his father’s leather business. He didn’t especially want to go to West Point either but thought it a better alternative to manufacturing. The “S.” in his name was a typo made on his application to West Point. Grant kept the initial and was affectionately known as U.S. Grant during the Civil War.

Although West Point graduates were in demand, Grant had a tough time getting a position in the army due to his heavy drinking. His talents outweighed his faults, however. Grant was the first man since George Washington to earn the permanent rank of lieutenant general. That rank gave him the responsibility for the Union’s strategy.

Though he was a hero to Northerners at the end of the war, Grant still had to earn a living. With a family to support, he reluctantly went to work for the family leather business. In 1868 Republicans and Democrats both wanted the hero of the Civil War to run for president. He ran as a Republican. Though he was a great leader during the war, Grant had no political experience. It’s one thing to fight a war with a clear enemy–quite another to determine who one’s enemies are in the game of politics.

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Official Presidential Portrait of President Grant

Grant’s greatest problem as president was his trusting nature. Though honest himself, he surrounded himself with others who were not. He also felt inferior to intellectuals and tended to follow Congress’ lead. As a result his presidency was marked by multiple scandals. For example, his secretary of war was accused of accepting bribes from merchants who traded at army posts with Native Americans.

After two terms in office the administration’s scandals prevented him from trying for a third term. His trusting nature failed him again when he became a victim of Wall Street fraud.

Knowing that Grant was broke, his friend Mark Twain suggested that he write his memoirs in order to make money. Grant had just started writing when he developed throat cancer. He was determined to finish his memoirs before he died, however, and they are still selling today. Unsurprisingly, they focus on the time period that brought Grant the most success: the Civil War.

 

Tippecanoe and Tyler, too: U.S. Presidents William Henry Harrison and John Tyler

William Henry Harrison

In the 1840 election William Henry Harrison’s Whig party supporters got some extra help from a Democratic newspaper. The paper claimed that if he got his pension and a barrel of cider, Harrison would retire to a log cabin in Ohio. As a result people thought of Harrison as a common man, despite the fact that he was the son of a wealthy Virginian who signed the Declaration of Independence. Supporters nicknamed Harrison “Tippecanoe” after a battle he had fought against a confederation of Native Americans. “Tippecanoe and Tyler, too” made a catchy campaign slogan.

Official White House Portrait of William Henry Harrison

Official White House Portrait of William Henry Harrison

The election also gave birth to the American expression “O.K.” Democrats used O.K. as affectionate shorthand for Harrison’s opponent, Martin Van Buren, who was known as “Old Kinderhook” after the town in New York where he grew up.

Harrison was the first Whig party candidate to win a presidential election. The Whig party had formed out of opposition to President Jackson’s policies. Whigs wanted a strong federal government and social reforms.

Harrison was mainly nominated and elected because he had few political enemies and didn’t share his personal opinions. No one knows what kind of president he would have been because he died from pneumonia one month after his inauguration. He was the first president, though not the last, to die in office.

John Tyler

Tyler’s succeeding Harrison established the precedent of the vice-president taking over for a deceased president. Yet, since the Constitution didn’t specifically state what the vice-president’s role was in case a president died, not everyone thought Tyler should become president. John Quincy Adams referred to Tyler as “His Accidency.”

Official White House Portrait of John Tyler

Official White House Portrait of John Tyler

Shortly after taking the oath of office, Tyler’s wife died, which made him the first president to become a widower in office. Tyler soon married Julia Gardiner, a young woman thirty years younger than he.

In many ways, Tyler seemed like a natural fit for the presidency. At fifty-one he already had political experience serving as a governor and a congressman. His tall, thin frame made him stand out in a crowd, and he had an excellent speaking voice.

Tyler was a former Democrat who had switched over to the Whig party during Jackson’s presidency. Yet he still felt strongly about states’ rights. This feeling got him into trouble with his party, which favored a strong federal government. He vetoed bills that Whigs in Congress and in his cabinet wanted.

After vetoing a tariff bill introduced by Whigs, the first ever impeachment resolution of a president was made against Tyler. The resolution failed. Nevertheless, Tyler remained a mainly ineffectual executive.

Though he supported the annexation of Texas, the Senate would not approve it until Tyler’s successor James Polk was elected so that Tyler’s administration could not take credit. Tyler stated, “A Vice President, who succeeds to the Presidency by the demise of the President…has no party at his heels to sustain his measures.”

My History Book is Finally Published!

My proof copy of my book, Passionate Crusaders: How Members of the U.S. War Refugee Board Saved Jews and Altered American Foreign Policy during World War II arrived in the mail this week. After finding, as my friend’s daughter would say, a couple of “uh-ohs” in the proof, it’s finally done. I promised to limit myself to a few photos and my Amazon link for my fellow history buffs.

http://www.amazon.com/Passionate-Crusaders-Members-Refugee-American-ebook/dp/B00UEMCYQW/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1426289159&sr=8-1&keywords=passionate+crusaders

My book's selfie

My book’s selfie

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Reading my book with my favorite dog, Zoey

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One happy author!

Isn’t my cover designer (Jane Dixon-Smith) great?

Why History 4 Kids has Moved

I wanted to update my readers on the reasons why I moved my blog and changed its name from History 4 Kids to Heather on History.

  • The new site covers more than just history for kids, though it will be family friendly.
  • I’ll be posting about the process of writing and publishing history books for both adults and kids.
  • Book reviews for all ages will eventually be included.
  • Previous posts didn’t reflect my personality.

I’m hoping that you’ll find my new blog entertaining and informative.

 

Surprising Facts about Eleanor Roosevelt

Official White House Portrait of Eleanor Roosevelt

Official White House Portrait of Eleanor Roosevelt

  • She was very shy. Though she did a lot of public speaking as First Lady, Eleanor Roosevelt was a shy child. Even as a teenager, she worried that she would not attract a husband. Despite her worries, Eleanor became the first wife of a U.S. president to hold press conferences, speak at a national party convention, and write her own newspaper column. As she looked back on her life, Eleanor hoped others would see that “in spite of timidity and fear, in spite of a lack of special talents, one can find a way to live widely and fully.”
  • First wife of a president to drive a car by herself. As First Lady, Eleanor insisted on driving her own car, and wanted to go for drives without the Secret Service. President Franklin Roosevelt’s concern for her safety caused Eleanor to make some compromises. She sometimes traveled with a private bodyguard, and she also learned how to shoot a small gun. She admitted to the readers of her newspaper column that she was not an expert, but “if the necessity arose, I do know how to use a pistol.”
  • Loved to fly in airplanes and wanted flying lessons. Eleanor was the first president’s wife to ride in an airplane, and she told her friend Amelia Earhart that she hoped FDR would let her take flying lessons. FDR said no to the lessons, but that didn’t stop Eleanor from traveling by plane. Most Americans thought flying was dangerous in the 1930s, so Eleanor’s frequent plane rides helped airlines change some people’s minds.
  • Helped African Americans serve as pilots in World War II. In 1941, Eleanor traveled to the Tuskegee Institute, which provided education and job skills for African Americans. The Institute had an aviation program so students could learn to fly. Many hoped to be included in the air force in World War II, but the public doubted if blacks could really be good pilots. When Eleanor visited the program, she asked to fly with one of the Tuskegee pilots. He flew her over Alabama for an hour. After the flight, the pilot and Eleanor had their picture taken in the plane. The photo of the smiling First Lady sitting next to a black pilot made people think that African Americans might be competent airmen. With a little help from Eleanor, President Roosevelt decided to use Tuskegee pilots in combat.

The Childhood of President Theodore Roosevelt

Official White House Portrait of Theodore Roosevelt

Official White House Portrait of Theodore Roosevelt

Theodore Roosevelt is remembered as one of the most athletic U.S. presidents. When he was a child, Theodore’s father worried about his son’s health. From the day he was born in 1858, Theodore Roosevelt, nicknamed “Teedie” or Teddy, suffered from asthma attacks. Since Theodore’s mother Mittie was often ill, his father Theodore Roosevelt Senior walked up and down the halls of the family’s house as the boy struggled to breathe. Other times, Theodore’s father ordered a horse and carriage in the middle of the night so Theodore could get some fresh air. Theodore Roosevelt later wrote that “I could breathe, I could sleep, when he had me in his arms.”

Since Theodore and his three siblings all had health problems, their father arranged for them to have private tutoring. Their father did his best to make learning fun by creating plays for them and reading stories. Theodore liked stories about men fighting in battles and stories about animals.

When the family went on vacation at Oyster Bay in Long Island, New York, Theodore noticed birds he had never seen before. He began to study their colors and the sounds they made. Theodore’s father had a professional taxidermist teach the boy how to stuff and mount dead birds for his natural history collection. Other family member and friends were less enthusiastic about Theodore’s collection, but his father thought anything that helped his son learn about the world was worthwhile.

Since the Roosevelt children didn’t attend school, their parents included a lot of field trips and traveling in their education. Theodore’s father helped establish the American Museum of Natural History and the Children’s Aid Society for poor children. He took his children with him when he visited children’s hospitals. By the time he went to college, Theodore toured many European countries and also went to the Middle East. During the Middle East tour, he loved finding exotic animals that didn’t live in the U.S.

Theodore’s father also encouraged his son to make his body as strong as his mind. He told Theodore, “You have the mind, but…you must make your body.” After two boys picked a fight with him and he lost, Theodore realized that his father was right. A gym was set up in the family home for Theodore to practice weight lifting and gymnastics. He also took up boxing. It took a long time, but Theodore eventually became more athletic.

In college Theodore continued his exercise program and his interest in animals. When Theodore’s father died, he decided to change his major from natural history to history and government. He wanted to honor his father’s memory by doing something useful. Though not everyone in his family supported his decision, Theodore thought a career in politics would allow him to help the most people.

Further Reading:  The Theodore Roosevelt Center: http://www.theodorerooseveltcenter.org

The Bully Pulpit by Doris Kearns Goodwin, Ch. 2

The Education of President Harry S. Truman

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Though young Harry Truman spent his early years living with his parents and siblings on his grandfather’s farm, his family soon moved to nearby Independence, Missouri. From that point on, Harry thought of Independence as his hometown.

His mother Mattie, a well-educated woman, favored the move because Independence had better schools. She read aloud to Harry and gave him a love of books and music. By age five, he could read simple sentences. Harry’s reading ability made school easier for him. He also knew how to get along with his teachers and parents to get what he wanted. “I used to watch my mother and father closely to learn what I could do to please them, just as I did with my schoolteachers and playmates,” Harry said later.

Harry had a special reason for wanting to be judged for his behavior. A kid wearing glasses was a rare thing in a farm town, and Harry’s schoolmates teased him. Since he was also not very tall, they called Harry “little four-eyes.” Despite some teasing, Harry earned the respect of the other kids. He didn’t participate in many sports because of fear of breaking his expensive glasses, but he knew how to settle an argument with words instead of fists. His sense of fairness made him a popular referee during games.

Still, there was no doubt that Harry had different goals from his classmates. He enjoyed reading so much that he claimed to have read all the books in the Independence public library. Favorite books included biographies of military leaders like Andrew Jackson and Robert E. Lee. He admired these men for their honesty, a trait he was later known for as president.

Harry’s love of piano playing set him apart, too since girls and not boys usually took music lessons. His parents thought his talent should be encouraged, so Harry received piano lessons for as long as his father could afford them. When he graduated from high school, Harry hoped to go to college, join the military, or become a concert pianist.

Unfortunately, Harry’s father John Truman made some bad investments. Harry’s hopes to attend college or even continue piano lessons were dashed. Instead, he worked various jobs. He eventually became a bank clerk and made a good salary. Once again, his duty to his family called him away. His mother inherited the family farm and his father asked Harry to help him run it. Under Harry’s careful management, the farm made a profit.

Although he finally had some success, there were no signs that Harry Truman would become a famous politician and future president. His future mother-in-law said to her daughter Bessie, “That farmer boy is not going to make it anywhere.” Years later, “that farmer boy” proved her wrong.