Although these presidential-related posts have not proved to be as popular as I thought they’d be (maybe I should have included a tax refund?), I might as well finish what I started. So let’s continue with the Presidents’ Day posts, you know, learning about the forty-four men who got to call themselves commander-in-chief (check out Part 1 & Part 2 & Part 3 in case you missed them)!!!
No President is linked more with golf than Dwight “Ike” Eisenhower, who played more than 800 rounds, a quarter of them at Augusta National Golf Club, during his eight years in office. That’s a lot of golf! He helped popularize the sport, which is the main reason why he was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame. His golf clubs are on display at the National Museum of American History.
When you think of President John F. Kennedy, you probably think of his assassination and the conspiracies surrounding it (there’s a new show on Hulu about this topic in case you need something else to watch). Two years ago, for the fiftieth anniversary of JFK’s death, Lee Harvey Oswald’s shirt that he wore when he was arrested (as well as a hundred other artifacts) was on display at the Newseum in Washington, D.C. as part of the “Three Shots Were Fired” exhibit.
Okay, this might not be an artifact but the joke-cracking Lyndon B. Johnson robot at the Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum in Austin, Texas is an icon when it comes to presidential robots. Part of the museum since 1997, the robot used to lean against a fence dressed like a cowboy with the sound of sitcom canned laughter. His jokes were all recorded at official state dinners. He got a makeover and now wears a suit, while standing at a podium. But don’t worry LBJ still tells the same five dumb jokes.
You’ve probably all seen the iconic photo of the bizarre meeting of Elvis Presley and President Richard Nixon at the Oval Office in December of 1970 (there’s even a movie about it). For some reason Elvis wanted a badge from the federal Bureau of Narcotics and Drugs so he wrote a letter to the President. A meeting was arranged and Elvis, in a purple velvet suit with a huge gold belt buckle and amber sunglasses, gave Nixon a gift, which was a Colt .45 pistol mounted in a case. It is now on display at the Richard Nixon Library and Birthplace.
This Bicentennial caricature of Gerald Ford, known as “Rock Jerry, “was presented to future Vice President and Ford’s Chief of Staff, Dick Cheney, while he was on a trip to Philadelphia in September 1976. The sculpture, created by artist Michael Manning, weighs approximately 70 pounds and is made of Pennsylvania river stone. It’s now on display at the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library & Museum in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
In case you didn’t know, President Jimmy Carter was once a peanut farmer. The most photographed thing in Carter’s birthplace and hometown of Plains, Georgia is a thirteen-foot-tall statue, crafted in plaster and mesh, that pays homage his peanut farming days. Created during the presidential election of 1976, Carter’s trademark big-tooth grin is accurately portrayed on the peanut, almost too well.
While Governor of California in 1967, future President Ronald Reagan tried to quit his pipe-smoking habit by eating jelly beans. Supposedly his favorite flavor was licorice. He also liked to keep a jar of them on his desk for important meetings. Why, you ask? “You can tell a lot about a fella’s character by whether he picks out all of one color or just grabs a handful.” This portrait of Ronnie, created entirely out of 10,000 jelly beans, is on display at Reagan’s Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California.
I did not know this, but both Presidents Harry S. Truman and George H.W. Bush really enjoyed pitching horseshoes. Bush liked it so much, he even had a horseshoe pit built at the presidential retreat Camp David in 1989. That same year artist Patrick Oliphant created a satiric portraiture of Bush the horseshoe player. The bronze sculpture is now on display at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C.
As a preteen who watched a lot of television, I vividly recall seeing 1992 presidential candidate Bill Clinton play the saxophone on the Arsenio Hall Show like it was yesterday (watch a video clip here). Serious candidates appeared only on serious news programs, but Clinton needed something to stand out from the crowd so he went on a late-night talk show and wailed soulful renditions of “Heartbreak Hotel” and “God Bless The Child.” It changed political history. The most famous presidential musical instrument is now on display at the National Museum of American History.
Now on display at the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum, who doesn’t remember President George W. Bush speaking with a bullhorn from atop the rubble at the site of the World Trade Center in New York City on September 14, 2001? Through this bullhorn, Bush told first responders working in the debris, “I can hear you. The rest of the world hears you. And the people who knocked these buildings down will hear all of us soon.”
President Barack Obama is still the President of the United States, and will be for the next eleven months, so unlike the other Presidents he doesn’t have his own museum yet. But when it opens in Chicago sometime in the future, something tells me this official White House photograph of him sitting on the famed Rosa Parks bus at the Henry Ford Museum in 2012 will be featured somewhere inside. We’ll always have tangible objects, but nothing is more powerful than an image in today’s presidential politics.