April 02, 2009|
As we continue with the birthdays of the presidents, April brings us four birthdays. The first is that of Thomas Jefferson and one would probably think that there is nothing about Jefferson that we don’t already know. Jefferson was a tall man, 6’2” tall and had very large hands and feet, red hair tied with a pony tail and he was nicknamed Red Fox. He, of course, was one of the best writers of his time, was an inventor of the swivel chair, revolving music stand, a pedometer, the dumbwaiter, and he helped to develop the American money system. Also an architect, Jefferson used his knowledge to design the U.S. Capitol building, Monticello, the University of Virginia for which he appointed the first president. One of the many unusual habits that Jefferson had was to wash his feet in cold water each morning to ward off colds…it must have worked as he was not sick a day in his life other than when he died on July 4, 1826.
During Jefferson’s presidency, 1801-1809, the Louisiana Purchase doubled the size of the United States; Alexander Hamilton was killed in a duel with Aaron Burr, the first steamboat was launched by Robert Fulton, and a professional prize fight was won for the first time by a black man.
James Monroe, a Democratic-Republican as was Jefferson, was born also in Virginia. He studied law under Jefferson, became governor of Virginia, U.S. Senator, Ambassador to France as was Jefferson. His term of office was 1817-1825 and during this time Florida was acquired from Spain. The Santa Fe Trail was opened and the first public high school was opened. Monroe died penniless as his wife and daughters wore expensive clothes, were very free spenders, and threw parties without the knowledge of the President. Five new states were admitted to the union, the Monroe Doctrine warned other countries that the Americas were not open to future colonization, the first steamship crossed the Atlantic and the first machine that made paper was produced.
James Buchanan was born in Pennsylvania, was a Democrat, and served as President 1857-1861. When he was 28 years of age, his fiancée died. Buchanan vowed never to marry, and he was the only president to remain a bachelor during his term of office. He became ambassador to Russia, was a U.S. Senator, and was President Polk’s Secretary of State. The Dred Scott Decision occurred during his presidency, an occurrence that helped start the Civil War. Also, John Brown tried to start a revolution of the slaves, federal troops tried to capture Brown and his men, and Brown was tried and hung. During his presidency the North and the South moved closer to the Civil War, seven states withdrew from the Union, Jefferson Davis became president of the Confederacy, gold was discovered in Colorado, the first transatlantic telegram was sent and the Pony Express was formed to deliver mail to the West Coast.
Amazing that the birthday of Ulysses S. Grant would come next. Grant was a Republican from Illinois, held office 1869-1877, changed his name from Hiram Ulysses Grant because he didn’t like his initials, HUG. So, taking the maiden name of his mother for his middle name, Ulysses Simpson Grant graduated from West Point in the bottom of his class, served in the Mexican War, and became a drinker and left the army. With the Civil War beginning, he rejoined the army and commanded a regiment of volunteers from Illinois.
He was known as “Unconditional Surrender” Grant, began drinking again, and was not promoted. Yellowstone National Park was established while Grant was President, the White House was remodeled, he quit his drinking but smoked at least 20 cigars a day. During his presidency, General Custer and his men were killed by Indians at the Battle of the Little Big Horn, the United States celebrated its 100th birthday, Mark Twain wrote “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” and the first college football game was played. Alexander Graham Bell patented the telephone during Grant’s second term, and two members of Congress and five federal judges resigned to avoid impeachment. Grant died in New York on July 23, 1885.