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Tag: abraham lincoln

Reverse the (Zero) Curse

President Reagan looking at "Get Well Soon Mr. President" photo while at George Washington Hospital. 4/8/81. (Reagan Library)

President Reagan looking at "Get Well Soon Mr. President" photo while at George Washington Hospital. 4/8/81. (Reagan Library)

When Ronald Reagan survived the attempt on his life on March 30, 1981, and went on to serve two full four-year terms, he broke what some people call “the year-ending-in-zero” curse.

It goes like this: Every President elected in a year ending in zero since 1840 had died in office.

William Henry Harrison, elected in 1840, died after one month in office of pneumonia; he also was our shortest serving President. On his inauguration day, then on March 4, he gave a two-hour speech without hat or topcoat, then rode through the streets of Washington. He was succeeded by John Tyler. (Remember Tippecanoe and Tyler too!)

Abraham Lincoln, elected in 1860, was assassinated a month into his second term, on April 12, 1865, by John Wilkes Booth. He was succeeded by Andrew Johnson.

President Harrison was the first President to be stricken by the Zero-Year Curse (111-SC-92615; ARC 530961).

President Harrison was the first President to be stricken by the Zero-Year Curse (111-SC-92615; ARC 530961).

James A. Garfield, elected in 1880, was assassinated in 1881 after only 199 days in office, succeeded by Chester A. Arthur. William McKinley, elected in 1896 and reelected in 1900, was mortally wounded in September 1901 and died eight days later, succeeded by Theodore Roosevelt.

Warren G. Harding, elected in 1920, died in 1923 of a heart attack … [ Read all ]

Facial Hair Friday—Edward Bates

Edward Bates, Attorney General in the Lincoln administration. (ARC 528314; 111-B-4168)

Edward Bates, Attorney General in the Lincoln administration. (ARC 528314; 111-B-4168)

Edward Bates was living quietly and comfortably in 1860. He had been out of public life for two decades but now was being courted by backers for the highest office in the land. The new Republican Party’s nomination for President of the United States was wide open, and a number of contenders were vying for the prize.

Those who urged Bates to put his hat in the ring considered his standing as an elder statesman of Missouri (he’d arrived in St. Louis in 1814 and been a delegate to the state constitution convention) and his previous public service (state legislator, U.S. Representative, judge). Perhaps they were also swayed by his impressive whiskers, which give him a patriarchal air.

Bates did not win the nomination—a beardless lawyer from Illinois won the party’s backing and the Presidency. When the newly be-whiskered Abraham Lincoln was filling his Cabinet, though, he called on Bates to be his Attorney General. Bates was part of the unlikely “team of rivals” brought together by Lincoln. Two other former Presidential candidates, William Seward and Salmon P. Chase, were brought into the Cabinet as Secretary of State and Secretary of the Treasury. (Another member of the Cabinet, Secretary of War Edwin Stanton has been a Facial Hair Friday honoree.)

President Lincoln himself remarked on Edward … [ Read all ]

It’s Washington’s Birthday—really

George Washington. Copy of painting by Gilbert Stuart: 1931 - 1932  ARC Identifier 532888 / Local Identifier 148-GW-426

George Washington. Copy of painting by Gilbert Stuart. (ARC 532888 / 148-GW-42)

Monday is a federal holiday, but what holiday is it? So many ads on television and in print tell us it’s Presidents/President’s/Presidents’ Day. Images of Lincoln and Washington sometimes accompany these ads.

But here at the National Archives, we know it’s still officially Washington’s Birthday. This year the holiday is actually close to GW’s birthday (February 22), but in many years the holiday falls closes to Lincoln’s (February 12).

How did this once-fixed holiday become blurred and shared with all U.S. Presidents? Look to the Uniform Monday Holiday Bill of 1968, which moved the observance of our first President’s birth from its actual day to the third Monday of February.

Read the whole story in Prologue: “By George, IT IS Washington’s Birthday” (Winter 2004).… [ Read all ]

Top Ten Pieces of History for 2010


Have a Safe and Happy New Year's Eve!

Since April 2010, we’ve brought you more than 100 Pieces of History. Nothing too small, too strange, or too obscure has escaped the spotlight of our blog or the scalpel of your clever comments.

And we are still discovering new pieces of history every day here at the National Archives! But before we go forward into the 2011, let’s take a look back at some of the posts that our readers (and us, the writers) liked best.

TEN: Admittedly, Horace Greeley does not have the most massive chin whiskers of our Facial Hair Fridays stars, but the word “neard” has been introduced into our vocabulary. The world will never be the same.

NINE: With the “Discovering the Civil War” exhibit in full swing, it turns out there is a lot we didn’t know about the Civil War. Ten things, in fact.

EIGHT: Though the Constitution might have preventing her from voting, it did not prohibit Jeanette Rankin from joining the House of Representatives.

SEVEN: Time and space collide when William Shatner is Norton P. Chipman!

SIX: West Virginia–is it actually a state in the Constitutional sense?

FIVE:  The people of Alaska wake up new American citizens and eleven days in the future.

FOUR: Is that a moleskine in your pocket or a mole skin in your file?

THREE:  What’s in your … [ Read all ]

Lincoln to slaves: go somewhere else


DC Emancipation Act, April 1862 showing money to be set aside for deportation (ARC 299814)

The issue of slavery divided the country under Abraham  Lincoln’s Presidency. The national argument was simple: either keep slavery or abolish it. But Abraham Lincoln, known as the Great Emancipator, may have also been known as the Great Colonizer when he supported a third direction to the slavery debate: move African Americans somewhere else.

Long before the Civil War, in 1854, Lincoln addressed his own solution to slavery at a speech delivered in Peoria, Illinois: “I should not know what to do as to the existing institution [of slavery]. My first impulse would be to free all the slaves, and send them to Liberia, to their own native land.” While Lincoln acknowledged this was logistically impossible, by the time he assumed the Presidency and a Civil War was underfoot, the nation was in such duress that he tried it anyway.

By early 1861, Lincoln ordered a secret trip to modern-day Panama to investigate the land of a Philadelphian named Ambrose Thompson. Thompson had volunteered his Chiriqui land as a refuge for freed slaves. The slaves would work in the abundant coal mines on his property, the coal would be sold to the Navy, and the profits would go to the freed slaves to further build up their new land.

Lincoln sought to … [ Read all ]