Letting the Dead Rest in Peace

coffin torpedo grave robbers body snatchers

Grave robbery was not something that just showed up in Frankenstein stories. In the last half of the 19th century, human corpses were in high demand by medical schools, and the body snatching market grew in response. No one’s remains were considered off limits. Extraordinary measures had to be taken to protect the body of President Abraham Lincoln.  One notable person whose body was stolen was John Scott Harrison, the only man who was both the son of a US President (William Henry Harrison) and the father of a US President (Benjamin Harrison). Outrage over the theft of his mortal remains sparked the first landmark legislation to address the growing problem. Continue reading

When POTUS Has to Ask for Mommy’s Help

JFK letter to mother Kruschev autograph

He may have been the most powerful man in the world, but John F. Kennedy learned that there are some things even the President of the United States can’t do. He commanded a military of nearly 3 million people who would follow his orders without question, but there was one person to whom he needed to say, “Please.” That person who could reduce POTUS to a little boy was none other than his mother. Continue reading

Was His Birth a Clue to the Madness That Would Come?

John Hinckley Jr. Was born in a sanitarium
John Hinckley, Jr. and the two mental hospitals that served as bookends of his life.

John Hinckley, Jr. will be forever remembered as the man who attempted to assassinate President Ronald Reagan on March 30, 1981. He was found not guilty by reason of insanity and confined to St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in Washington, DC for treatment for narcissistic and schizotypal personality disorder and major depressive disorder.

In an ironic bit of foreshadowing, history records that 25 years earlier John Hinckley, Jr. entered this world in another mental health institution. He was born at Hardy Sanitarium, in Ardmore, Oklahoma. 

The President’s Finger on the Button: Disaster, Dessert, or POTUS Pranks?

Button on President's desk
Hollywood has immortalized the image of the fate of the world resting on a shiny red button on the desk of the President of the United States. With a single press of that button, life as we know it would come to a brutal, inglorious end. It makes for good fiction, but that just isn’t the way it works. When the President pushes a button, it is generally for something far more mundane.  Continue reading

The President with 5 Stars Also Had Wings

President Dwight Eisenhower first president with a pilot license
President Dwight D. Eisenhower

If you are looking for a poster child for “overachiever” you might consider Dwight D. Eisenhower.

This Kansas farm boy rose from modest beginnings to become one of only five Americans to achieve the five-star rank of General of the Army and the only one of those to become President of the United States. (see note below) Continue reading

The Ultimate Rental House Fixer-Upper

White House Truman renovation

As President Harry Truman’s daughter, Margaret, played the piano one day, she was startled as one leg of the piano suddenly dropped through the floor of the White House residential level. Engineers were called in to see what was going on, and the report was nothing short of alarming.

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Royal Bill Referral

Calvin Coolidge send bill to King of England

President Calvin Coolidge was forced to move out of the White House in 1927 for six months so extensive remodeling and repairs could take place. In the course of the repairs, the architect showed the president the extreme damage that had occurred to the rafters when the White House was burned by British troops during the War of 1812.

The architect insisted that the rafters be replaced and asked whether the new rafters should be wood or steel beams. Coolidge was notoriously thrifty but ultimately decided in favor of the more durable option. He justified the extra expense, declaring, “All right. Put in the steel beams and send the bill to the King of England.”

Boller, P. F. (2007). Presidential Anecdotes (p. 244). Philadelphia: Running Press.