I really enjoyed writing my post Fascinating Photos of American Presidents and was thrilled that so many people enjoyed it, so I decided to follow it up with a part two! Here is another round of fascinating photos of our Commanders-In-Chief!
President Calvin Coolidge
Speaking of chiefs, from what I can gather this was likely a proud moment personally for Calvin Coolidge when members of the Sioux tribe honored him in 1927 for his friendly policies towards Native Americans including granting them U.S. Citizenship with the Indian Citizen Act of 1924. Chauncey Yellow Robe, a descendant of Sitting Bull was the one who suggested Coolidge be inducted into the tribe. At the Sioux ceremony in North Dakota in 1927, President Coolidge is seen here in a grand ceremonial feathered headdress given to him by Sioux Chief Henry Standing Bear. It still wasn’t all roses for Native Americans during Coolidge’s presidency as not all oppressive policies were reversed, but it seems President Coolidge felt a moral obligation to do what he could.
President Richard Nixon
I have always been fascinated with this scene of President Nixon leaving the White House after his resignation following the Watergate scandal. I studied the Vietnam War in college and I’ve watched the Frost/Nixon interviews so I am familiar with aspects of his presidency but I haven’t read a Nixon biography yet and I was too young to remember him as President personally. Most captions and articles I see refer to Nixon’s fondness for making the “victory sign” with his fingers in a “V” (I guess I thought those were peace signs). Meanwhile I would expect Richard Nixon to put on a brave and presidential face in the face of such adversity, but I can’t help but think he gives the over-the-top performance of looking downright giddy and, well, victorious if those are victory signs. Maybe the fact that it was over was a weight off of his shoulders and he truly did feel good for the first time in a while, or maybe I’m just overanalyzing. For those who remember this what did you think at the time? Not that there were multiple 24 hour news channels to play it over and over and over…
President James Garfield
I’m partial to photos of Presidents just being dads and this is another gem I came across. Most photos of President Garfield show him with a serious expression but I swear I detect a proud smiling in his eyes here. This photo was taken about a decade before he became president in the early 1870’s. He may not be flat out smiling here but how can cute little Mollie Garfield not make you grin? Proud dad! I love it.
President Dwight D. Eisenhower
President Eisenhower was an avid golfer and here he is enjoying a wonderful (if not so private) moment giving a lesson to his grandson David. This photo was taken in Fraser, Colorado in August of 1955. Look at the corps of photographers! 6 of them plus however many there were shooting from our vantage point in this photo! I wonder how this was set up – were they all invited to come along for this photo op? Were they all from different news agencies? How far did they have to travel to get this very important photo? You know the first family lives under a microscope today but this clearly is not a completely new phenomenon as this photo would imply.
President Woodrow Wilson
President Taft started the tradition of Presidents throwing out the first ball at major league baseball games and Woodrow Wilson was up next. Here we see a vibrant and happy President Wilson throwing out the first pitch from his seat in 1916. In later years Presidents would start taking to the pitcher’s mound to throw the pitch in some cases with a baseball mitt and all.
President George W. Bush
I will always give President Bush credit and appreciate him for the leadership he displayed here. Three days after 9/11 President Bush went to ground zero in New York City where the World Trade Center had just been destroyed along with thousands of lives by terrorists. Fires were still burning there and America was shaken. It was a very scary time. For me it was comforting to see President Bush there in plainclothes and a bullhorn announcing to the workers there (who were having trouble hearing him) and indeed the entire world that “the people who knocked these buildings down will hear all of us soon!”
President Chester Arthur
That coat! I want it. It is so cool looking and I bet it was warm! As I sit here writing this we’ve been hit by a snowpacolypse in Metro Detroit with well over a foot of snow and -14 temperatures and for some, 5 straight days of no school, so a good warm coat in this blog post is timely. Chester Arthur was seriously into his appearance and his style, and I am not just saying that as a personal observation based on this photo. This has actually been well documented and he was often called “Elegant Arthur” for the clothes he wore.
President Andrew Johnson
I can’t help but think Andrew Johnson looks a little like Tommy Lee Jones here. This photo was taken in 1860 five years before Andrew Johnson became president as a result of Abe Lincoln’s assassination while he was serving as a senator from Tennessee. President Johnson was born into poverty so he does get credit for traveling such an unlikely path all the way to the White House against what would seem to be pretty steep odds even if he wasn’t the most successful president in office. In his defense Abe Lincoln would be a fairly tough act to follow while trying to patch up a country that had just been ripped apart by a devastating war between the states…
President Bill Clinton
C’mon you know this is cool. I deliberately picked photos of two recent presidents that put them in a favorable light – at opposite ends of the spectrum in terms of one being at a very heavy and somber moment and the other at a very light and fun moment. Bipartisanship has been ugly in recent years, but to me you can’t take away these moments for both President Bush and President Clinton regardless of your political tendencies. This blog is not a place to get political even if we’re talking about Presidents. It’s totally cool for a newly elected president to go on late night television and jam with the band on saxophone. I’ll always think that was cool that he did that. If you don’t agree I say you’re just wrong, or just not that cool yourself.
President Andrew Jackson
President Jackson was a complex man with a mix of villain as well as hero to many that isn’t easily reconciled or agreed upon, but his impact on the country can’t be denied. American Lion may be the most fascinating bio of a President that I’ve read yet. He was a classic tough guy but “Old Hickory” wasn’t exactly the picture of health for much of his adult life, and when photography became available towards the very end of his life several photographs were made of him and he doesn’t look good. You can find them online pretty easily but I am not sure if I had seen this one or not. It is hard to tell because the original is in such bad shape. Whether this photo has been restored to other versions that I have seen before I am not totally sure. I pulled this directly from the Library of Congress and I included it partly because the horrible state of a such an important photo is interesting in and of itself. I would like to know that part of the story – why wasn’t better care taken not to ruin it?
President Franklin Pierce
I feel like this is a lesser known photo of President Pierce. This is another one of those early photos that is not in very good shape and I believe it was taken before he became president (not positive about that). While there isn’t much about this photo that distinguishes it beyond that, I have a soft spot for President Pierce because of the awful tragedy he suffered. He had three sons who all died in childhood, the third – Benjamin, died right before Mr. and Mrs. Pierce’s eyes in a train accident at the age of 11 between the time of the election and the inauguration. He and his wife Jane never really recovered. How could they? I can’t imagine….
President Grover Cleveland
I love this full length photo of Grover Cleveland. I will be getting around to studying him soon and there is a book in particular I have my eye on called The President Is A Sick Man. Much is made of President Taft’s size but President Cleveland looks like a big and imposing man to me. At 5’11” he was still tall for the late 19th century. Everyone knows that he served two non-consecutive terms but do most people stop to think about that? I would say this guy was a pretty dominant figure for his time and we don’t seem to hear that much about him. My initial take is that he was quite a principled no-nonsense man who just put his head down and worked.
Presidents in the Oval Office, 1981
I love the camaraderie of former presidents. What a photo! What a fraternity. Proud and (I believe) genuinely happy in each others company – makes me want to put this on my wall.
Presidents in the Oval Office, 2009
…and the more recent version. Awesome!