Happy Presidents Day

I watched a large chunk of the History Channel's series on The Presidents on Saturday. I came away with an understanding of how little I had known about many of them. Part of that is due to the way we learn our American history. It seems that there are a few major crises in the past that punctuated long periods of time when nothing much was happening. We look back at things that animated past political discussions like tariffs and the gold standard and they seem pretty inconsequential to us, although they were certainly not so at the time. So less-famous Presidents like Polk or Arthur don't get the recognition today that they should for some of the things that they accomplished.

Another interesting thing I discussed via e-mail with my friend Barbara last week was Presidential facial hair. All of the first fifteen Presidents were clean-shaven. Abraham Lincoln was the first president to grow a beard. Andrew Johnson was clean-shaven as well, but then nine of the next ten Presidents had facial hair: Ulysses S. Grant (beard and moustache), Rutherford Hayes (beard and moustache), James Garfield (beard and moustache), Chester Arthur (moustache and BIG sideburns), Grover Cleveland (moustache), Benjamin Harrison (beard and moustache), Cleveland again, William McKinley (the clean-shaven exception), Theodore Roosevelt (bully moustache) and William Taft (moustache). Starting with Woodrow Wilson in 1913, all American Presidents have been clean-shaven, at least while in office. But for half a century, facial hair was the norm for American Presidents.