Internet users are able to view much of the collection of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.
Look at the middle of the right hand side of the link I provide above.
The print at the top of this post is titled Secretary Seward Buys Alaska.
This work was completed in 1973 by Warrington Colescott.
Secretary of State William Seward is buying Alaska from the Russians in this painting while a cast of characters look on.
Animals are looking on as well.
Nobody seems to be up to any good. Even the animals seem to have an angle.
Here is a picture of the check used to purchase Alaska in 1868. This took place during the administration of President Andrew Johnson.
The Smithsonian provides an excellent resource by making this art so easily available to the general public.
There is so much to learn and understand if we take the time to do so.
Considering a work of art can lead us to any number of subjects to study, and to discoveries and reflections about history and public life and about our own lives as well.
(Blogger’s Note–This is a post from late 2007. With President Obama turning 49 tomorrow, I thought it would be a good time to run the post again.)
With much discussion of the relative youth of Senator Barack Obama, who is 46, here is a list of U.S. Presidents who have taken office in their 40′s with their age and year they were sworn in. Also included are the more notable aspects in the careers of our youngest Presidents before reaching the White House and a very brief account of their time in the White House.
The links for the Presidents are to the Miller Center of Public Affairs at the University of Virginia. The information on the Presidents is first-rate and well worth taking time to review and study
Polk served two years in the Tennessee House, two years as Governor of Tennessee and 14 years in the U.S House. For four years Polk was Speaker of the U.S. House.
Polk was an aggressive President in terms of territorial expansion of the United States. He acquired Oregon by treaty and much of Mexico by force in the Mexican-American War. He was not very helpful if you were a slave or a Native American. Some say Polk was too quick to go to war with Mexico.
Pierce served four years in the New Hampshire House, four years in the U.S. House and five years in the U.S. Senate.
Pierce is considered one of our worst Presidents for his inability to deal effectively with the tensions between the North and South. 65 year old James Buchanan did little better as Pierce’s successor.
Grant spent 15 years in the army and led the Union army in the Civil War. Grant was also Secretary of War in 1867 and ’68 under Andrew Johnson.
The common view of Grant is that though Grant was not personally corrupt, he led a corrupt administration.
Garfield spent 17 years in the U.S House from Ohio. He was the chairman of a number of House committees over that time. Garfield saw combat in the Civil War and reached the rank of Major General.
Garfield was shot and killed nine months after becoming President.
Cleveland had been an Assistant District Attorney of Erie County New York, Sheriff of Erie County and Mayor of Buffalo. He was Governor of New York for two years.
Cleveland , in my view, should be known best for his refusal to aid struggling farmers and for his allegiance to Gilded Age politics.
The youngest President, Roosevelt had the experience of two years in the New York House, six years on the U.S. Civil Service Commission and two years as Police Commissioner of New York City. He was also an Assistant Secretary of the Navy under William McKinley, Governor of New York for two years and Vice President for McKinley for just over six months before McKinley was assassinated.
Roosevelt was our first “progressive” President. He expanded the reach of government into health and safety regulation. He also was a major behind-the-scenes player in a revolution in Panama that allowed the United States to acquire the land for the Panama Canal. Roosevelt was always doped up on his own testosterone so it is hard to know if he ever matured at any point in his life.
Kennedy served in WW II, was elected to three terms in the U.S. House from Massachusetts and was a member of the U.S. Senate for 8 years.
Kennedy’s Presidency was cut short. he began a number of the liberal reforms that were carried on by Lyndon Johnson.
Clinton had been Attorney General of Arkansas for two years and Governor of that state for ten years.
Everybody has their own view of Bill Clinton.
Our youngest Vice President was John Breckinridge of Kentucky. Breckinridge was 36 when sworn-in in 1857 to serve with President Buchanan. After his one term in office, Breckinridge served as a General in the Confederate Army. Before the Vice Presidency, Breckinridge had been an officer in the Mexican-American War and a member of the Kentucky House and the U.S. House.
William Jennings Bryan of Nebraska is the youngest major party nominee for the Presidency. Bryan was 36 when he won the Democratic nomination in 1896. Bryan had served two terms in the U.S. House.
Senator Obama would be 47 on Inauguration Day 2009. He served eight years in the Illinois Senate and by 2009 would have four years in the U.S. Senate.
(Below—Polk’s Tomb in Nashville. Youth is fleeting.)
When a President has died in office, it has often been quite early in his term. This has often made a big difference in American history.
This is the Texas Liberal Election Fact of the Day.
The first President to die in office, William Henry Harrison, expired just a month into his term. Harrison died in 1841. President Harrison, at 68 the oldest President to that point, was a Whig. His Vice President, John Tyler, was a representative of the Southern planter class picked to help balance the ticket and not in full agreement with the Whig mainstream. As President, Tyler pursued policies, such a veto of a national bank, that greatly distressed Whig leaders such as Henry Clay.
Abe Lincoln’s (above)1865 assassination occurred just a month into his second term. His Vice President, Andrew Johnson (below), who had not been Lincoln’s first term VP, had very different views than Lincoln on Reconstruction, and how the South and Southerners should be handled after the Civil War.
Here is a stark difference between the person elected President and the person elected Vice President. The United States got one month of a great President and just under four years of a terrible President. And black folks got a century of Jim Crow.
James Garfield was shot in the first year of his term in 1881. He died a few months later. Garfield’s successor, Chester Arthur, might well have been an improvement. President Arthur sought Civil Service reform and was surprisingly independeant despite a reputation as a machine politician.
William McKinley was shot and killed in the first year of his second term in 1901. McKinley’s Vice President, Theodore Roosevelt, who like Andrew Johnson had not been the first term VP, was a very different man than McKinley.
Franklin Roosevelt was shot at in 1933 in the time between his election and inauguration. Roosevelt’s Vice President-elect, John Nance Garner was far more conservative than F.D.R. You might never of had a New Deal if Garner had become President instead of Roosevelt.
Roosevelt would later die in the first weeks of his fourth term. Vice President Harry Truman who had not been VP in the first three F.D.R terms, took the White House and did a pretty good job.
Also, Ronald Reagan was shot and seriously wounded in his first year as President in 1981.
Let’s say you are less than a hardcore Republican, yet are still considering voting for 72 year old John McCain. American history shows us that you may feel you’re voting for Mr. McCain, but that what you really may get is President Sarah Palin.