Happy 218th birthday, Millard Fillmore!

January 8, 2018

Millard Fillmore, bronzed, sitting at the corner of 9th and St. Joseph Streets in Rapid City, South Dakota. He still gets around. Photo by Ed Darrell. Please use.

Millard Fillmore, bronzed, sitting at the corner of 9th and St. Joseph Streets in Rapid City, South Dakota. He still gets around. Photo by Ed Darrell. Please use. Creative Commons copyright.

Millard Fillmore, our 13th President, was born on January 7, 1800.

That was 24 days after the death of our first President, George Washington.

Yes, I’m a day late in noting the anniversary. Fillmore’s birthday isn’t such a big deal anymore, since fun organizers discontinued the bathtub races once word got out that the story of Millard Fillmore putting the first bathtub in the White House, is a hoax.

Historians from the University of Buffalo — an institution founded by Fillmore after his presidency — usually hold a graveside ceremony with speeches. But for at least the second time in recent years, they got frozen out. (About as cold as the response I get from the University of Buffalo when I ask for a copy of the speech or paper to publish here.)

It’s a shame, really. Fillmore is the victim of fake news, a hoax perpetrated by H. L. Mencken 100 years ago, in 1917. Mencken claimed, falsely, that Fillmore’s sole good, memorable deed was putting that fictitious bathtub in the White House. That story crowds out the real history, and any good Fillmore should be remembered for.

Fillmore did a few notable things as president.

  • Fillmore secured a steady supply of bird guano for the United States. Funny as that may be, the guano was essential for making gun powder, which in turn helped fuel the military might of the United States for years (including through the Civil War).
  • Millard Fillmore and his first wife, Abigail, read books all the time. Deprived of the opportunity of going to school much in his youth, Fillmore became an ardent reader, read for the law, became a lawyer, got into politics and was selected Vice President for President Zachary Taylor. When Taylor died (probably of typhoid) in 1850, Fillmore succeeded to the presidency. In the White House, the Fillmores found few books to read, and so established the White House Library. Say prayers that library survives the current president.
  • Fillmore thought globally, and he could see world trade as a huge opportunity for a young nation with a strong navy and army, and a lot of resources including intellectual capacity to manufacture things. Trade in the Pacific was problematic, and a large number of problems stemmed from Japan’s closing itself off from the world. Japan had coal, which could refuel steamships. Japan instead closed its ports. An occasional U.S. sailor would be executed if he washed up on Japanese shores. Fillmore sent a small fleet of “black ships” under Commodore Matthew Perry, to tell Japan it was time to open up to trade and assume its place among nations. Perry was successful, after a second visit and a small round of cannon fire. Japan became a strong economic power in the West Pacific, and in its march to glory decided to take over resources of several other Asian nations. We might say Fillmore started the slide to World War II in the Pacific.

History should be kept to accuracy. Mencken upset the ship of accuracy with his essay, and America has not recovered, nor has Millard Fillmore’s reputation. There’s a moral there: Don’t spread hoaxes; seek the truth, and glorify it. (Mencken apologized for the hoax, but too late.)

Rapid City, South Dakota, is a booming town. Mineral wealth and oil in the state combine with an Air Force Base, great housing prices and good weather to the benefit of the town. One of its civic watchdogs got the idea of putting statues of all U.S. presidents on downtown corners. That is how Millard Fillmore comes to be seated at a desk with a book nearby, at the corner of 9th Street and St. Joseph Street, where I met him last August. Altogether a fun little history enterprise for Rapid City, very well executed, and worthy of a stop there if you’re passing by.

Perhaps someday Rapid City will take to decorating the statues on the birthdays of the men (so far!) represented. I hope they won’t be frozen out like Buffalo, New York, is, if they commemorate Millard Fillmore’s birthday.

Millard Fillmore and Ed Darrell meet, in Rapid City, South Dakota, August 2017

Millard Fillmore and Ed Darrell meet, in Rapid City, South Dakota, August 2017; photo by Kathryn Knowles

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Happy 217th birthday, Millard Fillmore! Mo Rocca’s profile, from our archives to yours

January 7, 2017

Millard Fillmore as a younger man? Several sites claim this is a painting of Fillmore, but as with much about our mysterious 13th president, it's difficult to confirm, partly because images of Fillmore really are rather rare.

Millard Fillmore as a younger man? Several sites claim this is a painting of Fillmore, but as with much about our mysterious 13th president, it’s difficult to confirm, partly because images of Fillmore really are rather rare.

Our 13th president, Millard Fillmore, was born January 7, 1800. He’s 217 years old today, though he’s been dead most of that time.

After commemorating Fillmore’s birthday each year for the past several years, I’m running out of ideas to write about him that seem novel, at least to me. [No doubt you’ve noted this is roughly the same post as last year.]  Several years I’ve called the University of Buffalo to try to get copies of the remarks officials make at Fillmore’s gravesite, but those remarks rarely come through — so we don’t get enlightenment from them.

Reality? Few people remember anything about Fillmore even after we feature it here. For Fillmore’s 217th, let’s review what little we really know about him, with some encore posts.

Raconteur Mo Rocca profiled Fillmore for CBS’s Sunday Morning, a while back. That may be as good a place as any to review the highlights of Fillmore’s life, and meaning and place in U.S. history.

Most historians give Fillmore bad marks as a president, despite his having opened Japan for trade, and despite his having procured a steady supply of bird poop for U.S. industry.

I get this eerie feeling Fillmore would fit right in today in the GOP presidential scraps, and would be a serious challenge to fellow New Yorker Donald Trump. Do you agree?

You may view Mo Rocca’s “profile” of President Millard Fillmore for CBS Sunday Morning, on YouTube:

“CBS Sunday Morning” correspondent Mo Rocca, far left, poses with Kathy Frost, curator of the Millard Fillmore Presidential Site, and Robert Lowell Goller, town historian and director of the Aurora Historical Society, during his recent visit to East Aurora. Photo by Robert Lowell Goller

East Aurora Advertiser caption: CBS Visits East Aurora “CBS Sunday Morning” correspondent Mo Rocca, far left, poses with Kathy Frost, curator of the Millard Fillmore Presidential Site, and Robert Lowell Goller, town historian and director of the Aurora Historical Society, during his recent visit to East Aurora. Photo by Robert Lowell Goller

CBS broadcast this piece on February 16, 2014.

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Yes, this is mostly an encore post. Fighting ignorance requires patience.

Yes, this is mostly an encore post. Fighting ignorance requires patience. Overcoming Mencken’s hoax requires an army, too.

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Buffalo News quiz: How well do you know birthday boy Millard Fillmore?

January 7, 2016

Inscription on the statute of Millard Fillmore at Buffalo's City Hall. Fillmore's better qualities crowd out critical elements. Buffalo News file photo.

Inscription on the statute of Millard Fillmore at Buffalo’s City Hall. “Lawyer, Educator, Philanthropist, Statesman.” Fillmore’s better qualities crowd out critical elements. Buffalo News file photo.

The venerable Buffalo News offers a quiz on our 13th president, Millard Fillmore, native son of Buffalo.

Happy birthday, Millard Fillmore, born January 7, 1800.

Nice of the Berkshire-Hathaway owned Buffalo News to make such a great tool for teachers, eh?


Happy birthday, Millard Fillmore! Mo Rocca’s profile, from our archives to yours

January 7, 2016

Millard Fillmore as a younger man? Several sites claim this is a painting of Fillmore, but as with much about our mysterious 13th president, it's difficult to confirm, partly because images of Fillmore really are rather rare.

Millard Fillmore as a younger man? Several sites claim this is a painting of Fillmore, but as with much about our mysterious 13th president, it’s difficult to confirm, partly because images of Fillmore really are rather rare.

Our 13th president, Millard Fillmore, was born January 7, 1800. He’s 216 years old today, though he’s been dead most of that time.

After commemorating Fillmore’s birthday each year for the past several years, I’m running out of ideas to write about him that seem novel, at least to me. Several years I’ve called the University of Buffalo to try to get copies of the remarks officials make at Fillmore’s gravesite, but those remarks rarely come through — so we don’t get enlightenment from them.

Reality? Few people remember anything about Fillmore even after we feature it here. For Fillmore’s 216th, let’s review what little we really know about him, with some encore posts.

Raconteur Mo Rocca profiled Fillmore for CBS’s Sunday Morning, a while back. That may be as good a place as any to review the highlights of Fillmore’s life, and meaning and place in U.S. history.

Most historians give Fillmore bad marks as a president, despite his having opened Japan for trade, and despite his having procured a steady supply of bird poop for U.S. industry.

I get this eerie feeling Fillmore would fit right in today in the GOP presidential scraps, and would be a serious challenge to fellow New Yorker Donald Trump. Do you agree?

You may view Mo Rocca’s “profile” of President Millard Fillmore for CBS Sunday Morning, on YouTube:

“CBS Sunday Morning” correspondent Mo Rocca, far left, poses with Kathy Frost, curator of the Millard Fillmore Presidential Site, and Robert Lowell Goller, town historian and director of the Aurora Historical Society, during his recent visit to East Aurora. Photo by Robert Lowell Goller

East Aurora Advertiser caption: CBS Visits East Aurora “CBS Sunday Morning” correspondent Mo Rocca, far left, poses with Kathy Frost, curator of the Millard Fillmore Presidential Site, and Robert Lowell Goller, town historian and director of the Aurora Historical Society, during his recent visit to East Aurora. Photo by Robert Lowell Goller

CBS broadcast this piece on February 16, 2014.

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More:


Graveside commemoration for Millard Fillmore’s birthday in Buffalo, January 7

January 6, 2015

Are you going to the graveside event in Buffalo, New York, for Millard Fillmore’s birthday?

Press release from the University of Buffalo:

Millard Fillmore’s Buffalo legacy to be recognized at commemoration

A plaque commemorating Millard Fillmore hangs on a gate in front of the grave site in Forest Lawn Cemetery.

By Sue Ann Wuetcher

December 30, 2014

“Millard Fillmore’s imprint on Buffalo’s development into a leading U.S. city of the 19th century is unparalleled and his legacy today remains truly vibrant.”
– William J. Regan, director of special events,University at Buffalo

BUFFALO, N.Y. – If Millard Fillmore, the much-maligned 13th president of the United States, were alive today, he might tell you he has a lot to be proud of.

Fillmore helped establish UB — serving as the university’s first chancellor from 1847 until his death in 1874 —and he played a major role in founding numerous cultural, civic and community organizations in Buffalo and Erie County, among them the Buffalo History Museum, the Buffalo & Erie County Public Library and Buffalo General Medical Center.

He also was instrumental in framing the charter that transformed the village of Buffalo into the city of Buffalo, and as a four-term congressman, secured funding to enlarge the Buffalo Harbor and expand the Erie Canal.

Fillmore’s “legacy organizations” will be well represented at the annual commemoration of Fillmore’s birthday, the 50th year UB has organized the annual program.

The ceremony will take place at 10 a.m. Jan. 7 — the 215th anniversary of Fillmore’s birth — at Fillmore’s gravesite in Forest Lawn Cemetery.

“In celebrating 50 years of planning this event, we thought it would be fitting to include all the organizations that can trace their roots back to Millard Fillmore,” says William J. Regan, director of special events. “Millard Fillmore’s imprint on Buffalo’s development into a leading U.S. city of the 19th century is unparalleled and his legacy today remains truly vibrant as these organizations continue to define and lead Buffalo in so many ways.”

The roster of organizations Fillmore touched is impressive, Regan says, and includes the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, The Buffalo Club, the Buffalo Public Schools, Buffalo Science Museum, the law firm Hodgson Russ LLP and the SPCA serving Erie County, as well as the history museum, public library, Buffalo General and, of course, UB.

Representatives of these organizations — Provost Charles F. Zukoski will represent UB — will give short tributes to Fillmore and present a community wreath to be placed on Fillmore’s grave. Wreaths also will be presented by the White House and Forest Lawn. Col. Kevin Rogers, inspector general of the 107th Airlift Wing of the New York Air National Guard based at the Niagara Falls Air Base, will place the White House wreath on behalf of President Obama.

Robert Goller, Town of Aurora historian, will deliver the memorial address and provide an account of Fillmore’s early days. Although he was born in Moravia, Cayuga County, Fillmore started his law practice in East Aurora and built a house there for himself and his wife, Abigail.

Following the gravesite ceremony, a reception sponsored by Forest Lawn and the Buffalo Club will be held in the new Margaret L. Wendt Archive and Resource Center in Forest Lawn.

The tradition to honor Fillmore dates back to 1937. From 1937 until 1965, the commemoration was staged by the city of Buffalo and the Buffalo Board of Education. The annual ceremonies were administered by Irving R. Templeton, a 1909 graduate of UB, who scheduled two programs annually on or near Jan. 7 — one in City Hall and one in Forest Lawn.

The responsibility of planning the commemoration shifted to UB when Templeton died in 1965. Although UB participated in the Fillmore birthday commemoration during Templeton’s stewardship, the university took over the ceremony and made it a community event starting in 1966.

The ceremony is open to all members of the UB and broader Western New York communities. Registration is encouraged at www.ubevents.org/event/mf2015

– See more at: http://www.buffalo.edu/news/releases/2014/12/043.html#sthash.dqcO3WTO.dpuf

No bathtub races this year, that I have found.

Do you know of any other commemorations of Fillmore’s birthday?


Stretching celebration of Millard Fillmore’s birthday through the week

January 7, 2014

Summerhill, New York, got a jump on celebrating Millard Fillmore’s birthday with a Sunday ceremony; today’s scheduled graveside commemoration is postponed due to weather, to Thursday — nearly a full week of Millard Fillmore!

Summerhill’s annual birthday party continued a tradition of uncertain age.  Fillmore was born in a log cabin in Summerhill.

Details come from the Auburn, New York, Citizen:

Three members of Flock of Free Range Children John Davis, from left, Ron Van Nostrand and Don Watkins perform at the birthday party for former President Millard Fillmore Sunday in the Summerhill Town Hall.   (Photo by Jessica Soule)

Music for the Summerhill, New York, celebration of Millard Fillmore’s 214th birthday was provided, again, by Flock of Free Range Children. Caption from the Auburn Citizen: Three members of Flock of Free Range Children John Davis, from left, Ron Van Nostrand and Don Watkins perform at the birthday party for former President Millard Fillmore Sunday in the Summerhill Town Hall. (Photo by Jessica Soule)

SUMMERHILL | Summerhill’s town hall was taken over Sunday with the delights of a birthday party – cake, live music and community members coming together in celebration. Millard Fillmore was born 214 years ago, on Jan. 7, 1800, in a log cabin there.

In honor of his birthday, the Cayuga Owasco Lakes Historical Society partnered with the town of Summerhill to put on a party for the 13th president of the United States of America. This annual celebration has happened for years, society President Joyce Hackett Smith-Moore said.

Three members of the Flock of Free Range Children performed in the hall, as people munched on food and chatted. A banner with Fillmore’s birth year hung from the wall above a birthday cake.

“This is our opportunity for the town and our members to keep the memory of Fillmore alive,” Smith-Moore said. “After all, there’s not a lot of counties that have a president from there. There is a lot of history, but there’s so much more.”

The historical society also hosts an annual fundraiser in August. This year, the money gathered will benefit the pavilion that commemorates Fillmore’s birthplace. Specifically, the society wants to install bathrooms. The path that connects his birthplace and Fillmore Glen State Park was recently cleared, giving walkers another trail to learn more about the president who was responsible for adding indoor plumbing to the White House.

Commemorating the president with origins in Cayuga County is especially important, as he hasn’t gotten his due from national historians.

“All presidents have a library or museum, except Fillmore. We’re the only executive of his effects,” Smith-Moore said.

Fillmore only recently became the subject of his first biography, completed by a former Moravia teacher. The birthday celebration is an effort to raise awareness of his accomplishments and the many positive effects of his work on the nation, Smith-Moore said.

The historical society presented the town a frame that contained coins, one bearing Fillmore’s image and another of his wife, a photo of the deputy director of the United States Mint dedicating the Fillmore coin in 2010 and a flier of the coin dedication.

In an effort to remind the community of their local treasure, fifth-graders will be treated to a sit down between Fillmore and Abraham Lincoln in their curriculum.

“People just don’t know anything about Millard Fillmore,” Smith-Moore said.

She said one of his biggest accomplishments was to order the military to start surveying in preparation for what would become the Transcontinental Railroad. Meanwhile, town historian Florence Lansdowne said Fillmore opening up trade with Japan led to major benefits.

“We want to instill in people how important he was,” Lansdowne said.

Lansdowne is retiring, and will work with her replacement Patricia McCloy this year. McCloy lauded Lansdowne for her work in gaining recognition for the 13th president.

McCloy said she is excited to take over as local historian. She’s going to try to encourage more use of the pavilion that commemorates Fillmore’s birthplace.

“Is it amazing,” she said. “There aren’t many towns in American that can say they had a president.”

From the Auburn Citizen:  New Summerhill town historian Patricia McCloy, right, smiles during a presentation by the Cayuga Owasco Lakes Historical Society as retiring town historian Florence Lansdowne, left, and society President Joyce Hackett Smith-Moore look on. (Photo by Jessica Soule)

From the Auburn Citizen: New Summerhill town historian Patricia McCloy, right, smiles during a presentation by the Cayuga Owasco Lakes Historical Society as retiring town historian Florence Lansdowne, left, and society President Joyce Hackett Smith-Moore look on. (Photo by Jessica Soule)

What other celebrations might there be out there?  Does anyone race bathtubs anymore?

More, perhaps related:


Happy birthday, Millard Fillmore! 214 today, not looking a day over 117

January 7, 2014

Campaign poster from the 1856 presidential election, when Fillmore ran on the American Party ticket. The American Party is better known as the Know-Nothing Party. Library of Congress image. Fillmore failed to win the nomination of the Whig Party in 1852; he lost in 1856 with the Know-Nothings, too.  Image from the Library of Congress, American Memory Collections

Campaign poster from the 1856 presidential election, when Fillmore ran on the American Party ticket. The American Party is better known as the Know-Nothing Party. Library of Congress image. Fillmore failed to win the nomination of the Whig Party in 1852; he lost in 1856 with the Know-Nothings, too. Image from the Library of Congress, American Memory Collections

Millard Fillmore, the 13th President of the United States, came into this world on January 7, 1800.

Until Barack Obama, Fillmore held the title of Most Unjustly Maligned President Ever.  (Who should be Most Justly Maligned? Comments are open.)

We awake to news that the cold weather in Buffalo, New York, led to the postponement of the annual graveside commemoration, now set to be held Thursday, when the cold isn’t quite so life-threatening.

How should we remember Fillmore?  Accurately, of course.

Check out past commemorations of Fillmore’s birthday here, at Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub.  Generally dealing with Fillmore and history, there are a total of 82 posts on this site.  Watch this site today — there will be more.

The long arc of history bends toward justice, some famously say.  How long will it take for justice to be done to the reputation of Millard Fillmore?

More, a small sampling:

Post Script:  Why 117 in the headline?  Mencken’s hoax on Fillmore, the bathtub story, was published in 1917; we date Fillmore’s reputation troubles from that time.


Flash mob honored Millard Fillmore’s 211th birthday in Moravia, New York

January 7, 2013

Jeff Kramer, who usually is a a humor columnist, in the Syracuse, New York, Post-Standard:

Millard Fillmore flash mob commemorating birthday is a snow-smashing success

Published: Monday, January 10, 2011, 6:00 AM

Kramer sisters lead flash mob dance in honor of Millard Fillmore's 211th Birthday, Moravia, New York

Peter Chen / The Post-Standard More than 50 people followed the dance moves of the Kramer sisters, Miranda, 10, and Lily, 8, Friday at a flash mob in the parking lot of Moravia’s Modern Market. They danced to “Birthday” by the Beatles to celebrate former US President Millard Fillmore’s birthday, which was on Jan. 7, 1800. Fillmore was born in Moravia. The girls are the daughters of The Post-Standard humor columnist Jeff Kramer.

Moravia, NY — You know your legacy is in trouble when your biggest claim to fame is having a bathtub installed in the White House, and even that’s a lie.

So it has always been with Millard Fillmore. Americans remember their 13th president as mediocre, wishy-washy and fat — if they remember him at all.

Still, a president is a president, and for a few minutes this past Friday, even Millard found his posthumous mojo. At least 50 people gathered in his hometown of Moravia for a flash mob birthday boogie choreographed and led by my daughters Miranda, 10, and Lily, 8. The event was organized by me as part of my New Year’s resolution to reach out to techno-savvy young people before one of them remotely shuts off my oxygen.

Everyone was in a great mood. “Happy Birthday, Millard!” the crowd shouted after churning up the slush in the parking lot of Modern Market with a dazzling display of grapevines, sprinklers, funky chickens and more.

Among the celebrants was Mr. Jan Hunsinger, a history/government teacher at Moravia High School. He brought a group of students to be part of the gala, plying them with extra credit.

“Thanks for doing this,” Hunsinger said to me. At least I think he said it. Truth is I didn’t take notes. Note-taking is Old Media (lame) and poor flash mob etiquette. The whole point of a flash mob is to convene en masse as directed by viral media, commit a planned public act and disperse. The last thing you want is some mainstream media dork asking questions like “Can you spell your name for me again?” and “How does this flash mob change your perceptions of Millard Fillmore?”

I also learned that Millard took Peru’s side when American entrepreneurs were stealing that country’s bird droppings for fertilizer. Instead of coming to the aid of the American businessmen, Fillmore insisted that no one should take Peru’s bird turds without Peru’s permission. Peru was deeply grateful, and America gained international cred. A statue of Fillmore was erected in Peru. Predictably, it became obscured by the very substance he had helped to protect.

Moravia High School Students at Millard Fillmore's 211th birthday bash in Moravia, New York, - Syracuse Post-Standard

Caption from the Syracuse Post-Standard; photo by Peter Chen / The Post-Standard – Moravia High School students (left to right) Amy Richards, 16, a junior; Melinda Heath, 16, a junior; Gabrielle Amos, 17, a junior; and Mattea Hilliard, 16, a sophomore, took part in a flash mob in the parking lot of Moravia’s Modern Market on Friday.

That’s all I have to say about Fillmore for now. I’m grateful to him, Moravia, my girls, the nice lady who bought them flowers and to everyone who made the flash mob rock. I’ll close with Fillmore’s inspiring last words, uttered as he was being fed soup.

“The nourishment is palatable,” he said. Then he died.

Here’s hoping that somewhere up there in that great bathtub in the sky, Millard — happily stuffed with palatable nourishment — was looking down on us last Friday and smiling.

Jeff Kramer’s humor column runs Mondays in CNY. E-mail him at jeffmkramer@gmail.com.

 

Fillmore wasn’t a total washout as President, contrary to his reputation.  Among other things, he was the guy who dispatched Commodore Perry to Japan, to open that reclusive nation to trade, and to stop them from executing random sailors from America washed up on their shores.  In a direct way, we might say Fillmore was responsible for World War II in the Pacific — once awakened to the thrills and advantages of international trade, Japan went after it with a vengeance, and then after empire.  That is to say the opening of Japan was momentous; history and commerce would never be the same again, in the Pacific.

And that quote, “The nourishment is palatable.”  Fillmore probably didn’t say that.  Even in death his words get little respect.  The story of Fillmore’s death in the New York Times mentioned that he had been ill, and that at what turned out to be his last meal, some soup, Fillmore had said it was okay.  The paper reported that Fillmore had said that the nourishment was palatable.  Someone, later, put quotes around the reporter’s words, and made them Fillmore’s.  You’d think someone would remember him for the Peruvian guano remarks instead, no?  (Gee, I’m not sure Mr. Kramer described that episode accurately.)


Happy 213th Birthday, Millard Fillmore!

January 7, 2013

January 7 is Millard Fillmore‘s birthday.

Statue of President Millard Fillmore, a Buffal...

Statue of President Millard Fillmore, a Buffalo native, on southeast corner of the administration building of the University of Buffalo. Photo credit: Wikipedia

Why isn’t it a national holiday?

UB celebrates Fillmore’s birthday

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) [Monday, January 7, 2013] – The University at Buffalo is celebrating one of its Founding Fathers. Monday would be Millard Fillmore’s 213th birthday, and to mark the occasion, UB helped host a ceremony at the former president’s grave site.

A wreath from the White House was placed at the grave sit, to honor the former leader for his services to the nation and western New York.

After his presidency, Fillmore returned to Buffalo, New York, and a life of good citizenship. He founded the Buffalo and Erie County Historical Society, for example. And though he himself was about a third-grade dropout, and though he refused an honorary degree from Oxford because he said no man should get a degree he can’t read (it was in Latin), he founded what is now the University at Buffalo.

There’s a moral there, somewhere.

More:

Cake for Millard Fillmore's 213th birthday, Summerhill, New York

Birthday celebration for President Millard Fillmore in Summerhill, New York; caption from the Auburn, New York, Citizen: Sue Stoyell, treasurer of the Cayuga-Owasco Lakes Historical Society, serves a slice of Millard Filmore’s birthday cake to Roger Stoyell during a celebration of Fillmore’s 213th birthday Sunday at the town hall in Summerhill.

There was music:

Flock of Free Range Children sing for Millard Fillmore's 213th Birthday, Summerhill, New York

Fillmore’s 213th birthday bash in Summerhill, New York; photo by Michelle Bixby, Auburn Citizen: From left, John Davis, Ron Van Nostrand and Don Watkins, three of the seven members of the band “Flock of Free Range Children,” entertain attendees of Millard Filmore’s 213th birthday celebration Sunday at the town hall in Summerhill.


Polish up your bathtub, oil the wheels: Millard Fillmore’s birthday next Monday, January 7

January 4, 2013

Check out your bathtub to be sure it’s in top running order for the bathtub races.

English: 1938 u.s. postage stamp of Millard Fi...

1938 U.S. postage stamp of Millard Fillmore. It’s a 13-cent stamp; Fillmore was the 13th president. Photo: Wikipedia

Millard Fillmore’s birthday anniversary is coming Monday, January 7.  He would have been 213 years old.  He’d also have been reading a book, and he’d probably be very cranky.

More:


University of Buffalo President Simpson to speak at Millard Fillmore’s 2010 birthday observance

January 5, 2011

Baird Point at University of Buffalo's North Campus

Baird Point at University of Buffalo's North Campus; tradition holds that the university was founded by Millard Fillmore, its first chancellor

John B. Simpson, President of the University of Buffalo

John B. Simpson, President of the University of Buffalo, will speak at a ceremony honoring President Millard Fillmore on the 211th anniversary of Fillmore's birth.

Press release from the University of Buffalo:

News Release

Simpson to Speak at Ceremony Commemorating 211th Birthday of Millard Fillmore

Release Date: January 4, 2011

BUFFALO, N.Y. — The 211th anniversary of the birth of Millard Fillmore, the University at Buffalo’s first chancellor and 13th president of the United States, will be celebrated at a ceremony to be held at 10 a.m. Jan. 7 at Fillmore’s gravesite in Buffalo’s Forest Lawn Cemetery.

UB President John B. Simpson will present the memorial address at the annual observance, which honors Fillmore, who played a major role in the founding of numerous cultural, civic and community organizations in Erie County.

Hosted by UB, the Forest Lawn Group and the Buffalo Club, the event will be free and open to the public, and each year draws a wide range of community supporters.

“The annual Millard Fillmore commemoration is a time-honored tradition that celebrates the life of a man who made considerable contributions to Buffalo and the United States,” said William J. Regan, director of special events at UB.”

Col. Jim S. McCready, vice wing commander of the 107th Airlift Wing of the New York Air National Guard based at Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station, will place a wreath from the White House at the gravesite.

Officials from the Buffalo Club, the Forest Lawn Group and UB will also be on hand to present wreaths.

The Rev. Joel Miller of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Buffalo will provide an invocation. The UB Police Color Guard will present the flags. To close the ceremony, West Richter, a UB undergraduate and a member of the UB Marching Band, will play taps.

A reception will follow immediately in the Forest Lawn Chapel.

Born on Jan. 7, 1800, Fillmore was instrumental in founding the Buffalo & Erie County Historical Society, the Buffalo Club and the Buffalo General Hospital. His activities also led to the creation of the Buffalo and Erie County Public Library, the Buffalo Fine Arts Academy and the Buffalo Society of Natural Sciences.

Some historians credit the former teacher, postmaster, lawyer and member of Congress with establishing the White House Library.

This year’s commemoration marks the 46th consecutive year UB has programmed the ceremony, a tradition that dates back to 1937.

From 1937 until 1965, the anniversary ceremonies were a cooperative staging by the City of Buffalo and the Buffalo Board of Education.

The events were administered by Irving R. Templeton, a 1909 graduate of UB, who scheduled two programs annually on or near Jan. 7, one in City Hall and one in Forest Lawn. Templeton was a partner in the law offices of Templeton, Turnabull & Templeton.

Following his death in 1965, responsibility for the event shifted to UB through an agreement between Chancellor Clifford C. Furnas and Alfred E. Kirchhofer, editor of The Buffalo Evening News. While UB participated in programming prior to Templeton’s death, the 1966 event marked the start of UB’s role as official steward of the annual community event.

The vice president for university relations and the Office of Public Affairs programmed the event from 1966-87, when the Office of Special Events began managing the program.

The University at Buffalo is a premier research-intensive public university, a flagship institution in the State University of New York system and its largest and most comprehensive campus. UB’s more than 28,000 students pursue their academic interests through more than 300 undergraduate, graduate and professional degree programs. Founded in 1846, the University at Buffalo is a member of the Association of American Universities.


Are you ready? Millard Fillmore’s birthday, January 7

January 6, 2010

Millard Fillmore turns 210 tomorrow.

Millard Fillmore in the 1850s, NY Times image, Wikimedia

Millard Fillmore in the 1850s, wondering about that birthday cake. Wikimedia, via New York Times image

How do you plan to celebrate?

Some are planning big fetes:

From 10:00AM to 3:00PM on Sun Jan 10, 2010.

Save the date! Cayuga-Owasco Lakes Historical Society will once again host a birthday party for Millard Fillmore on Sunday, January 10 from 10:00am to 3pm. The history museum at 14 West Cayuga Street will be open for visitors and will serve refreshments in honor of our 13th President’s birthday. This will be the last official function until March, 2010. Throughout December the house will be open on Mondays 9:00 am until noon. If you have not visited lately, the recently refurbished Fillmore Room features a timeline of his life and presidency as well as photos and memorabilia.  (From Auburnpub.com)

Tradition is on a glide path at the University of Buffalo, a school founded by Millard Fillmore; from the UB Media Center:

Media Advisory: UB to Commemorate 210th Birthday of Millard Fillmore

Release Date: January 6, 2010

BUFFALO, N.Y. — The University at Buffalo will uphold a longstanding winter tradition as it celebrates the 210th anniversary of the birth of Millard Fillmore, UB’s first chancellor and the 13th president of the United States, at a ceremony to be held at 10 a.m. Jan. 7 at Fillmore’s gravesite in Forest Lawn Cemetery.

The outdoor ceremony marking the 210th anniversary of Fillmore’s birth on Jan. 7, 1800, is hosted by UB, the Forest Lawn Group and the Buffalo Club. It is free and open to the public.

The commemoration address will be delivered by James A. Willis, UB executive vice president for university support services. Wreaths will be presented by Col. Timothy G. Vaughn, 107th Mission Support Group Commander, New York Air National Guard, representing the White House; Marc Adler, adjunct professor in Millard Fillmore College and immediate past president of the UB Alumni Association, representing UB; Charles M. Mitschow, president of the Buffalo Club; and Dean H. Jewett, chairman of the board of the Forest Lawn Group.

The invocation will be presented by The Rev. Joel Miller, minister of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Buffalo. The UB Police Color Guard will present the flags, and West Richter, a UB student and member of the UB Marching Band, will play taps.

A reception with refreshments will immediately follow in the Forest Lawn Chapel.

Fillmore helped establish UB, serving as its first chancellor from 1847 until his death in 1874. He also was instrumental in framing the charter transforming the Village of Buffalo into the City of Buffalo. He helped establish Buffalo General Hospital, the SPCA, the Buffalo Historical Society, the Fine Arts Academy, Buffalo Savings Bank, Buffalo’s public library system and the Buffalo Club. As a congressman, he secured funding to enlarge the Buffalo Harbor and expand the Erie Canal. Fillmore served as president from 1850 to 1853.

This year marks the 45th anniversary of UB’s stewardship of Fillmore’s service, but the tradition to honor Fillmore dates back to 1937. From 1937 until 1965, the ceremonies were staged by the City of Buffalo and the Buffalo Board of Education. The events were administered by Irving R. Templeton, a 1909 graduate of UB, who scheduled two programs annually on or near Jan. 7, one in City Hall and one in Forest Lawn.

The responsibility shifted to UB when Templeton died in 1965. Although UB participated in the Fillmore birthday commemoration during Templeton’s stewardship, the university took over the ceremonies and made it a community event starting in 1966.

Media arrangements: Charles Anzalone onsite at 440-8824.

According to Buffalo Rising!, tradition wins out at Forest Lawn, New York, too:

By Sandy Starks

Okay… the frenzy of holiday visits and activities are past, the decorations are put away, and the final game in regular season football has been played. The winter doldrums are about to set in, and what are we to do?

The Forest Lawn Cemetery Heritage Foundation has come up with programming that will help you get over the inevitable winter blues. We all love the Summer in the Cemetery tours the cemetery offered each year, so in 2010 the folks at Forest Lawn have decided to celebrate the winter season by hosting a four-part series of concerts and lectures to be held at the historic chapel, located in the heart of the cemetery.

On the second Sunday of each month, January through April, at 2PM, programs will include a mini concert, followed by a lecture on a topic related to Forest Lawn and the History of Buffalo. This Sunday January 10th, the topic will be The History of Music in Buffalo.

Music Librarian, Raya Lee, teams up with one of Buffalo’s favorite musical talents, Bruce Woody, to discuss how music evolved in Buffalo. The lecture includes information about the opening of the first music store in 1827, the first performance of super-star Jenny Lind in 1851, an overview featuring the greatest musical artists of the day, their stories, and the birth of the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra.

People featured in the lecture include Millard Fillmore, James P. Sheppard, owner of the first music store in Buffalo; Marian de Forest, Zorah Berry, and conductors John Lund and Charles Kuhn. Tunes, some we are familiar with such as “Shuffle off to Buffalo,” “Buffalo Gals,” and “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” (Harold Arlen), will be played throughout the lecture.

The series continues with a program on February 14th, with The Entertainers and Writers of Forest Lawn, presented by: Forest Lawn researcher, Patrick Kavanagh with a musical presentation performed by Buffalo musicians Billy McEwen and Joe Head.

Many of us know about Darwin Martin of the Larkin Soap Company but there is much to know about John Larkin and the company itself. The March 14th program, A Review of the Larkin Soap Company – A Man and His Products will familiarize us the dynamic Buffalo business. Larkin Enthusiast Jerry Puma will talk about the Larkin Soap Company and bring some of his Larkin collection for you to view. A musical presentation by The Docenko Brothers rounds out this fun yet informative day.

The series concludes on April 11th, with a talk by Author Laura Pederson (if you haven’t read the book Buffalo Gal yet, that is another way to beat the winter blues), talking about Smokestacks & Skyscrapers: A Lighthearted History of Buffalo. The musical presentation will be by Grace Stumberg, a rising Buffalo musical talent and student at Villa Maria College.

Admission is $15. Tickets may be purchased at Forest Lawn’s administration office, 1411 Delaware Avenue or by calling 716.885.1600. Ask about the discount that is available for all four programs.


Millard Fillmore’s birthday, January 7 – How will you celebrate in 2010?

December 30, 2009

In honor of Millard Fillmore’s birthday on January 7, I’ll post a collection of images of Fillmore and his administration that I’ve come across over the past year.  Though photography was invented in 1837, and though Fillmore was thought to be a handsome man, not many images of our 13th president survive on the internet.  For that matter, there is not a lot of good biographical information, either.

Many of these images come from the Library of Congress’s collections.

Millard Fillmore, Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Collection - Duval image

Millard Fillmore, undated lithograph, Library of Congress

The Library of Congress has one copy of a print of this image.  A note with the image says “Duval,” but little is known about it otherwise, at least to the Library of Congress.  No date is given.  Judging from the color of his hair, I think this may be an image done for his unsuccessful 1856 campaign.

Only a tiny handful of images of Fillmore show up regularly — this is not one of them.  I wonder whether my posting it here will have any effect in spreading its popularity.

Fillmore will perhaps always remain enigmatic, out of step with his own times in many ways, and forced to the edges of history by other events and people more in the mainstream.  Fillmore was born January 7, 1800, 24 days after the death of George Washington (d. December 14, 1799), and lived through the administration of Abraham Lincoln, and the Civil War.  Fillmore had some things in common with both of those great presidents, but no real dealings except for his opposition to Lincoln.

History uneasily deals with such men, who refuse to be put into pigeon holes.

Resources:


Remembering Millard Fillmore on his birthday

January 7, 2009

Millard Fillmore was born January 7, 1800. Had he lived, Millard Fillmore would be 209 years old today, and probably very cranky.

Millard Fillmore, official portrait - WhiteHouseHistory.org; 1857, by George P. A. Healy

Millard Fillmore, official portrait - WhiteHouseHistory.org; 1857, by George P. A. Healy

Would you blame him?  He opened Japan to trade.  He got from Mexico the land necessary to make Los Angeles a great world city and the Southern Pacific a great railroad, without firing a shot.  Fillmore promoted economic development of the Mississippi River.  He managed to keep a fractious nation together despite itself for another three years.  Fillmore let end the practice of presidents using slaves to staff the White House (then called “the President’s Mansion”).

Then in 1852 his own party refused to nominate him for a full term, making him the last Whig to be president.  And to add insult to ignominy, H. L. Mencken falsely accused him of being known only for adding a bathtub to the White House, something he didn’t do.

As Antony said of Caesar, the good was interred with his bones — but Millard Fillmore doesn’t even get credit for whatever evil he might have done:  Fillmore is remembered most for being the butt of a hoax gone awry, committed years after his death.  Or worse, he’s misremembered for what the hoax alleged he did.

Even beneficiaries of his help promoting the Mississippi River have taken his name off their annual celebration of the eventFillmore has been eclipsed, even in mediocrity (is there still a Millard Fillmore Society in Washington?).

Happy birthday, Millard Fillmore.

The Buffalo News, in the town Fillmore loved and worked to make great, said this morning:

Today is Millard Fillmore’s 209th birthday. Every year we vow to join those hardy folks from the University at Buffalo for their birthday observance at the monument to the 13th President on his grave in Section F in Forest Lawn. And every year the weather convinces us to stay inside. If you want to brave it, it starts at 10 a.m. There’s a reception in the chapel after the ceremony.

I’m in Dallas.  You won’t see me there.

All the living presidents meet today in the White House.  Will they toast Fillmore?

Millard Fillmore was a man of great civic spirit, a man who answered the call to serve even when most others couldn’t hear it at all.  He was a successful lawyer, despite having had only six months of formal education (a tribute to non-high school graduates and lifelong learning).  Unable to save the Union, he established the University of Buffalo and the Buffalo and Erie County Historical Society.  And, it is said of him, that Queen Victoria said he was the most handsome man she had ever met.

A guy like that deserves a toast, don’t you think?

Resources:


Happy Birthday, Millard Fillmore!

January 7, 2008

January 7, 2008, is the 208th anniversary of Millard Fillmore’s birth.

More obscure facts about our 13th president:

Promoter of Minnesota’s development: According to a letter in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune on January 3, Minnesota owes a debt to Fillmore, for his public relations gimmick on the Mississippi River with a steamboat:

The Minnesota Territory was promoted as a wonderfully healthy, resource-rich and abundantly diverse landscape by the Grand Excursion of 1854, the riverboat excursion up the Mississippi River made by President Millard Fillmore and scores of journalists from the East. It was a resounding success; in the succeeding years thousands of settlers came to the territory to seek a new life. On May 11, 1858, we became the 32nd state.

Health care: Two hospitals in the Buffalo, New York, area bear Millard Fillmore’s name, Millard Fillmore Gates Circle Hospital and Millard Fillmore Suburban Hospital. A planning process by the state of New York threatens to close the facility at Gates Circle, in a drive to eliminate overlapping services to save money.

No pets: Millard Fillmore is one of only three presidents to have no pets while in the White House. Franklin Pierce and Chester Alan Arthur are the other two. The no-pets group are mired in obscurity and mediocrity, but I’ll make no post hoc ergo propter hoc analysis.

Share the mirth: Millard Fillmore shares his birthday with cartoonist Charles Addams, and with newswoman Katie Couric.

Coincidence? Some think not: Millard Fillmore and William Howard Taft both died on March 8, but in different years. Is that too great a coincidence? Heck, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams both died on the same day, in the same year — and that day was July 4, 1826, the 50th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence. That is one of the top ten best pieces of evidence of intelligent design in the universe, and still not enough to get intelligent design into biology classes. Random or not, Millard Fillmore’s reputation is neither helped nor hurt by the fact.

Forgettable lines: Millard Fillmore has nothing quoted in the Yale Book of Quotations.

How will you commemorate Millard Fillmore today?


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