It’s Martin van Buren’s birthday, December 5

December 5, 2017

Former President Martin van Buren, circa 1855-1888. Matthew Brady photograph (Imperial print of Martin Van Buren. Salted paper print from glass negative. Provenance from W.H. Lowdermilk & Co., Rare Books, 1418 F Street, Washington, DC) Metropolitan Museum image, via Wikimedia

Former President Martin van Buren, circa 1855-1888. Matthew Brady photograph (Imperial print of Martin Van Buren. Salted paper print from glass negative. Provenance from W.H. Lowdermilk & Co., Rare Books, 1418 F Street, Washington, DC) Metropolitan Museum image, via Wikimedia

Martin van Buren was our nation’s 8th president, serving one term, 1837-1841.

This photo is roughly  15 years after van Buren left office, taken in the Washington, D.C., studio of Matthew Brady, whose photography gained fame from his work photographing battle sites during the American Civil War.

Martin van Buren was born December 5, 1782, in Kinderhook, New York. He is the only president to have the first name Martin. He’d be 235 years old today, and still king of the mutton chop sideburns among presidents.

Van Buren died on July 24, 1862.

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At Broad and Hudson Streets in Kinderhook, New York, one can sit with a statue of Martin Van Buren, and see if one can decipher the newspaper he is reading. PresidentsUSA image

At Broad and Hudson Streets in Kinderhook, New York, one can sit with a statue of Martin Van Buren, and see if one can decipher the newspaper he is reading. PresidentsUSA image

 

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December 2: Millard Fillmore’s Guano Day! 2017 edition

December 2, 2017

Why December 2?

(You couldn’t make this stuff up if you were Monty Python.)

English: Millard Fillmore White House portrait

Millard Fillmore’s White House portrait, via Wikipedia

President Millard Fillmore, in the State of the Union Address, December 2, 1850

Peruvian guano has become so desirable an article to the agricultural interest of the United States that it is the duty of the Government to employ all the means properly in its power for the purpose of causing that article to be imported into the country at a reasonable price. Nothing will be omitted on my part toward accomplishing this desirable end. I am persuaded that in removing any restraints on this traffic the Peruvian Government will promote its own best interests, while it will afford a proof of a friendly disposition toward this country, which will be duly appreciated.

Did any other U.S. President spend so much time thinking about guano?  Did any president ever mention it in a State of the Union Address?  The curious case of Millard Fillmore, Seer, just grows.

Guano, or bird poop (and its relative, bat poop), contains phosphorus, which is an essential element for life.  Consequently, it turns out to be a key ingredient in effective agricultural fertilizers.  In international competition for supremacy in farming and farm exports, guano became a key resource to fight over, in the 19th century.

It’s almost safe to say the fights were economic; but guano did play a key role in wars in South America (see Andrew Leonard’s article, noted below).

Fillmore figured out that the substance had great importance, coupled that with the rather esoteric knowledge that sea birds tended to deposit guano in great abundance on certain islands, often unoccupied, and ordered the U.S. Navy to claim islands found to contain guano deposits that were not claimed by other nations.

By the American Civil War, the importance of phosphorus to the production of gun powder became an issue for the armies of the North and South.  Millard Fillmore had set the stage for the North to win an important advantage in gun powder production, just one of many that led to the defeat of the South.

It’s one more thing we should thank Millard Fillmore for doing. Our study of history should inform us that it is, indeed, important for politicians to understand the importance of guano.

Fillmore knew his guano.

Take a moment on December 2 to toast Millard Fillmore’s prescience, on Guano Day!

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You can purchase Peruvian guano today, from Amazon, GrowOrganic.com, and other sources. It's roughly $15 per pound in the U.S.

You can purchase Peruvian guano today, from Amazon, GrowOrganic.com, and other sources. It’s roughly $15 per pound in the U.S.

This is an encore post.

Yes, this is an edited encore post. Defeating ignorance takes patience and perseverance.


What President Trump blurted out; what Little Donald really meant

October 19, 2017

Bill Watterson's Calvin, on the impossibility of getting homework to do itself. Copyright Bill Watterson.

Bill Watterson’s Calvin, on the impossibility of getting homework to do itself. Copyright Bill Watterson. As Ms. Ashenhurst describes it: “SCH 4U is a university preparation course. As such some independent work is required for success.”

Do you ever get the feeling that President Donald Trump is speaking a foreign language? Or that he’s speaking what he thinks might sound like a foreign language, to cover for his not having done his homework?

Looking back now, we can see whatever it was he said about talking to families of fallen soldiers, he probably needed someone to translate it to himself.

Canadian reporter Daniel Dale explained on Twitter:

Here’s the translation into English, from Craig Battle:

Glad we got that settled.

Now Trump has, reluctantly, called the families of the fallen soldiers. Somehow, inexplicably, Trump managed to make things worse, to embarrass the entire nation. We couldn’t know that, then.

Bill Watterson's Calvin figures out that obfuscation sometimes buys you a few minutes before the authorities and voters catch on to your game. Copyright Bill Watterson.

Bill Watterson’s Calvin figures out that obfuscation sometimes buys you a few minutes before the authorities and voters catch on to your game. Copyright Bill Watterson.

It’s graveyard humor. It seems to me Trump often leaves us fearful, and looking at great tragedy, with no coping mechanism apart from trying to find humor in what he’s done.

Which suggests, to me, it’s time for Trump to go away on his own. He’s damaging the nation.

What do you think?

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September 14, 1901: McKinley died, Teddy Roosevelt ascended to presidency

September 14, 2017

September 14, 1901, front page of the Boston Morning Journal, announcing the death of President William McKinley. Image from Timothy Hughes Rare & Early Newspapers.

September 14, 1901, front page of the Boston Morning Journal, announcing the death of President William McKinley. Image from Timothy Hughes Rare & Early Newspapers.

Lincoln, Garfield, then McKinley.

September 14, 1901, President William McKinley died in Buffalo, New York, eight days after having been shot at Buffalo’s Pan American Exposition a sort of World Fair.

Within hours, Vice President Theodore Roosevelt took the oath as president.

Ken Burns explained the events of the day well in his long series of films on the Roosevelts:

Interesting to read the newspapers from an era before television, radio or especially internet.

Front page of the

Front page of the “3:00 p.m. edition” of the Buffalo Enquirer, September 14, 1901. Image from Nate D. Sanders Auctions

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August 27, Lyndon Johnson’s birthday

August 28, 2017

Caption from Politico: President Lyndon Johnson leans over to blow out candles on his 60th birthday cake as his 14-month-old grandson, Patrick Lyndon Nugent, looks on in the home of LBJ's daughter Luci Johnson Nugent in 1968 in Austin, Texas. (AP photo)

Caption from Politico: President Lyndon Johnson leans over to blow out candles on his 60th birthday cake as his 14-month-old grandson, Patrick Lyndon Nugent, looks on in the home of LBJ’s daughter Luci Johnson Nugent in 1968 in Austin, Texas. (AP photo)

Lyndon Baines Johnson was born on August 27, 1908, in Stonewall, Texas. He would have been 109 years old yesterday. Johnson died in 1973. (Yeah, I’m a day late. Been traveling, and there’s a flood going on in Houston.)

From Twitter, Luke Rosa @studentshistory: Happy birthday, #LBJ! 🎂 This is my favorite quote to use when a history teacher talks too much content at lunch! 😂

From Twitter, Luke Rosa @studentshistory: Happy birthday, #LBJ! 🎂 This is my favorite quote to use when a history teacher talks too much content at lunch! 😂

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August 20 is President Benjamin Harrison’s birthday

August 19, 2017

President Benjamin Harrison and his granddaughter. Image found on Pinterest

President Benjamin Harrison and his granddaughter. Image found on Pinterest

Benjamin Harrison was born August 20, 1833. Happy birthday to the ghost of Benjamin Harrison.

President Benjamin Harrison visiting Salt Lake City, Utah, during his western tour as president. Can you find Harrison in the photo?

President Benjamin Harrison in Salt Lake City, Utah during his Western tour of the United States, 1891, April 14 through May 16 / George Elbert Burr, photographer. George Elbert Burr papers, 1885-1972. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution. Can you find Harrison in the photo?

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Happy birthday, President Bill Clinton!

August 19, 2017

In an undated photo from CNN, Hillary and Bill Clinton enjoy smiles with their granddaughter Charlotte.

In an undated photo from CNN, Hillary and Bill Clinton enjoy smiles with their granddaughter Charlotte.

Bill Clinton was born August 19, 1946. He’s 71 years old today.

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