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  • Glenn Sonnenberg

Musings from the Bunker 1/29/21

Good morning!


Lots of people have commented on my statement that cash will fade away over time. I think I conflated two different ideas. The first is that it costs more to make a penny or a nickel than it’s worth and these two coins have declined meaningfully over time. Time to rid our currency of them. The second is that we eventually will have little need for cash. Chris Maling notes that there are still large segments of our economy dependent upon cash. Bob Lameres and Jesse Sharf correctly point out that we should continue to carry cash so that we can give it to homeless veterans and people on the corner with cardboard signs asking for it. True enough; I stand corrected.

One final use of cash, as Mark DiMaria pointed out, is that marijuana dispensaries continue to suffer from the inability to access credit card and banking services. So use of cash (and security guards) are a continuing necessity of that industry.


Those who have been reading these Musings for a while know that I am both a history buff and I love road trips. Everyone who likes to travel has their list of places they want to “cross off the list.” Some want to visit all of the national parks, while others want to climb the highest points on each continent. Some want to visit every baseball stadium, while others want to fish the greatest rivers.

Among the list of “themed places” I like to visit are Presidential Libraries. Starting with Herbert Hoover and continuing until today, every president has a presidential library, which are overseen by the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA).

While related to presidential homes, birthplaces and other commemorative locations, presidential libraries perform a couple of valuable purposes that make them unique. First, they offer a repository for the volumes of papers and correspondence of that president. Second, they typically are connected to a museum that tells the life story of the president with a focus on their years in office.


The earlier libraries are located at birthplaces or long-term homes, like Herbert Hoover’s in West Branch, Iowa, FDR’s located in Hyde Park, New York, Harry Truman’s located in Independence, Missouri, and Dwight Eisenhower’s in Abilene Kansas.

Beginning with JFK’s Presidential Library, located next to the University of Massachusetts, the preferred location seems to have shifted to university campuses or near affiliated universities. LBJ’s is located at the University of Texas, Austin, Gerald Ford’s at the University of Michigan (although the museum portion is in Grand Rapids), George H.W. Bush’s at Texas A&M, George W. Bush at SMU, Bill Clinton’s in Little Rock (affiliated with the University of Arkansas), and Barack Obama’s will be at the University of Chicago.


My favorite visit of course has to be when Lauren and I drove her car home from college in Evanston, traveling through West Branch, Iowa (site of the Herbert Hoover Birthplace and Presidential Library). We visited after attending the game of the Quad Cities River Bandits (Single A), which played at about the same quality level of my high school’s baseball team. QUIZ QUESTION: CAN YOU NAME THE QUAD CITIES? [SEE ANSWER BELOW]

I remember visiting the JFK, LBJ and Carter Museums on various trips to USC away games, often in the company of “Uncle Dennis.” And I’ve been to the Reagan Library many times. Curiously, I have not yet visited the Nixon Library. I was boycotting it when it was run by the Nixon Foundation and was notoriously biased. Now that NARA runs it, I have to make a point of visiting when things reopen.

While the Presidential Libraries are enlightening and make an attempt at being “fair,” they definitely tend to skirt embarrassing issues that arose during the president’s administration (e.g., not a lot about the depression at the Hoover Museum, or Iran-Contra at the Reagan Library, or the Iran Hostage Crisis at the Carter Library…you get the picture…).

On my near-term bucket list is visiting the Eisenhower Library in Missouri and the Truman Library in Kansas. Don’t tell Andrea. It’s a surprise!


It doesn’t just have to be a presidential library to be an important presidential site. Here are a few other notable spots for the “pre-NARA” presidents:

Theodore Roosevelt. The Theodore Roosevelt Birthplace, on 10th Street in Manhattan, is a great picture of the refined lifestyle of our 26th president. And while there, you can pop over to the Lower East Side Tenement Museum to get a picture of how the “other class” lived. The Tenement Museum is a remarkable journey to the places that our grandparents lived—when multiple families often crowded into small space along with the seamstress and clothes making and pressing “factories” of the family. Teddy also can be seen in another context at the Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota, recounting his ranching days after the deaths of his mother and first wife on the same day.

William McKinley. Some have called him the first “modern” president, ushering in the era of Progressive reformers Teddy Roosevelt, William Howard Taft and Woodrow Wilson. His statue stands in front of the Ohio Capitol building and he has a modest presidential library near his Canton, Ohio home.

Martin Van Buren. Upstate New York hosts a great old home that belonged to Martin Van Buren, Andrew Jackson’s political Svengali, one of the singular figures in the birth of the party system, Vice-President to Jackson and later one-term president. He lost his bid for a second term in 1840 to William Henry Harrison and John Tyler (“Tippecanoe and Tyler Too”). Harrison died after a month on the job and Tyler, a Southern slaveholder, was a terrible president. In 1844, Van Buren tested the waters again and ran in 1848 on the “Free Soil” ticket.

Warren G. Harding. It hasn’t opened yet (it was supposed to open September 2020 but has been delayed by the pandemic). Leave it to the great state of Ohio and “true believers” to build the newest Presidential Library in Marion, Ohio. Can’t wait to hear what they have to say about Mr. Harding, whose incomplete single term was singularly unimpressive. Not terribly bad—just uneventful and unimportant.

Of course the founding fathers have their own special historic places—Mount Vernon, Quincy, Monticello, Montpelier, and Fredericksburg, VA—all great places reflective of the personalities, tastes and administrations of our first six presidents, Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Madison, Monroe and J.Q. Adams (all from Virginia or Massachusetts). And there are seemingly endless places from Kentucky to Illinois to Washington to experience Abraham Lincoln.


The Quad Cities are Davenport, Iowa (site of the stadium for the Quad Cities River Bandits), Rock Island, Illinois, Moline, Illinois, and Bettendorf, Iowa.


Ed Nahmias followed up on my increasing impatience with disappointing movies and books. He told me of a friend in “the industry” who will give a movie 20 minutes and then will walk out if doesn’t “catch him” by then. He literally walks out and waits in the lobby for his wife and friends if others refuse to walk out…!

Warmly, Glenn

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