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  • Glenn Sonnenberg

Musings from the Bunker 2/16/21

Good morning! How about some presidential tidbits today? VOICES OF PRESIDENTS FROM THE 19TH CENTURY There are great places to find a rich collections of sound recordings on-line, including the voices of the presidents that takes us back to the time of Benjamin Harrison. Here is the oldest surviving recording of a U.S. president in 1889, although not the first (Hayes was recorded but that recording was lost): https://allthatsinteresting.com/benjamin-harrison-audio. And here is the first surviving movie of a U.S. president, William McKinley at his inauguration in 1897: http://yestervid.com/the-first-us-president-on-film/#:~:text=This%20clip%20is%20the%20first,president%20of%20the%20United%20States. PRESIDENTIAL ASSASSINS After the attack on the Capitol last month, I began thinking about revolutionary movements in the United States over the years. Over the 20th century, we saw Father Coughlin, German sympathizers like Lindbergh, a huge Nazi rally in Madison Square Garden, and the John Birch Society. In the prior century there were the No Nothings and other nativists. And throughout, some of these folks saw fit to take action against political leaders. We forget that the assassins claim to “stand for” something, just like those who stormed the Capitol. Most weren’t people who were trying to impress others, as was the case like John Lennon’s killer. Last week, I asked if people could name the people and circumstances of these assassinations. Here’s a quick recap and some excellent books regarding each:

  • Abraham Lincoln, assassinated by John Wilkes Booth because Booth was a Southerner who couldn’t forgive Lincoln for defeating the South or for freeing the slaves To learn more, I recommend Blood on the Moon, by Edward J. Steers, Jr. and Manhunt, The 12-Day Chase for Lincolns Killer, by James L. Swanson.

  • James Garfield, assassinated by Charles Guiteau, a writer and lawyer. This poor fool killed President Garfield, a Civil War hero, because he was rebuffed by Garfield in attempts to receive a government position. There are few histories as literate and interesting as Destiny of the Republic by Candice Millard. Here is a great article that tells the story in a more abbreviated form: https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.washingtonpost.com/history/2020/09/19/garfield-assassination-white-house-doctors-lied/%3foutputType=amp. It is apparent that the poor medical care he received (this was when Lister’s theories were relatively new) was the cause of his death. His assassin said as much at trial—shortly before he was taken out and hung.

  • William McKinley, assassinated by Leon Czolgosz, an anarchist.Czolgosz, like many of the insurrectionists at the Capitol, was the product of job loss in an economic downturn, in his case the Panic of 1893. The book for this has to be The President and the Assassin: McKinley, Terror, and Empire, by Scott Miller. Not just a book about the assassination, but the rise of American power, industrialization and the forces that fomented anarchy at the turn of the last century.

  • John F. Kennedy, assassinated by Lee Harvey Oswald. Those of us of a certain age have memories of the day the President was killed. It is one of the seminal events of the mid-20th century, surrounded by confusion and conspiracy. The book, Case Closed, by Gerald Posner, is the definitive book about the details of the assassination. It painstakingly works through all the theories, concluding the simplest explanations almost assuredly were the correct ones. These were the good old days, when conspiracies were at least based upon incorrect analysis of facts, rather than just assertions of wild fantasies… Here is a short debunking of some of the more prevalent theories, from the Washington Post: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/retropolis/wp/2017/10/24/jfk-assassination-conspiracy-theories-the-grassy-knoll-umbrella-man-lbj-and-ted-cruzs-dad/


WE ARE TWO GENERATIONS SEPARATED FROM A MAN BORN IN THE 18TH CENTURY… Curiously, John Tyler, tenth president of the United States, born in 1790, still has a surviving grandchild, Harrison Ruffin Tyler, born in 1924 (another grandchild died last year). So how did it happen that the grandchild of the ninth president is alive today, 230 years from the birth of his grandfather? Well, Tyler had several kids through a second marriage when he was in his 70s and one of those kids similarly was in his 70s when his children were born. This means there is a man alive today whose grandfather was born when George Washington was president! THE “FINAL” WORD ON BAGELS… David Lash, in his own words: “I hate to be a contrarian, and I have tried to constrain myself, trying hard not to preach, but I feel very strongly about this, I can no longer contain myself -- the best bagel on the planet is Ess-A-Bagel in NYC (there are two, the one we frequent is on Third Avenue at about 51st). I’ve been to Absolute Bagels (very good) and the rest, but nothing is as good as Ess-A-Bagel (and no other bagel place can match the name!). Beth was given a gift card that included the option of buying two dozen bagels from Ess-A-Bagel and having them shipped. Heaven!! Nothing can match it. No one who has not tasted one is qualified to evaluate the state of Bagel-dom. Sorry to be so didactic, but this is simply the truth.” Have a good day, Glenn

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