Friday, April 22, 2016

Pierce and Indigenous People

Alyssa Landry has written a nice article about the relationship between the Pierce administration and American Indians. As you may suspect, given the general attitudes during  Pierce's lifetime, the relationship was one of antagonism of the government toward the Indians, as whites coveted Indian lands for settlement and expansion of the railroads. The Kansas-Nebraska Act, which was signed by Pierce, aided westward expansion, as well as stoking the conflict over slavery. He also aided western expansion with the Gadsden Purchase in 1854, acquiring 30,000 square miles of territory in the current southwest U.S. from Mexico. He wanted to add Alaska, Hawaii, and Cuba to the U.S., but those efforts failed.

Ironically, the U.S. Mint issued "peace medals" featuring a bust of Pierce on the obverse, with the reverse showing a scene of a settler in front of an American flag, instructing an Indian on the values of "LABOR, VIRTUE, HONOR," which are engraved above the flag.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Scott and Pierce

The Library of Congress has a fairly sizable digital collection related to Franklin Pierce. One piece I hadn't seen before is this cartoon of presidential candidates Winfield Scott and Franklin Pierce in 1852.

The LOC description of the lithograph is as follows:
The artist anticipates a Whig victory in the 1852 presidential contest. The scene takes place in an interior, carpeted or tiled with a grid-and-star pattern. At left, Whig candidate Winfield Scott, in military uniform, pulls the "Presidential Chair" out from under Democratic nominee Franklin Pierce (also in military dress). Pierce, having fallen to the floor, exclaims, "Look out there! what you bout General? do you want to Knock a fellers brains out?" Scott replies, "Sorry to disappoint you Pierce; but the people wish me to take this chair."

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Pierce Briefly Honored, Then Dissed

Col. Paul Hutchinson and Pierce Brigade member Nancy Hartford place a wreath next to the grave of President Franklin Pierce during an annual graveside ceremony at Old North Cemetery in Concord to honor the president, Tuesday, Nov. 25, 2014. Photo by ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Concord Monitor

The dedicated members of the Pierce Brigade laid a wreath at the grave of Franklin Pierce on his birthday on November 25, 2014, as detailed in an article in the Concord Monitor.

Alas, by the time Presidents' Day 2015 rolled around, reverence for the 14th President was replaced in the news by the annual rankings, which always place Handsome Frank among the worst leaders of the U.S. This is nothing new--witness a 1997 article by Arthur Schlesinger.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Frank in Wax

A realistic wax figure of Franklin Pierce at Mme. Tussaud's Wax Museum in Washington, D.C. comes complete with awesome coiffure.

Fair and Balanced

The Concord (NH) Monitor is to be commended for presenting different opinions on Franklin Pierce. In "My Turn: Franklin Pierce Day? No Way!" Paul Mirski responds to legislation proposed to make November 23 Franklin Pierce Day in New Hampshire. Mirski calls Pierce's presidency "a New Hampshire embarrassment." In the same issue, Kathleen Braden paints a more sympathetic portrait of Handsome Frank in her article, "Busting the Myths of Franklin Pierce's Legacy."

Monday, January 14, 2013

Pierce Left Behind

Buchanan's Inaugural Parade, 1857

President Obama's supporters, apparently not in a celebratory mood, are not coming across with as much money as the organizers of his second inauguration had hoped. It's OK, Barry. At least you're getting a second term, which is something Franklin Pierce never had. On top of that, the inauguration of his successor, James Buchanan, had to be delayed for twenty minutes when it was discovered that poor old Handsome Frank had been totally forgotten at the Willard Hotel.

From President James Buchanan: A Biography by Philip Klein:
By noon the three groups of parade marshals, with their white,yellow or blue scarfs and saddle cloths trimmed with rosettes had the thirty- odd fire companies, militia battalions, bands, floats, and groups of artisans in line; and the procession started down Pennsylvania Avenue to the National Hotel. There Buchanan was joined by vice-president-elect Breckinridge, and all were ready to proceed when it was found that President Pierce was not on hand. A twenty-minute delay ensued until someone on the arrangements committee discovered that through an oversight, Pierce had been completely forgotten. After a flurry of excitement and consultation, the committee picked Pierce up at the Willard Hotel and at last the waiting crowds were relieved of their impatience by the sight of an elegant, four-horse barouche, containing the president and the president- elect. Ahead of them, leading the procession, was a huge float drawn by six white horses bearing a lady symbolizing the Goddess of Liberty on a high platform. Members of the Keystone Club rode beside the open presidential carriages, and behind them came a float with a large model of a warship.

Sunday, June 3, 2012


Now even the British are getting in on ranking U.S. presidents. As expected, Franklin Pierce is near the bottom in a poll of UK academics. Only his pathetic successor, James Buchanan ranked lower.

In other news, a company called Life Size Legends is offering a 6 foot tall cardboard cutout of Franklin Pierce, along with all the other U.S. presidents.