Monday, June 30, 2008

Peculiar Pierce Memorabilia

Doing a search of blogs at has turned up a few interesting Franklin Pierce related posts. First I learned that sells apparel such as T-shirts, bibs and onesies displaying the handsome visage of our 14th President. Next, I found a (mercifully) short-lived attempt at a Franklin Pierce comic strip. And finally, one blogger owns a piano from the Francestown (NH) Academy, where Franklin Pierce was a student. Whether he actually played the piano is unknown to me, but it makes for a nice Washington-slept-here type story.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Franklin Pierce Praised

New Hampshire man Elting E. Morison wrote a piece entitled "In Praise of Pierce" in the August/Sept. 1985 issue of American Heritage Magazine.

Franklin Pierce Dissed Again

On Feb. 6, 2007, US News and World Report posted an article on the ten worst Presidents in U.S. history. Franklin Pierce came in #4.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Franklin Pierce Rising

Perhaps Franklin Pierce will rise from obscurity this election season. He is getting some publicity now. In the June 13, 2008 edition of the Christian Science Monitor, Ruth Walker writes in an article about the "historic" campaigns of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton entitled "Not Quite the End of 'History',"
It is a moment to savor in the life of the nation. But is history the facts, the deeds themselves; or the telling of them? Of course they made history, one wants to say; the US presidency is always "historic." Consider Franklin Pierce, the obscure 14th president. Amazon lists a dozen biographies of him, including a new one due out in August, plus two compilations of his papers.
After checking on, it looks to me like the book being published in August is a recycling of a biography for children written by Steven Ferry in 2001, but at least the publisher is optimistic enough to think that children still read books and that they might be interested in history.

Blogger billysumday in his diary had me going for a minute with his parody of a recent John McCain remark. McCain responded to Barack Obama's comment that McCain was running for George W. Bush's third term by saying that Obama was running for Jimmy Carter's second term. Billysumday changed the response to make it Franklin Pierce's second term. The implication is that McCain is old and making outdated references. It may be the case that many young voters are equally unfamiliar with Carter and Pierce.

Finally, in an article about ex-Presidents, Jeremy Lott wrote of Bill Clinton in the blog Politico on May 20, 2008,
He may also be in the same strata as Franklin Pierce, who, though from New Hampshire, was a slavery enthusiast and denounced the Civil War effort to keep the nation united. Pierce died a reclusive alcoholic, a former president scorned even by local schoolchildren, who often threw pebbles at him on the rare occasions he ventured outside.
Little old lady English teacher note: If there are indeed different levels of bad ex-Presidents, then Clinton would be in the same stratum, not the same strata as Pierce, unless it is possible to be so bad as to occupy multiple levels in the hierarchy of former leaders of the free world.

For a nice concise video about Franklin Pierce, check out

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Franklin Pierce the Obscure

It probably has something to do with the fact that I am in my fourteenth hour of reading X-rays, CTs and ultrasounds on call today. I don't know how else to explain this post. I would do almost anything, read almost anything, Google almost anything to get away from the images of the huddled masses in the ERs and ICUs, yearning to have their brain hemorrhages, belly abscesses, and clotted veins diagnosed by yours truly. Actually, the afflicted have no idea who I am, nor will they ever, until they see my name on their bill, for radiologists labor for the most part in obscurity in front of computer monitors. So, for respite between cases, I have been surfing the web for material on the Marx brothers. They are cited as an area of interest in my Blogger profile, but I have not written about them yet. My search took me to David Holzel's zine The Jewish Angle, where he talks about being inspired by Groucho, and his plaster statue of Groucho, like the one I have.
In fact, I have plaster statues of Harpo and Chico as well. Harpo was a wedding present almost thirty-five years ago, and the other brothers were added soon after. From Holzel's site, I linked to The Franklin Pierce Pages, authored by Holzel, Benjamin Bratman, and Todd Leopold. Here, an unusual convergence of items from my recent posts occurred in Bratman's article "Wrested From the Jaws of Triviality." To wit:
Pierce had the peculiar distinction of having as vice president the only nationally elected American official ever to be sworn in on foreign soil. Pierce also had the peculiar distinction of having as vice president a man who never worked one day in the job. William Rufus de Vane King was terminally ill with tuberculosis when he was nominated and subsequently elected as vice president. (This begs the question, why was he selected?). He was sworn in in Cuba where he was seeking medical treatment. Less than a month later, he died, never having assumed his duties.
Ah ha! An example of the modern usage of "begs the question," which I had condemned in recent posts.

Also from Bratman's article:
Pierce’s salad days were clearly in college at Bowdoin College in Maine. There, he was a classmate of Nathaniel Hawthorne, who later became a writer and author of The Scarlet Letter, as well as one of Pierce’s closest friends and advisors.
Wow! Another of my newfound obsessions--Nathaniel Hawthorne! Bratman doesn't mention that Hawthorne wrote a campaign biography of his friend Franklin Pierce, and was rewarded with the American consulship to Liverpool after Pierce was elected. Hawthorne stayed at the post from 1853-57. Also of note, Hawthorne died on a trip to the White Mountains with Pierce in 1864.

Who knows, I may now become obsessed with Franklin Pierce. After all, writing about an obscure president (James Buchanan) paid off for John Updike in his play Buchanan Dying and his novel Memories of the Ford Administration.