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Riding The Tiger

“I discovered that being a President is like riding a tiger. A man has to keep on riding or be swallowed.” Harry S. Truman

Friday Feature: President Coolidge Not Riding a Tiger

President Coolidge smiles, wearing a suit and hat, on a lumber wagon with several other individuals.

President Coolidge rides a lumber wagon during his summer in the Black Hills. Exact date of photo is unknown, though it was likely summer 1927.  Photo courtesy SouthDakotaMagazine.com.

As we wind down summertime and get back to school and work, lets all pause a moment to be jealous of President Coolidge's three-week vacation to the Black Hills in 1927. He reportedly enjoyed the fresh air and mountain streams so much that he stayed for a total of three months, and his presence helped to kick start the carving of Mount Rushmore.

By the end of summer 1927, work was beginning on the famous Rushmore carving. Coolidge's full address from the opening can be read in our speech archive, but he remarks that "The fundamental principles which [these four presidents] represented have been wrought into the very being of our Country. They are steadfast as these ancient hills." 

Stay tuned! Every Friday we'll highlight a whimsical item from presidential history.

Friday Feature: President Taft Not Riding a Tiger

President Taft lobs a baseball on to the field from the sidelines.

Did you know? President Taft was the very first President to cast the first pitch on opening day. It's a tradition still followed to this day.

On April 15, 1910, Taft pitched the ball to Washington Senators' pitcher Walter Johnson from his seat along the sidelines. They went on to beat the Philadelphia Athletics in a 3-0 shutout.

 

Stay tuned! Every Friday we'll highlight an interesting item from presidential history.

Friday Feature: Betty Ford’s First Press Conference

Oh this day in history, August 9, 1974, Gerald Ford was sworn in as president after Nixon's resignation, declaring, "Our long national nightmare is over."

One month later, on September 4, Betty Ford held her first press conference as first lady of the United States. She faced 75 reporters. According to the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library & Museum,

"…Betty Ford immediately revealed the openness and good-natured candor that became her trademark. …. Expressing herself with humor and forthrightness on controversial issues of the day, she answered questions about women in politics, abortion rights, and a proposed Equal Rights Amendment to the Constitution. When she was diagnosed with breast cancer later that month, she broke with social conventions by fostering public discussion of her diagnosis and treatment. In doing this, she purposefully raised public awareness of screening and treatment options and reassured the many women already suffering from similar ordeals."

Friday Feature: Camp David Through the Years

David Eisenhower, a teenager, poses with the

Pictured: President Eisenhower’s grandson David Eisenhower at Camp David in 1960. (Courtesy Eisenhower Library)

As President Obama heads off to Camp David, check out these great photos of past presidents enjoying the Maryland retreat.

From whitehouse.gov:

Camp David, known formally as the Naval Support Facility Thurmont, is the President’s country residence. Located in Catoctin Mountain Park in Frederick County, Maryland, Camp David has offered Presidents an opportunity for solitude and tranquility, as well as an ideal place to host foreign leaders.

Adapted from the federal employee retreat Hi-Catoctin, President Franklin Roosevelt established the residence as USS Shangri La, modeling the new main lodge after the Roosevelt winter vacation home in Warm Springs, Georgia. President Eisenhower subsequently renamed the institution in honor of his grandson David.

Learn more about Camp David from whitehouse.gov.

Friday Feature: Teddy Roosevelt Riding the Presidential Moose

President Roosevelt rides atop a large moose which is swimming across a body of water.

When the president rides it, it becomes a presidential moose. Copyright Time Magazine, 1900.

Teddy Roosevelt, well-known as a sportsman later in life, actually started with a frail and sickly childhood. He developed a proclivity for exercise and the "strenuous life" as a teenager. Click through to see a bonus photo of Roosevelt during his time at Harvard... not to ruin the surprise, but the phrase "mutton chops" comes to mind.

Throughout his adult life, Roosevelt was a keen traveller and sportsman. Read more about his unique life in the American President essay.

Stay tuned! Every Friday we'll highlight a whimsical item from presidential history.

Friday Feature: Looking back through history

Ethyl Kennedy, Jacqueline Kennedy, and John F. Kennedy take a self-portrait

Earlier this year a special collection of Kennedy memorabilia—owned by David Powers, former special assistant to the President—was auctioned by John McInnis Auctioneers. The collection fetched almost $2 million. See more of the collection.

Pictured in this undated photo (left to right) are Ethyl Kennedy (sister-in-law to the President), Jacqueline Kennedy, and John F. Kennedy.

Interested in learning more about the Kennedy Family? Miller Center scholar Barbara A. Perry has written a compelling and intimate portrait of Rose Kennedy, mother to the President. The book becomes available in July. Learn more about Rose Kennedy: The Life and Times of a Political Matriarch.

Stay tuned! Every Friday we'll highlight an interesting item from presidential history.

Friday Feature: Barack Obama Takes His Best Shot…

President Obama reels in reaction to a missed shot on the basketball court. Enthusiastic kids look on.

President Barack Obama reacts to a missed shot on the White House Basketball Court, April 1, 2013. The President participated in a clinic with kids and professional basketball players as part of the 2013 White House Easter Egg Roll. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Stay tuned! Every Friday we'll highlight an interesting item from presidential history.

Friday Feature: Under Pressure

President Johnson sits at a conference table with his head down.

President Johnson listened to a tape sent by a soldier in Vietnam, Captain Charles Robb, who was the President’s son-in-law. July 1968. Domestic opposition to the war was escalating. 

Leading the free world isn't always bicycle rides and soaking in specialized bathtubs. No doubt, many presidents must feel a great sense of relief when passing the torch to their successors.

As stated by James K. Polk, after leaving office,

"I feel exceedingly relieved that I am now free from all public cares. I am sure I shall be a happier man in my retirement than I have been during the four years I have filled the highest office in the gift of my countrymen. "

And in the American President essay about Benjamin Harrison,

"In 1892, the voters handed [Harrison's challenger, Grover] Cleveland the most decisive presidential victory in twenty years. Harrison told his family he felt as though he had been freed from prison."

How do you think you would deal with the pressure? 

Stay tuned! Every Friday we'll highlight an interesting item from presidential history.

Friday Feature: Soaking the Tiger

Four workers sit comfortably in an oversized empty bath tub.

Pictured: Four gentlemen in what would become President Taft’s bathtub (before it made its way to the White House).

Did you know? William Howard Taft had an extra-large bathtub installed in the White House during his Presidency (where it remained until a White House renovation). A replica of Taft's tub is on display in the National Archives in Washington D.C.

Click here to see the original order for the bathtub, submitted by the captain of the U.S.S. North Carolina in 1908, and here to see a description in the journal Engineering Review from 1909 (p. 69).

Stay tuned! Every Friday we'll highlight an interesting item from presidential history.

Friday Feature: The Tiger Goes Riding

How about a little cuteness to wrap up the week? Here's President Clinton with Socks (clearly ready for action).

For more, check out this feature of presidential pets posted by Cute Overload back in February.

Stay tuned! Every Friday we'll highlight an interesting item from presidential history.

Friday Feature: Franklin Delano Roosevelt Ceases Riding the Tiger

Image copyright Elizabeth Shoumatoff (1945), all rights reserved.

On this day in 1945, President Franklin Roosevelt collapsed and died while sitting for a portrait in Warm Springs, GA. Harry Truman took the oath of office that same day. Seen here is the unfinished painting of FDR, done by Elizabeth Shoumatoff.

Despite his declining heath, Roosevelt's death came as a shock to the world--Churchill later described learning of FDR's death as comparable to having "been struck a physical blow."

Read more from the American President essay.

Stay tuned! Every Friday we'll highlight an interesting item from presidential history.

Friday Feature: James K. Polk Riding a (Sickly) Tiger

James K. Polk, image is United States public domain.

An individual's personality and past experiences contribute in a significant way to their approach of public office. (And in the case of the presidency, it's a very public office.) For today's Friday Feature, here's an excerpt from the American President essay about James K. Polk.

The eldest of ten children, James K. Polk lived in a tidy and well-organized household supervised by a stern mother, Jane Knox Polk, who believed in raising her children according to the strict Presbyterian "gospel of duty." But he was not a healthy child. The trip west had taken its toll on him, and James suffered most of his youth from one sickness or another, especially gallstones. This, along with his staunch Calvinist upbringing and education in Presbyterian schools, accounts for James's determined and even unhealthy work ethic. He seemed to work and study as hard as possible to make up for his real or imagined physical defects.

Click through to read more from American President.

Friday Feature: Benjamin Harrison Riding a [Goat]

Pictured: Benjamin Harrison’s son, Russell Harrison, with his children and their supposedly-ornery goat, “Old Whiskers.”

Did you know? Although stiff and formal with acquaintances, Benjamin Harrison opened up with his family. During his one term as President, he spent as little time as possible in the office, usually working only until noon. He loved to play with his grandchildren, many of whom had moved into the White House with their parents—Russell Benjamin Harrison, age thirty-six in 1890, and Mary Scott McKee, age thirty-two.

Perhaps most interestingly, the children were allowed to keep as many pets on the grounds as they wanted, including a goat whom they named Old Whiskers. One memorable story told of Harrison chasing the goat down Pennsylvania Avenue with his three grandchildren in tow and top hat in hand while waving his cane. Harrison also tried to escape Washington as often as possible, frequently going on hunting trips in secret. One trip made the national press when he shot a farmer's pig by mistake.

Read more in the Miller Center’s Benjamin Harrison essay.

Celebrate RTT’s Anniversary: Enter Our Caption Contest!

Harry Truman and Jack Benny

Harry Truman and Jack Benny. Photo by Abbie Rowe, U.S. National Park Service, PD.

Today marks the one-year anniversary of Riding the Tiger. Our goal has been to provide readers with scholarly insight and historical context of the 2012 election, the presidency and key policy issues. We also like to indulge in occasional whimsical features. Join us in celebrating RTT’s anniversary and the quote that provides the basis for our namesake by entering our caption contest. (It was Harry S. Truman who said, “I discovered that being President is like riding a tiger. A man has to keep on riding or be swallowed.”) 

Enter your caption of the image to the right in the “Comments” to this post by 5 pm tomorrow (Friday, March 1). The winner(s) will receive a coveted Miller Center t-shirt.

Friday Feature: Warren G. Harding Riding the Tiger

In case you missed it: This week in 1922 Warren G. Harding installed the first audio recording equipment in the White House. Little could he have known how ubiquitous these recordings would become for later presidencies… and how consequential they'd be for administrations such as that of Richard Nixon.

Harding's recordings were limited to about 5 minutes because of technological limitations. What would White House communications be like today if we were limited to 5 minutes of spoken word?

Read more about this week in history and visit the Miller Center's Warren G. Harding Speech exhibit.

Stay tuned! Every Friday we'll highlight an interesting item from presidential history.