Wednesday, December 7, 2011


Mom read a book recently about President James A. Garfield and how he got assassinated.  The name of this book is Destiny of the Republic, and it was written by Candice Millard.  Mom said I should tell everybody that this is a very good book, and she thinks lots of people should read it.

A nice picture of the Garfield family,
but where is the dog?
President Garfield had the second-shortest presidency of all, after William Henry Harrison.  President Harrison forgot to wear a hat to his inauguration, and he caught pneumonia and died after only 32 days in office.  But that's not what happened to President Garfield.  Instead, President Garfield got shot in the back by a mostly insane man named Charles Guiteau, and he finally died 10 weeks later because of infection caused by doctors sticking their fingers into his wound to try to find the bullet.  But you can read all about this in the book I mentioned before.

President Garfield getting shot in the back

Anyway, President Garfield was a very smart man with a good sense of humor, and he didn't want the same things that the Congress wanted, so they called him a Mugwump.  Also, he vetoed a whole bunch of bills, and he even named his dog Veto.  Sadly, I can't find any pictures of Veto, so we will just have to imagine what he or she looked like.

At least we know that President Garfield was an excellent person because he had a dog, and he might have made a great president who was remembered in history, except for the little problem of his getting shot and dying.  Back in those days, the presidents didn't have any Secret Service people to guard them and keep them safe, even after President Lincoln got shot.  So in my opinion, President Garfield should have taken his dog Veto with him everywhere to keep him safe and bite any assassins in the butt.

After President Garfield died, Vice-President Chester Arthur became the president.  Everybody was worried because Mr. Arthur had done some bad stuff while he was the Collector of the Port of New York. He was also in cahoots with some of President Garfield's enemies.  But people were shocked when President Arthur turned out to be a pretty good guy after all.  For one thing, he got the Civil Service Reform Act passed that President Garfield had wanted.  This was a law that said government jobs should be given to people who actually knew how to do them, and not as a reward to people who happened to be good buddies with some politician.

A journalist named Alexander McClure wrote, "No man ever entered the Presidency so profoundly and widely distrusted as Chester Alan Arthur, and no one ever retired . . . more generally respected, alike by political friend and foe."  The unfortunate thing about President Arthur is that we don't know whether he ever owned any dogs or not.  He had a kidney disease, and he didn't feel like trying very hard to get nominated to run for another term.  So after serving his one term, he retired.  He only lived about three more years after that, and the day before he died, he had all his personal papers burned.

The next president after President Arthur was Grover Cleveland.  It turns out that his first name was Stephen, but I guess he never went by that name, only by Grover.  Mr. Cleveland was the only Democrat to be elected president during the period from 1860 to 1912.  All the others were Republicans.  This does not seem very fair, but that's the way it happened.

The wedding of Grover Cleveland
and Frances Folsom

President Cleveland was first elected in 1884.  He was a bachelor, so his sister moved to the White House and became his hostess for two years.  Then the president got married, in a great big, fancy wedding, to a woman named Frances Folsom.  Miss Folsom was only 21 years old at that time, and President Cleveland was 49.  This meant that he was 27 years older than she was, but the American people didn't mind this.  They liked their new First Lady, who was beautiful and who had a warm and friendly personality.

Now I will tell you something to prove how much people liked Miss Folsom, which is that lots of little girls were getting named "Frances" about that time.  Mom told me that one of her grandmothers was named Frances Folsom Brown, and it's pretty clear where that name came from because the name "Folsom" is not in Mom's family anywhere.  Mom's grandma was called "Fanny" by her friends and family, and Mrs. Cleveland was called "Frank."

Okay, but here's the important thing.  Mrs. Cleveland really loved all kinds of animals.  And as soon as this news got out, a man from Milwaukee sent her a little 9-month-old poodle.  Except that it might have been a Pekingese.  It was described as the smallest "pug dog" in the U.S., since it only weighed a pound and a half.  So who knows what it was, exactly?  I tried to find a picture of this little dog, but all I could find was pictures of Mrs. Cleveland wearing very fashionable dresses, which seems to be something she liked to do.  I think she could have just held her little dog while she was posing for photos in her fancy dresses, but maybe she didn't want to get dog hair on her clothes.

The Clevelands had some other dogs, besides having five children.  They had one dog that was probably a dalmatian, and then there is this picture of the president with his son Richard and a dog whose name is not known.  To me, this dog looks like some kind of spaniel, so I guess the dalmatian was a different dog.  Either that or somebody thought that any dog with spots is a dalmatian.

When he ran for a second term, President Cleveland lost to Benjamin Harrison.  I already told you all about President Harrison's pets.  Then after Mr. Harrison had been the president for four years, Mr. Cleveland ran again, and he won!  So he is the only president ever to have two terms that weren't one right after the other.  And he was the only president to be counted twice, because he was both the 22nd and the 24th president of the U.S.

Okay, now I will just tell you a tiny bit about President William McKinley, who was next after President Cleveland.  He was elected in 1896, and he was the last Civil War veteran to serve as president.  There is no record that he had any dogs of his own, but there was one strange incident with a mysterious black dog that I'm going to tell you about.

The president is on the right, and the dog
is on the left.

President McKinley served one term, and then he got elected a second time in 1900.  The next year, he went to the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, NY, and I'm sorry to say that a crazy man shot him there.  But the morning of the day when President McKinley got shot, he went to see Niagara Falls, and while he and some other people were walking around, a black dog kept following them.  Nobody knew where the dog came from or whose dog it was.

The assassination of President McKinley
Anyway, that afternoon, the president was at the Pan-American Expo, and he was shaking hands with a bunch of people, and a man came up with his hand all bandaged.  Except that there was nothing wrong with his hand.  He was just hiding a gun inside the bandage.  So when he came to President McKinley, he shot him.  The reason he gave for shooting the president was that he wanted to get rid of government.

Later on, when people remembered the black dog at Niagara Falls, they thought that the dog must have been a bad omen.  At first it seemed like President McKinley was going to get well, but after a few days, his wounds got infected, and he died.  This was another sad case of a president not being guarded from bad guys, even by a dog, and of doctors not understanding enough about germs and icky things like that.

So here are the lessons we can learn from these four presidents:
1.  Every president should have a dog.
2.  Every president needs bodyguards.
3.  Never stick your dirty fingers into a wound, even if you are a doctor.


  1. Hey Piper,
    Sorry I haven't been commenting for a while but I have been reading your posts but I wasn't posting because you probably didn't read them or just didn't comment- I always look forward to your comments so I've been waiting because I love when a dog can make your day brighter!!!
    Anyway, speaking of dogs, I guess some presidents just thought the dogs would be more famous than them which is true but people don't admit it and that dogs are just more sophisticated!

    Your pretty much old enough pal, Lucky

  2. Dear Lucky,
    I always read all the comments on my blog, but sometimes I get busy napping and forget to answer. Or sometimes I get a comment from somebody I don't even know, and they say stuff that doesn't make sense, so I just kind of ignore their comment. But I try to reply to your comments, so if I missed any, I'm sorry! Anyway, I think everybody should have a dog, if possible, and especially presidents, but I guess not everybody agrees with me!
    Love, Piper

  3. Hello,

    I'm glad you enjoy my photo of Grover Cleveland and Godzilla. However, as noted on the page where you probably found it, you are supposed to credit me or, at the very least, link back to the original page on Flickr ( I'm sure this is an oversight on your part.

    Thank you,