Kids' Letters to President Kennedy

Children don't hold back.
There are few places I’d rather be than a good used bookstore. The smells, the history, the possibilities….it’s magical. I’ve been obsessed with the presidential section at The Iliad Bookshop in North Hollywood for a while now, and I only recently thought to look outside that section for history books – to the paperback section. 

That’s where I found a copy of “Kids’ Letters to President Kennedy,” compiled by Bill Adler and first published in 1962. This paperback edition was published in February 1963, nine months before Kennedy was assassinated.

I bought the book for $2.50, thinking it would be an amusing collection of kids-say-the-darndest-things letters, just like the cover said – a time capsule from a more innocent time before everything changed. The truth isn’t quite so simple.

Here are some highlights from the book, along with my thoughts.

Dolley Madison: Clever, Gay, and Yeasty

Describing Dolley
To mark the 250th birthday of First Lady Dolley Madison, I turned to a 1972 biography by Ethel Stephens Arnett called “Mrs. James Madison: The Incomparable Dolley.”

I love how Arnett opens one chapter with a huge list of “complimentary adjectives” from different books about Madison:

John Quincy Adams's Pet Alligator Was A Crock

My hunt for the truth behind Gatorgate.
There are three “facts” about John Quincy Adams that I see repeated on the internet more than anything else about the sixth president:
  1. While he was skinny dipping in the Potomac, female reporter Anne Royall sat on his clothes until he agreed to grant her an interview.
  2. He said, “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.”
  3. He kept a pet alligator in the White House, a gift from the Marquis de Lafayette, and he loved terrifying his guests with it.
All three, it seems, are bogus.

Valentines for Your Presidents Day - Part II

More Naughty Presidential Valentines for Your History Lover.
A while back I made some Valentines from the first three presidents. Now the next four presidents want to get in on the action and help you celebrate Valentine's Day and Presidents' Day together!

Warning: Not for children. Or mature adults.

It's Groundhog Day, James Madison

Never give an animal to James Madison.
Groundhog Day was not yet a thing in eighteenth century America, but the furry rodent itself was a source of fascination to two early presidents.