President Chester A. Arthur

President Chester Alan Arthur | 1881-1885

On this election day in the United States of America, now that people are finally casting their votes and all the election nonsense can stop, I was thinking that maybe we’d learn a bit about a President that time has all but forgotten. That’s right, let’s talk about President Chester A. Arthur, 21st President of the United States of America.

I first discovered President Arthur while sharpening my pencil in AP History in High School. My teacher had a poster with all the presidential portraits up in front of the pencil sharpener and one day I noticed just how cool President Arthur’s facial hair was. No other President could pull of a “chop-stache” the way Arthur could.

After high school, I attended Western Michigan University with the intention of becoming either a music teacher or a history teacher. In one of the introductory courses for history, I was required to do a long paper on the historical subject of my choice. I remembered Arthur’s facial hair and wondered what else there was to him. My answer, plenty.

Here are some of the fun facts:

  • Arthur assumed the presidency when a deranged gunman shot President Garfield, declaring, “I am a Stalwart, and Arthur will be President!”
  • Vice-President Arthur and President Garfield didn’t get along. In fact, after being sworn in, Arthur left Washington to return to New York where he stayed until Garfield’s death.
  • Before moving into the White House, Arthur hired famous interior designer, Louis Comfort Tiffany, to refurbish it.
  • Arthur never appointed a Vice-President to fill the vacancy which he left.
  • Arthur was an eligible bachelor while President (but he remained faithful to the memory of his late wife).
  • The only reason that Arthur was on the presidential ticket in the first place was in an effort to balance the ticket between the two major factions of republicans at the time.
  • When he became president, Arthur was accused of being born in Canada, thereby making him ineligible to be President. And while it is now believed that the accusations were groundless, it is true that Arthur’s father was not a U.S. citizen until late in Arthur’s life, giving Arthur dual-citizenship and meaning that he wasn’t a naturalized citizen (which was the actual requirement).
  • Arthur was known as the Gentleman Boss, because he was such a dapper dresser. In fact, it was reported that he had one room of the White House reserved solely for his shoes.
  • Arthur found out that he had a fatal kidney disease early in his presidency. Knowing that he likely wouldn’t run for re-election helped him make politically unpopular but good decisions, some of which are still in use today.

So there it is. I am willing to bet that you learned something.

Regardless of who you vote (or voted) for today, there’s a good chance that they’re not as interesting as this now-forgotten 19th century president.

And now I leave you with my favorite Arthur quote:

“Well, there doesn’t seem anything else for an ex-President to do but to go into the country and raise big pumpkins.”

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