Halls to the Chiefs
Published Jan/Feb 2005

Discover history at these Presidential libraries and museums.
By Sally M. Snell

In observance of Presidents Day in February, test your knowledge of presidential history with our list of questions. Expanded answers and extra credit questions can be found at www.aaatravelermags.com.

Seven of 11 presidential libraries under the National Archives and Records Administration are located in the central United States. Prior to the creation of the NARA in 1934, presidents and their heirs dispersed or destroyed their papers. President Herbert Hoover laid the cornerstone for the first National Archives building. The presidential library officially began in 1939 when Roosevelt donated all his personal and presidential papers to the federal government.

Ready for Presidential History 101? You may discover a few fascinating facts.

Q. What is the newest presidential library administered by the NARA?

A. The William J. Clinton Presidential Center and Park opened in November 2004 in Little Rock, Ark. The center’s cantilevered bridge-style construction reflects our transition into the 21st century. It is situated in a 30-acre park, forming a link in a series of developing parks along the riverfront. Visitors have access to the largest archival collection–80 million document pages–ever compiled in a presidential library.

Clinton, whose terms ran from 1993–2001, was the second president in history to be impeached by the House of Representatives, but was tried in the Senate and found not guilty. His presidency was also a time of peace and economic prosperity, and Americans enjoyed the highest rate of home ownership in the history of the United States.

Q. Name one of two Quaker U.S. presidents.

A. Herbert Hoover, a Quaker, served as our 31st president from 1929–33, becoming president the same year the stock market crash spiraled the country into a depression.

The Herbert Hoover Presidential Library-Museum is in West Branch, Iowa. The library has more than 7 million pages of document holdings, including the papers of Rose Wilder Lane, Hoover’s first biographer. Museum exhibits encompass his career beginning with his “office” in a mining camp in the outback of Australia, concluding with a replica of his post-presidency apartment in New York.

Q. Which president built a tennis court on his farm to attract a bride?

A. In 1911, Bess Wallace gently declined Harry S. Truman’s first proposal of marriage. Not one to give up, he built a tennis court on his family’s farm to woo the athletic Bess.

Following the death of President Roosevelt, Truman became the 33rd president of the United States, serving from 1945–53. One of his first acts as president was to order atomic bombs be dropped on Japan, bringing an end to World War II.

The Truman Presidential Museum & Library is in Independence, Mo. The largest permanent exhibit, “Harry S. Truman: The Presidential Years,” focuses on some of the most pivotal moments in world history.

Q. Who was the first U.S. president born in Texas?

A. Dwight D. Eisenhower was born in Denison, Texas, in 1890. He was the 34th president, serving from 1953–61. Eisenhower was the first to serve a constitutionally limited presidential term. Perhaps his most lasting legacy as president was signing the Federal Aid Highway Act of 1956, which created our interstate system.

The Dwight D. Eisenhower Museum and Library in Abilene, Kan., includes more than 2,300 hours of audio recordings, 300,000 still photographs and 600,000 feet of film and videotape, in addition to a large political cartoon collection and campaign memorabilia of the 1950s.

Eisenhower was Supreme Commander of the troops invading France on D-Day in 1944. Many of the museum’s exhibits focus on his career as an Army general during World War II. Paintings by Eisenhower will be on exhibit through March 13.

Q. Who was elected as a U.S. senator and vice president in the same election?

A. On Nov. 6, 1960, Lyndon Baines Johnson was elected vice president and re-elected to his third term in the U.S. Senate. During his presidential administration, 1963–69, astronauts orbited the moon and the war in Vietnam escalated.

Johnson was the first member of Congress to volunteer for active duty following the bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941. In 1942, he received a Silver Star from Gen. Douglas MacArthur for gallantry in action following an aerial combat mission in New Guinea.

The Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum in Austin, Texas, includes more than 4,000 political cartoons dealing with Johnson’s presidency and the issues he faced.

The museum covers six decades of his life, from his boyhood in Texas to his presidency, focusing on Civil Rights, Vietnam and the war on poverty.

Q. Which president signed regulations that led to the first generation of automated teller machines (ATMs)?

A. Upon President Richard Nixon’s resignation in 1974, Gerald R. Ford became our 38th president. He was the first president of the United States not elected as either vice president or president.

The Gerald R. Ford Museum in Grand Rapids, Mich., offers exhibits that deal extensively with the political and military conflicts of the 1970s, including Spiro Agnew’s resignation of the vice presidency, the break-in of Watergate, Nixon’s impeachment and subsequent resignation.

The Gerald R. Ford Library in Ann Arbor, Mich., contains all of Ford’s congressional, vice presidential and presidential historical materials, including the files of his White House staff. The materials filled nine semi-trailer trucks when shipped to Ann Arbor in 1977. Library archives contain approximately 20 million pages of papers and about 500,000 audiovisual records.

Q. Which president installed the first horseshoe pit at the White House?

A. George Bush, our 41st president, frequently had horseshoe tournaments with the White House Staff during his term from 1989–93. During his administration, the Cold War ended, the Berlin Wall fell and the Soviet Union dissolved.

The George Bush Presidential Library and museum opened in College Station, Texas, and focuses on his years in the oil business, diplomacy and White House. The library holds approximately 40 million pages of documents, 2 million photographs and 10,000 videotapes.

Q. Which president worked as an engineer in China?

A. President Hoover and his wife, Lou Henry, left for China soon after they were married in 1899. They survived the Boxer Rebellion in June 1900. While his wife worked in hospitals, Hoover directed the building of barricades, and once risked his life rescuing Chinese children.

Q. True or false: President Truman worked for AAA.

A. True. President Truman worked as a sales agent for the Kansas City Auto Club in 1925 and 1926. He took the job after he lost his re-election as a Jackson County judge.

Within a year, he sold 1,000 memberships and cleared $5,000 in salary. He left the club when elected presiding judge of the Jackson County court in 1926.

Q. Where are the other presidential libraries located?

A. Honoring our 32nd president, the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum is in Hyde Park, N.Y., (1-800-FDR-VISIT, www.fdrlibrary.marist.edu). Currently on view through July 17 is “This Great Nation Will Endure,” a photographic collection of the Great Depression.

The John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum is at Columbia Point, Boston, Mass., (1-866-JFK-1960, www.jfkli brary.org). View an exhibit of gifts given to the 35th president and first lady now through Nov. 13.

The Jimmy Carter Presidential Library and Museum is in Atlanta, Ga., (404-865-7100, www.jimmycarterlibrary.gov). Among the artifacts to see is the Nobel Peace Prize awarded to President Carter, our 39th president, in 2002.

The Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum is in Simi Valley, Calif., (1-800-410-8354, www.reagan.utexas.edu). Our 40th president, President Reagan died last June. His legacy includes a strong foreign policy against Communism. A symbolic reminder of that policy is a section of the Berlin Wall that was presented to President Reagan in April 1990.

Although not affiliated with the NARA, the Richard Nixon Library and Birthplace is located in Yorba Linda, Calif., about 15 minutes from Disneyland.

The nine-acre library features 22 galleries, interactive video and movie theaters. For more information, call (714) 993-5075, or click on www.nixonfoundation.org.

Extra credit

Though not part of the NARA, the opening of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield, Ill., are of note. The library, which opened on Oct. 14, holds nearly 1,500 manuscripts that Lincoln, our 16th president, wrote or signed between 1831 and 1865, as well as a rare 1860 biography of Lincoln used during the campaign. Also included in the holdings are a print of the Emancipation Proclamation bearing Lincoln’s original signature and the Gettysburg Address.

The museum is scheduled to open in spring 2005. It will contain two immersive journeys into Lincoln’s life. Journey one includes depictions of Lincoln reading by the light of a fire, a slave auction where a family is torn apart, his life as a lawyer and the campaign of 1860. Journey two encompasses his life in the White House. The museum and library collections are part of the Illinois state government. •

Sally M. Snell is a contributor from Topeka, Kan. Additional information was added to the story by “AAA Midwest Traveler” staff.
Before You Go
• Clinton Presidential Center and Park, (501) 370-5050, www.clintonpresidential center.org;

• Herbert Hoover Presidential Library– Museum, (319) 643-5301, www.hoover .archives.gov;
• Truman Presidential Museum & Library, 1-800-833-1225, www.trumanlibrary.org;

• Dwight D. Eisenhower Library & Museum, 1-877-RING-IKE, (877-746-4453),
www.eisenhower.archives.gov;

• Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum, (512) 721-0200, www.lbjlib .utexas.edu;

• Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum, (616) 254-0400, www.fordlibrarymuseum .gov; library, (734) 205-0555;

• George Bush Presidential Library and Museum, (979) 691-4000, http://bushli brary.tamu.edu;

• Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, (217) 558-8882, www.alincoln library.com.

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