Hopefully you had Monday off to celebrate some of America’s best dudes for Presidents’ Day. If you didn’t have the day off…we’re sorry. Regardless, if you’re feeling like you just haven't gotten all the prez love out of your system, we’re extending the celebration (just for you!) through the end of the week.
So, without further ado...
All you Zachary Taylor fans out there, can we get a “HEYYO!”
No? OK, let’s pour one out then for Jaaaames…Pollllk…
Well, dear inaudible-audience-that-we’re-dramatizing-for-the-sake-of-this-bit: it seems you’re not very well-versed in some of the lesser known, underappreciated presidents of yesteryear. So, allow us to take a few moments to share with you the highlights of some of America’s forgotten fathers, and give thanks to this glorious four-day work week they’ve provided us. Oh, and can we get “Heyyyaaaaa!” for Ulysses S. Grant?! No? Wow, tough crowd.
James K. Polk (11th President)
In our modern age of political half-truths and flagrant dishonesty, James K. Polk is a breath of fresh air with his near perfect record of basically doing exactly what he said he was going to do—and with Lebron James-esque efficiency to boot. He came into the presidency with an Elon Musk-like work ethic and four extremely boring but important goals: to cut tariffs, secure the Oregon territory, acquire the California and New Mexico territories from Mexico, and make the U.S. treasury independent (again). People seemed to sarcastically say, “yeah sure, James,” given how difficult these four things apparently were. However, just as he promised, he inevitably knocked off each of these goals one by one. Oregon was basically a contractual play with the Brits, but the southwestern disputes escalated into the Mexican-American War—which we hastily won. Some would say that the Mexican-American War precipitated the eventual Civil War, but we suppose that’s a fair price to pay for expanding American territories by one-third and also creating the Smithsonian during your tenure. Plus, arguably more impressive than any of this, Polk was only president for one term. Why? Because he said so—literally. When he became president, he vowed to only do it once, and to get everything he set out to do done in that four-year time period. And that’s exactly what he did. Then he dropped whatever the 1840s’ equivalent was to a microphone, got on his trusty steed, and rode back to his home in Nashville, where he’d later die at age 53. Bummer…but man was that dude efficient.
Zachary Taylor (12th President)
As president for just a hair over a year, President Zachary Taylor probably isn’t on many people’s radars. Reigning from 1849-1850, America was still very much in its infancy, trying to stake its claim as a full-fledged expanding country. When Taylor came into office, slavery was becoming an increasingly hot button issue, particularly since it was being used as a political expansion tool. Not hot on letting slavery expand to new territories or states (though he himself was a slave owner), Taylor became increasingly irritated with southern slave owners, and decided to expedite the inclusion of a particular state into the union—bypassing the territorial stage “tryout” altogether. This state, and all the gold that came with it, was Cali-forn-i-a. So, you can basically thank our 12th president for the Kardashian family (and thank him we shall).
Ulysses S. Grant (18th President)
Grant had one of those “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” kinds of presidencies. While he’s probably best known for serving as a general in the Union Army during the Civil War, his presidency was one of constant controversy—mostly due to the fact that he was largely responsible for the reconstruction of the United States following our worst domestic conflict ever. While he was the president responsible for ratifying the 15th Amendment that allowed black men the right to vote, he was also criticized for not protecting their rights enough. However, apart from dramatically improving the rights of African Americans during an already difficult time, he also created the National Weather Service and Yellowstone, America’s first national park. Plus, he was involved (tangentially) in a nationwide whiskey tax evasion scheme, which sounds more fun today than it probably was in 1870, but is a good reason to drink to him nonetheless.
James A. Garfield (20th President)
It’s a bummer that James A. was only president for a few months prior to being assassinated, because by all measures, it seemed like he was going to be pretty good at it. Almost immediately, he went after the pesky conspirators in the absurdly corrupt post office, which, given the times, was a big deal since it was the only organized way of exchanging information. Still, in the middle of post-Civil War reconstruction, Garfield was also a serious freedom fighter who believed that the best hope for African American civil rights was education (astute, to say the least). However, all of this was cut short when an irritated Stalwart office-seeker named Charles J. Guiteau shot Garfield. The reasons were pretty political to be honest, and had much to do with warring Republican factions and their views on civil rights reform—which we won’t even pretend to know much about. Instead, we’ll just go out on a completely unsubstantiated limb and blame the postal service since Garfield was out to fix it, and it’s somehow hilarious to think that the postal service was involved in a presidential assassination.