Presidents by Century

Two hundred years ago, in 1804, our President was Thomas Jefferson. In Ken Burns' 1996 documentary "Thomas Jefferson", the historian Andrew Burnstein said:
"There's an interesting story that takes place in the eighteen teens. There's a clergyman who stops at Ford's tavern in Virginia which is on the road between Monticello and Poplar Forest. And he encounters a man he terms a 'respectable stranger'. And he engages in a conversation at some length with this stranger. First they talk about mechanical operations and he's certain that the man is a engineer of some sort. Then they move on to matters of agriculture and he thinks this is, in his words, a 'large farmer'. Finally they talk about religion and he's certain that the man is a clergyman like himself. The hour gets late and they go to bed. And the next morning he arises and speaks with the inn keeper and asks for the stranger he had seen the night before. And he describes him and the innkeeper says: 'Why don't you know? That was Thomas Jefferson.'"
On April 29, 1962, President and Mrs. Kennedy held a White House dinner honoring 49 Nobel Prize winners from the Western Hemisphere. President Kennedy said: "I think this is the most extraordinary collection of talent, of human knowledge, that has ever been gathered together at the White House - with the possible exception of when Thomas Jefferson dined here alone."
Thomas Jefferson, the author of the Declaration of Independence, was probably the best educated man in the country.


One hundred years after that, in 1904, our President was Theodore Roosevelt. The historian Edmund Morris wrote in the April 13, 1998, edition of Time:
"They don't hold White House lunches the way they used to at the beginning of the century. On Jan. 1, 1907, for example, the guest list was as follows: a Nobel prizewinner, a physical culturalist, a naval historian, a biographer, an essayist, a paleontologist, a taxidermist, an ornithologist, a field naturalist, a conservationist, a big-game hunter, an editor, a critic, a ranchman, an orator, a country squire, a civil service reformer, a socialite, a patron of the arts, a colonel of the cavalry, a former Governor of New York, the ranking expert on big-game mammals in North America and the President of the U.S.
All these men were named Theodore Roosevelt."
It was said that while he was President, he read three books a day.


One hundred years after that, in 2004, our President is George W. Bush. I'm not sure he has read three books since he took office.

Posted 2004/Oct/14