McNaughton’s Group

Special thanks to the eagle eyes at Wonkette, who’ve spotted a big one.

Extraordinarily cheezeball artist Jon McNaughton has brought forth a gathering of greats, as the ghosts of presidents past hover around sullen, stand-offish looking Barack Obama, variously annoyed or aghast at his literal TRAMPLING ON THE CONSTITUTION!

McNaughton is the kind of crank who rambles along in incoherent Founderspeak for numbered paragraphs, passive aggressively concluding:

“The information is historical. If it is not familiar to you – Google it.

Cramming all these figures into the frame seems to have skewed McNaughton’s perspective.  Small but perfectly formed James Madison is so upset at Obama’s boot-heel to our liberties that he’s bent over pleading, but appears to be almost Obama’s height.   The Forgotten Man is a giant seated on a toy town bench. Such is the occasion that Franklin Roosevelt walks.

McNaughton’s painting doesn’t leave much to chance, featuring ominous clouds, flags at half staff, and an accompanying video lush with  piano chords of doom.

The Visitors


For you all you Presidential who-went-where-when obsessives, The 48th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry/ Civil War Musings blog has a roundup on Presidential visits to the Antietam battlefield near Washington.

mckinley-antietham.gif With the special bonus of extensively documenting future President McKinley’s participation in the battle, where he heroically shuffled coffee to the front lines under fire.

Off Menu

landau-2reagans.JPG OK, but why Shelly Winters?

Presidential Helpmate Barry Landau has taken his cavalcade of dubious presidential history to the Martha Stewart show.

landau-the-presidents-table-cover.gif Landau is out and about promoting his compilation of White House and other menus, The President’s Table, spinning gossamer tales of place settings into THE STUFF OF HISTORY.

Let Me Show You My Etchings landau-coat.jpg

He began by telling Stewart a whopper. Landau showed her a papaya-sized belt buckle, which he claims was presented to President Grant by grateful Indian tribes. He described Grant as a great advocate of the Indians, and says “Grant had fought in the Indian Wars.”

That never happened.

When he isn’t making stuff up, Landau’s method is to take an object and buff it up by association with something totally unrelated, or to ascribe vast import to what’s really ephemera.

“When you get these little facts, it’s a rush. I just go floating around. It provides the missing links to presidential history

He talks up a menu:

“Theodore Roosevelt’s Copper Menu, 1903
Given to Barry Landau as gift from President Roosevelt’s daughter, Alice Roosevelt Longworth, this menu was for a dinner held in Roosevelt’s honor, given by the mayor of Butte, Montana, on May 27, 1903. The dinner followed Roosevelt’s address at the Minnesota State Fair, in which he called for America to assume its responsibilities as one of the great nations of the world.”


The State Fair speech was a big deal, launching the “walk softly and carry a big stick” catchphrase which has spawned a thousand editorial cartoons. roosevelt-t-big-stick-cartoon.JPG

And “assuming” our responsibilities has certainly paid off with Cuba, fount of Roosevelt’s glory and subject of much of the speech.

Roosevelt went to Butte on the same tour, didn’t get the ink there.

Landau rushes to share the secrets only he knows, which are pretty much about nothing.

“The one piece Landau describes as the most important in the whole book is a menu on which the wife of the postmaster general wrote the guest list for a secret dinner held by President Ulysses S. Grant as he handed over power to incoming President Rutherford B. Hayes….“Until I found that at a flea market for $10 no one knew who was at that dinner,” Landau says.”

And they would be right not to care.

Landau is looking for the history of great white men and their appetizers, and in this instance especially it is utterly beside the point.

Hayes succeeded Grant in the 1876 election only with spectacular plotting and intrigue. The Democratic winners of the popular vote went along with a dubious Republican Electoral College victory. In return, federal troops abandoned African Americans in the South to their fate. An era of enlightenment did not follow. reconstruction-ends-the_union_as_it_was.jpg


Along with his dubious history Landau serves up some, shall we say, fanciful numbers.

I have about 26,000-plus White House menus alone,” said Landau, who keeps most of his collection in a Washington, D.C., storage facility.

As Barry explained, “Menus didn’t really come into use until 1839 or 1840,” which means he’s collected roughly 155 annually for each year since.

landau-barry.jpg But whether you are piling up those “26,000 menus,” or “24,000 pieces of presidential memorabilia,” or “ about 1 million items,” or “1.2 million pieces,” you’re bound to have a few duplicates.

China Hand Jobs

hayes-china.jpg“In his inaugural address of March 5, 1877, President Hayes attempted to reassure the nation that change was necessary. He called for “not merely a united North or a united South, but a united country.”3 The Hayes service translated this message to the president’s official table, with the nation united – if only symbolically – through polychrome representations of the diverse flora and fauna from the north, south, east, and west.4 Pictured is an Ice Cream Plate.”

No doubt presidential tableware communicates some message at the time and to posterity. It also demonstrates the limits of house museums, presidential or other. The Woodrow Wilson House [still Washington D.C.’s only “Presidential Museum”!] is opening yet another exhibit of White House china from various administrations.

What lessons do we learn? That plates can unite the [white] nation! Rutherford Hayes err, “complex” service was all about bring some of us together to forget the recent unpleasantness.

“The United States of the 1870s was experiencing vast immigration from Europe as well as continuing growing pains through western expansion. Added to these was the very potent aftermath of the Civil War; Hayes’s 1876 victory was secured through his promise to remove Federal troops from the South, bringing the Civil War to a full close twelve years after its text book ending.”

The Wilsonists claim “…most Americans think that museums and historic sites are the most trustworthy sources for exploring the past,” but many Americans might find the statement above a rather bloodless description of the end of reconstruction and acceleration of black disenfranchisement.