President’s, Presidents’ or Presidents?—February 18, 2011
Each year on the third Monday of February we celebrate the federal holiday officially titled Washington’s Birthday. This is the observation of founding father and first U.S. President George Washington’s birthday, as decreed by federal law in the Uniform Holidays Bill of 1968. Over time the popular names and definitions given this holiday include President’s, Presidents’ and even Presidents Day, referring to President George Washington only, Washington and President Abraham Lincoln whose birthday is Feb 12, and finally all U.S. Presidents. I found this information at snopes.com, linked from the library’s website (www.hastings.lib.ne.us) under ‘links’ and ‘consumer.’
How appropriate then, in wintry February, to dig into the 2010 New York Times bestseller “Washington, a Life” by the brilliant storyteller Ron Chernow. This well-reviewed book brings recent research to bear and, better yet, brings Washington to life. Washington was the only major founder who lacked a college education, who freed his personal slaves, and who was forced to borrow money to attend his own inauguration in New York City in 1789. His sense for the theatrical led him to depart his coach and mount a white parade horse before entering a city, yet he was ambivalent, almost embarrassed, by the extent of his fame. If you like this Chernow title, you’ll also want to check out his previous bestsellers “Alexander Hamilton” and “Titan: The life of John D. Rockefeller,Sr.”
Historians possess the advantage of recounting times and events decades, even centuries, after the fact. But in “Year of Meteors: Stephen Douglas, Abraham Lincoln, and the Election That Brought On the Civil War,” author Douglas Egerton tells the story of a pivotal presidential election and its most surprising outcome as it unfolded. The events of the election campaign of 1860 ultimately changed the course of our nation. Even those not intrigued with the Civil War era will enjoy this blow by blow account of backroom deals, pettiness and parliamentary brawling contrasted with wisdom and vision.
Do judge this book by its title: “Lost to Time: Unforgettable Stories that History Forgot.” With two Pulitzer Prize nominations and seven Emmys among his credits, author Martin Sandler is a master at telling stories, in this case the ones we may have overlooked. You’ll want to check the extensive index for references to George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and others.
James Monroe was the last of the founding fathers, our 5th president and is known for the Monroe Doctrine. Find much more in “The Last Founding Father: James Monroe and a Nation's Call to Greatness” by Harlow Unger. You will find all of these recently acquired titles in the library’s new adult nonfiction collection.