Tuesday, March 10, 2020

When Warren G. Harding Pitched Against the Cubs

Today we're going to talk about everyone's favorite president, Warren G. Harding, but before we get to him I need to provide some background involving W. P. Kinsella. You might be familiar with Kinsella as the author of Shoeless Joe, the book upon which the movie Field of Dreams was based. You might also be familiar with him if you read my post predicting that if the Chicago Cubs won the World Series, Donald Trump would win the presidency.

Shoeless Joe is great, but another of Kinsella's books, The Iowa Baseball Confederacy, is even better. Like most of Kinsella's works, the book is heavy on baseball, Iowa, and magical realism. The premise is basically that the 1908 Chicago Cubs played a multi-week, 2,500-plus-inning exhibition game against an amateur team from Big Inning, Iowa, but the protagonist of the story is the only one who knows the game occurred and is obsessed with proving it. He winds up going back in time to observe and participate in the game himself. Besides Cubs legends like Tinker, Evers, Chance, and Mordecai "Three Finger" Brown, the game also features such players as a giant mystical Native American, the statue of an angel from a nearby cemetery, and even Teddy Roosevelt, who stops by but strikes out.

With that in mind, a couple years ago I was perusing some president-and-baseball trivia when I came across a vague statement about how Warren G. Harding once invited a Major League Baseball team to play in his hometown. I forwarded that bit of information to my dad, also a Kinsella fan, with the comment, "Haha! I bet the Chicago Cubs played an exhibition game in Marion, Ohio!"

Then I dug into it a bit and learned that is exactly what happened.

Harding wasn't actually the one who invited the team--the idea was the brainchild of an advertising executive named Albert Lasker, who also happened to be both a consultant to Harding's presidential campaign and the majority owner of the Chicago Cubs. His plan was to hold an exhibition game in Marion between two Major League teams. However, it seems the idea proved too political for the other Major League clubs, so the Cubs wound up playing against Marion's semi-pro team, the Kerrigan Tailors. The game would bring publicity to Harding's campaign and would help reinforce the idea that Harding was a down-home guy who loved America's pastime just as much as the average Joe.

The game, held in Marion's Lincoln Park on September 3, 1920, was understandably packed. The 700 grandstand seats easily sold out, and another 5,000 watched from the sidelines.

Harding himself pitched to open the game, "striking out" Cubs right fielder Max Flack. According to an article from the Harding Home Presidential Site:
The first pitch was called a strike by "a charitable umpire." The next pitch ended up "about four feet outside the plate and within a foot of the ground" with the final pitch carrying out of Flack's reach.
Warren G. Harding, showing excellent form.
--From archives of the Harding Home Presidential Site
After that, Harding was replaced by pitcher Speed Martin, who the Cubs had loaned to the semipro team for the day. (Marion's other pitcher, Sweatbread Bailey, had also been provided by the Cubs, although it appears that the rest of the Marion lineup consisted of the team's regular players.) Of note is that the Cubs starting pitcher that day was none other than Grover Cleveland Alexander, who was smack-dab in the middle of a Hall of Fame career.

The Cubs wound up beating the Tailors 3-1. That score isn't as lopsided as one would expect, even with professional players pitching for both teams. I'm sure the Cubs weren't trying their hardest.

The game did not take weeks or a couple thousand innings; just nine innings played over the course of an afternoon. There were no statues making diving catches in the outfield. But it has to have been the only game in history in which one team's starting pitcher was a future president and the other's was named after a former president, and that's saying something.

Friday, August 2, 2019

Warren G. Harding's Death Cookies

As everyone knows, today is the anniversary of Warren G. Harding's death. I hadn't planned on doing anything special to commemorate the occasion, other than to wear my "Warren G. Harding: He was president before it was Coolidge" shirt, of course. But then about two weeks ago, I discovered the existence of a Harding cookie cutter, and that changed my plans.

You might think a Warren G. Harding cookie cutter is a very odd thing to create, and you would be absolutely correct. The cookie cutter is the latest undertaking from J.D. and Kate Industries, the geniuses behind the website and book Hottest Heads of State, and creators of candles you never knew you needed, like the War-of-1812-scented one.

Their new etsy shop, Poison Cookie, takes that quirkiness into the kitchen. When I checked the other day, Harding was the only political/presidential cookie cutter available, but they now have some other options, including Elizabeth Warren and Pete Buttigieg. They also have Calvin Coolidge, who I have to say is a perfect choice for a cookie cutter due to his scant facial features.


Needless to say, I got one of the Harding cutters and whipped up a batch of commemorative death cookies. When you work with 3D cookie cutters, you can't use just any sugar cookie recipe--you need to use one that won't spread. Poison Cookie provides a recipe, which I used with some minor modifications. (Two tsp of vanilla and 1 tsp of lemon extract seemed like a lot, so I went with 1 tsp of vanilla and 1 tsp of almond. I also didn't mix it nearly as much as they said to. My dough came together quickly into a lovely Play-Doh like consistency, and I didn't think more mixing would improve it.)

It's also important to roll the dough out to exactly 1/4" to ensure that the cookie cutter will cut through completely at the edges, but won't go through all the way in the detailed areas. I'm terrible at judging dough thickness on my own, which is why I have a rolling pin that measures the right thickness for me.

I mixed up the dough, rolled it out, and found the cookie cutter worked beautifully---no sticking! Once the cookies were on my cookie sheets, I put them in the fridge for ten minutes since cold dough is also less likely to expand. Then I threw the Warrens in the oven for about 15 minutes.



I was quite pleased with the results, but I also thought the eyebrows could use a pop of color, so I planned on brushing some black food coloring on them. Then I discovered that I have every color of food coloring except black. I momentarily considered green eyebrows, then decided I'd rather just eat the cookies.

To be honest, I wasn't expecting these to taste great. Fun cookies are usually more about the aesthetics than the flavor. Therefore, I was pleasantly surprised to find that these cookies actually taste really, really good! I bet they'd be great with lemon, too. (A Rutherford B. Hayes cookie cutter would make for a perfect lemon cookie. Just saying.)

The other nice thing about the Warren G. Harding cookies is that they could pass for Robert Mueller cookies if you ever need them to.

In short: I'm sorry you died, Warren G. Harding, but you make for a tasty memorial cookie.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

A Dead President Makes Answer to the President's Daughter (Book Review)

I have discovered an amazing piece of 1920s fanfiction.

I can't remember how I stumbled upon the existence of this book, A Dead President Makes Answer to the President's Daughter, but when I did, I knew I had to have it. I couldn't find much information about it, but the idea that it involved a deceased Warren G. Harding discussing his alleged mistress's book was too good to pass up.

Unfortunately, it's not still in print. The book, written by Anton Shrewsbury Jenks, was published in 1928 by the Golden Hind Press, and is not readily available. Thankfully I was able to find one (in decent shape, no less) for a reasonable price on Amazon.

Some quick backstory in case you're not familiar: Warren G. Harding had at least two well-known affairs. One of them was with a woman named Nan Britton, who, after Harding's death, wrote a book called The President's Daughter to reveal the truth about his having fathered her child, and also as a means of supporting that child, as Harding had not left an inheritance for them.

Britton's book, published in 1927, understandably caused quite a stir. The book was considered so shocking and lascivious that Britton had to self-publish it, and authorities attempted to ban its sale. So naturally, it became an instant hit.

That brings us to this gem, published just months later: A Dead President Makes Answer to the President's Daughter.

I was surprised by how small this book is: 94 pages, but the story doesn't really begin until page 15, the type and margins are large, and there are a lot of blank pages. I read the whole thing in well under half an hour. But that's okay because I realized I was holding an early-20th-century equivalent of McSweeney's-style satire. And it is phenomenal.

The premise is that the author (Jenks) is visiting relatives with his wife and children, but he decides to return home alone for the night. When he gets home, he plans on having a drink but finds the frigidaire has broken down and isn't producing ice, so he decides to go to bed instead. That's when his wife's book, The President's Daughter, catches his eye and he decides to read it.

He becomes enthralled with the book, but after a few hours he also feels physically uneasy, as though something is in the room with him. That's when he realizes the ghost of Warren G. Harding is sitting in his bedroom.

The two men get into a lengthy conversation about the book and the question of Harding's alleged child. Harding seems despondent at not knowing what to think, and he reveals that it was St. Peter himself who alerted him that he had a child. It turns out that there are two levels of heaven, and the higher one is reserved for those who had offspring. If Harding is able to become convinced that the child is his, he will be able to move to that higher heavenly level.

Now, at this point I was confused because the whole premise of Britton's book is that Harding did know about the child. So how did this ghost first hear about it from St. Peter?

I turned the page to find that Jenks wondered the same thing, and that's what he asked Harding: Didn't you know? Harding's response is basically that he let Nan believe that he believed her, but he wasn't really sure what to think. Jenks asks if he believes Nan was with another man, and although Harding is offended that Jenks would question Nan's honor, at the same time, he can't rule out the possibility.

"I worried constantly about her. Whenever we met I kept warning her. I wanted her to exercise the greatest care as to where she went, dined, and slept. God knows I wanted her all to myself. But how could I honestly believe that she was all mine when I saw her so rarely and the world seemed to want her so much?"
With these words the dead man's head sank into his arms. He was weeping softly and bitterly.

Ultimately, Harding cannot know for sure whether the child is his, and he also decides the upper level of heaven is probably too pious anyway and he's better off staying where he is. Then he disappears.

Shocked by what had just happened, and also overwhelmed by the sudden odor of decay, Jenks rushes back to his relatives' house. He arrives in time for breakfast and regales them with the story of meeting Warren G. Harding's ghost. His wife, less than pleased with the whole thing, doesn't believe he had a supernatural encounter. When they get home, she realizes the broken refrigerator is leaking ammonia, the source of both the smell and the hallucination. The book ends thusly:

"But the conversation!" I lamented. "Surely you don't think it utterly valueless?"
She shrugged her pretty shoulders.
"It depends on what people will pay for that sort of thing. You should be able to sell a million copies of that conversation at a dollar and a half a copy."
And the rest is history, as they say. 

Frankly, the whole thing is brilliant. The quick turnaround to take advantage of a hot topic, some "charming" 1920s misogyny, subtle references to Harding's lack of culture, several tongue-in-cheek references to the importance of "a Senator from Ohio," the trolling at the end... It was truly glorious.

So who was this Anton Shrewsbury Jenks? I have no idea. I suspected it was a pseudonym because it just sounds like a pseudonym, and when I looked him up I discovered my suspicions were correct. In the book, Jenks refers to himself as a journalist, but there seem to be no records of anyone with that name, other than this one book. There is speculation that Jenks might really be Samuel Roth, publisher of erotica, political exposés, pornography, and more. Roth appears to have thrived on running afoul of the law and was imprisoned at least five times for distributing obscene literature. He even found himself a potential witness in the Alger Hiss trial.

Thanks to recent DNA evidence, we know that Warren G. Harding was, indeed, the father of Nan Britton's child. If that means he has now made it to the higher level of heaven, I hope it's not too boring for him.

Friday, August 3, 2018

Harding: Before it was Cool

Did you know that yesterday was the anniversary of Warren G. Harding's untimely demise? And did you know that today is the anniversary of Calvin Coolidge taking the oath of office to fill Harding's place?

Celebrate the occasion with my brand-new shirt (inspired by @potus_geeks). Warren G. Harding: He was president before it was Coolidge.

The design is available in both black and white type, and shirts are available in unisex and women's cuts, depending on your preference. The design is also available on items other than shirts, such as mugs, stickers, and miniskirts. (Warren would have appreciated that last one.)

Items are available at Redbubble, and you can use this link to save $10 on a $30 purchase. (First-time customers only.)

While you're shopping, be sure to look for the Raise a Glass to Freedom shirts (available in regular or rainbow colors) and create a whole Presidentress-approved wardrobe.





Saturday, June 9, 2018

Raise a Glass to Some New Shirts


More than a year ago, my friend Becky (who you'll remember from various escapades) and I decided we needed a Fourth of July t-shirt with the Statue of Liberty raising a glass to freedom. I didn't get on it in time for last Independence Day, but I did for this one. Barely.

Now you, too, can order your very own Raise a Glass to Freedom shirt (or tons of other items) from Redbubble.

I created two designs because I couldn't decide which I liked more: a "classic" and a "rainbow." You can purchase the classic design here, and the rainbow design here.


Shirts start at just a smidge over $19, and you can choose from various cuts and colors. There are plenty of other cool things, too, like mugs, phone cases, and vinyl stickers.


The rainbow design would also be great for Pride Month, and if you hurry, you can have something delivered before the end of June! (If I were a better planner, I would have had all this ready weeks ago.)

So join the growing ranks of Raise-a-Glass shirt owners. Tomorrow there'll be more of us, and that's something they can never take away.


Friday, June 1, 2018

Presidentress Turns 3!

Can you believe this blog is three years old already? They grow up so fast.

Each year I like doing a quick recap of my most popular posts of the year. Unfortunately, Google's analytics don't actually show me the most popular posts of the past 12 months, so instead I'll just go with my most popular posts of all time and assume they correspond accordingly.

#5 this year is...well...it's my post on Presidential Penis Nicknames. Appropriately, it was the idea for that post that inspired the blog's creation in the first place. Anyway, you're welcome.

#4 is Cubs, Trump, and Armageddon. I understood why this one was popular last year, but I'm a little surprised it's maintained its popularity. I guess the good news is that the world did not actually end. Yet.

#3 finds us taking a look at Thomas Jefferson's Killer Sheep. This one was on the list last year, too, and I still don't understand what makes it so popular. Although I suppose wool is a pretty hot topic.

This year's runner-up is my crocheted Alexander Hamilton Doll. I am really proud of that, so I'm happy to see it up there.

And returning to the #1 spot this year is my post about DIY Presidential T-Shirts...not so much for Herbert Hoover, but for the Disney possibilities. Whatever. I'd like to think at least some people have made president shirts using the technique.

Thanks for joining me for another year!


Thursday, April 19, 2018

Herbert Hoover's Mystery Cow

A lot of people know the story contained in W. P. Kinsella's book Shoeless Joe, either because they've read the book or have seen the movie based on it: Field of Dreams. A less-known but possibly even better book of Kinsella's is The Iowa Baseball Confederacy, about a man who devotes his life to proving (despite a lack of evidence or anyone else's recollection) that the Chicago Cubs played a bizarre exhibition game against a local Iowa team in 1908. I can relate to that guy, because I know of the existence of another Iowan thing that no one else remembers: a cow.

The Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum just opened a new temporary exhibit about farming. One of the features is a fake cow that visitors can milk. Because my 6-year-old is a wee bit obsessed with cows right now (and because he also loves Iowa and Herbert Hoover), I'm definitely going to try to make it there.

But learning about this new exhibit also reminded me of another Hoover-cow experience, the one that has turned into a bit of a mystery.

Many, many years ago, just after graduating from high school, I set out with my mom on a long, meandering road trip from Ohio to California. Along the way we stopped at numerous roadside attractions and lots of museums, including presidential and presidential-ish sites.

After stops in Norwalk, Ohio; Terre Haute, Indiana (Eugene V. Debs' home); Michigan City, Indiana (no idea what we did there); Chicago (lots of things); and Galena, Illinois (Ulysses S. Grant's home); we finally headed into Iowa, where attractions like the Field of Dreams movie site awaited us. But our first stop was in West Branch for the Hoover Museum.

We went through the museum and then went outside to walk around the buildings that are part of the Herbert Hoover National Historic Site. I honestly don't remember much about the museum or the buildings, but what I remember very clearly is the cow.

There was a cow. It was along a path and behind a wooden fence. I don't recall there being any other animals, and I also don't recall there being any other people. It was kind of eerie. The cow was just hanging out, so I went over to it. It mooed at me and let me pet its nose. I'm pretty sure that was the first time I'd ever touched a cow (and, come to think of it, possibly the last).

There was definitely a cow.

We finished with the grounds, we went on to do lots of other things in Iowa and along the old Route 66, and I got to California and life went on.

I've been back to the Hoover site a few times now. When I first took my family, I recounted to my kids how I'd met a cow and hoped it was still there, but alas it wasn't.

So the other day when the Hoover Museum tweeted a picture of the fake cow, I asked them about the real cow that used to live there...but they have no recollection of its existence.

I have an excellent memory, but I started to wonder if maybe I'd seen the cow at a different presidential museum. We had gone to two others on the trip: Lyndon Johnson's and, I'm assuming, Eisenhower's. I say "assuming" because until a few months ago, I would have told you we'd gone to Truman's, but as I recently learned, we had not. The only other presidential museum along our route would have been Ike's. So it's possible the cow was there, and it's possible my memory isn't as good as I thought it was. But somewhere, there was a cow.

I eliminated the possibility of the LBJ museum because that was toward the end of our trip, and the cow was definitely earlier. The Eisenhower museum does appear to have a house on its grounds, and feasibly that's the one I remember seeing behind the cow. Could it have been an Eisenhower cow and not a Hoover cow? I asked the Ike Museum on social media, but they also don't remember a cow.

So now I don't know where the hell the cow was, but I know it existed, and I'm still pretty convinced it was at the Hoover Museum, but I'm leaving Ike open as a possibility.

If anyone else visited the Hoover or Eisenhower Museums in the mid-1990s and remembers there being a cow, please let me know. Or if you happen to work at the Hoover Library and Museum, Hoover National Historic Site, or Eisenhower Library and Museum and want to look into this more closely, I'd really appreciate it. Because it's driving me crazy.