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The Chief checks out: the history of Presidential vacations.

It’s August, and the political chattering class–never very mature to begin with–have, in their lack of interest in any substantive matters, spilled a lot of magnetic ink over President Obama’s … Continue reading

August 27, 2014 · 1 Comment

The Sage of Monticello looks skyward: Thomas Jefferson’s weather book.

Today I experienced perhaps the coolest thing that’s ever happened to me since I became a historian: in the reading room of the Massachusetts Historical Society, I was handed the … Continue reading

August 19, 2014 · 5 Comments

The words that ended a presidency: the Watergate “Smoking Gun” tape. [audio]

Forty-two years ago today, sometime in the afternoon of June 23, 1972, a conversation occurred in the Oval Office between President Richard M. Nixon and his domestic policy adviser, H.R. “Bob” Haldeman. … Continue reading

June 23, 2014 · Leave a comment

42 Historical Objects, No. 39: Pat Nixon’s red coat.

This red coat has seen a lot of history. It belonged to Patricia Nixon, First Lady of the United States, wife of the 37th President, Richard M. Nixon. She was … Continue reading

June 17, 2014 · 1 Comment

Dark days at Monticello: Thomas Jefferson’s environmental misfortunes.

In the archives this week, among other things I’ve been looking at the papers of Thomas Jefferson, 3rd President of the United States, and one of my personal heroes (his … Continue reading

June 14, 2014 · 3 Comments

42 Historical Objects, No. 37: Kennedy’s coconut from the PT-109 incident.

It’s hard to see in this picture, but this paperweight is actually a hardened, almost petrified coconut with a message scratched into its surface. The message reads “NAURO ISL…COMMANDER…NATIVE KNOWS … Continue reading

June 7, 2014 · 1 Comment

42 Historical Objects, No. 27: The Landsdowne Portrait.

This portrait of George Washington, painted by Gilbert Stuart in 1796, has an illustrious history. When I went to do this article I thought it would be pretty straightforward; I … Continue reading

April 23, 2014 · Leave a comment

The Decider speaks: my (fictional) conversation with George W. Bush.

Last night I had a dream about George W. Bush. I dreamed that I was at his presidential library–which in reality is called the George W. Bush Presidential Center–and happened … Continue reading

April 13, 2014 · Leave a comment

The tragic obsession that almost changed history: the Reagan assassination attempt.

Thirty-three years ago today, on March 30, 1981, mad gunman John Hinckley shot President Ronald Reagan and several others outside the Hilton Hotel in Washington, D.C. Reagan and his press … Continue reading

March 30, 2014 · 2 Comments

Scandals, burnt letters and bad crab meat: the death of President Harding.

This is the third article in my 1920s Week series. On the evening of Thursday, August 2, 1923, Warren G. Harding, 29th President of the United States, died suddenly in … Continue reading

March 18, 2014 · 1 Comment
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