It only took some pinball parts and a super-powered energy drink to get the time machine up and running again, so grab your time travel hats and your time travel underpants as we visit the Presidents born in November! We’ll start the dial at November 24, 1784, the birth date of “Old Rough and Ready” Zachary Taylor. The nickname was not given until later. Born in Orange County, Virginia, he served forty years in the military and was something of a man of mystery. He gained support for his presidential campaign before even declaring his political stances and died before making much of an impact. His 16-months as President marked the third shortest term in history. Even his death is still shrouded in uncertainty: commonly attributed to gastroenteritis and overmedication, there are still those who believe he was poisoned.
Brace yourself for a time twist: our next candidate was Zachary Taylor’s presidential predecessor, but he was actually born after him. Who is this line-cutter? It’s James K Polk, born November 2, 1795 in North Carolina. Say what you will about him, he was good at making and implementing to-do lists. He took the presidency with four goals to achieve in four years (he promised not to run for re-election) and delivered on each of them, which included acquiring California and Mexico, plus some of Oregon Country. Married to the job, he died just three months after his term ended.
A short jump forward in time takes us to November 23, 1804, when Franklin Pierce was born. He was the only president born in the state of New Hampshire, in an area now covered by Franklin Pierce Lake. The victory of his election was tragically marred by the death of his only remaining child, Bennie, in a train accident. Marital strife and alcoholism followed that event, but it was his pro-slavery actions that soiled his reputation. Post-presidency, he was even revealed to be corresponding with the Confederate President, Jefferson Davis. On the day after Lincoln’s assassination, a mob formed around his house, angered by his decision not to fly an American flag or dress his house in black for mourning. To his credit, he spoke to them from his porch and had them cheering for him before he went back in.
Next, we turn our dial to November 19, 1831, and make the trip to Moreland Hills, Ohio. There, we’ll discover James A. Garfield, the United States’ 20th president. His eclectic career included carpentry, teaching, preaching, military service (during which he played a major role in the Battle of Chickamauga), and finally politics. As President, he reformed the Post Office and reestablished the President’s authority over executive appointments. He called for civil service reform, but did not have time to carry it out himself—he was shot a mere four months into his term. He died two months later, making his the second shortest presidency. An interesting fact: doctors could not find the second bullet in Garfield’s body, so Alexander Graham Bell created a metal detector to try and find it.
The last stop on November’s time journey is on November 2, 1865, where we’ll visit Warren G. Harding. Like Garfield, he was born in Ohio. Harding started out as a journalist, influenced by his father’s purchase of a local paper. By the age of 17, he had graduated from college with a Bachelor’s Degree. Once he was in office, it was he who formally ended World War I, but the Teapot Dome Scandal also occurred under his watch. He was the first President to recognize the importance of the media and of oil. In 1923, two years into his presidency, he embarked on a cross-country speaking trip, or “Voyage of Understanding,” near the end of which he died suddenly. His wife refused to allow an autopsy, and spent the next month destroying all of his documents and writings “to protect his legacy.”
That’s it for this month’s journey through time, but you can always travel back to last month for a look at the October born Presidents!