Monday, June 9, 2014

What people did before the Internet

As the school year winds to another inglorious halt, and teachers look forward to their summer jobs, do you have time for one more historical tidbit?  

Well, I'm going to share this one anyway, so that if there is an embarrassing lull in the conversation while waiting for the bail bondsman or person with the handcuff key to show up, we'll all have something interesting to discuss.  

First, there was a president named John Tyler.  Only people who have an interest in the arcane political figures of the 19th Century know this, but there was.  He's often mentioned in the upper pantheon of the lists of the worst presidents ever, as he was a strong advocate of states' rights over the federal government while at the same time being a fan of manifest destiny, without which we never would have been able to steal Texas from the Mexicans.  As a national philosophy of expansion because of the "superiority" of Americans over people who happened to have lived somewhere for thousands of years, manifest destiny was as racist as it was despicable, but if it had a Facebook page, Tyler would have "liked" it.  

He was elected vice president in 1840 with running mate William Henry Harrison, who came down with a cold three weeks after his inauguration.  The cold turned to pneumonia, just like your mother told you it would, and also septicemia and jaundice, and Harrison's term ended 32 days after it began, ushering in the Tyler Administration, which ended in four years. He had devoted all his energy to grabbing up Texas.  Oh, and he became a bigtime Confederate when the Civil War came along. Tyler chose not to run for re-election in 1844, a wise choice that should have been repeated in 1984 and 2004.

Now, you ask what does a decision, made by the man who is also widely regarded as the president who looks the most like Cris Collinsworth, have to do with 1984, 2004 or even 2014?  I will now tell you why I'm even writing about the man who was president of the US in the 1840s

His grandchildren are still alive. His grandchildren! Lyon Gardiner Tyler, one of President Tyler’s 15 kids, was born in 1853, when Old Tyler was 63! At age 71. he fathered Lyon Gardiner Tyler Jr. in 1924, and Harrison Ruffin Tyler in 1928, when he was a spry 75.  Both of these men are still stomping around in Virginia, even though their grandfather died at 73 in 1862...152 years ago!

Tomorrow, let's take a look at why TV shows from the 1840s were not funny at all.

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