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Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Who the Hell Was Chester A. Arthur?

Posted by on Tue, Jan 20, 2009 at 3:40 PM

The question came up at a post-inauguration feast (oysters! champagne! grilled sardines!) and one of our party did not believe Chester A. Arthur was, in fact, a president. "He's not a president," she said. "The Seattle Times just slipped him onto the front page as a joke."

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Well. Not only was Chester Alan Arthur a president, he was a fancy president. Some facts about our man Chester, courtesy of Wikipedia (mostly):

• Mark Twain liked him—and Mark Twain hated everybody—saying: "It would be hard indeed to better President Arthur's administration."

• Not only did Chester have an awesome name, he was surrounded by people with awesome names: Roscoe Conkling (his political mentor), Uriah Stone (his Continental-Army great-grandfather), Charles J. Guiteau (his predecessor's assassin, who shot president Garfield and shouted "I am a Stalwart of the Stalwarts... Arthur is president now!"), Frederick Theodore Frelinghuysen (his Secretary of State), Cornelius Newton Bliss (one of his pallbearers), and so on.

• Chester was part Native American. (Did everybody know we had a part-Native American president?)

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• Chester was considered a snappy dresser.

• People called Chester "the Gentlemen Boss."

• Chester's inaugural address was all about how, even though Garfield was shot by a crazy man (and killed by his doctors, who poked and prodded his wound with unwashed hands) things were okay in America.

• Chester led the effort to establish the Greenwich Meridian and international time; he said paupers, criminals, and the mentally ill couldn't emigrate to America; and tried to clear the civil service of nepotism and corruption. He vetoed a bill saying Chinese people couldn't come to America, but signed a 10-year moratorium on Chinese people. (Apparently Mark Twain didn't like Chinese people.)

• Chester took 1 am walks to clear his head, and rarely went to bed before 2 am.

• Chester died of Bright's disease (kidney failure) while on a health-vacation in Florida that didn't go so well.

• You can buy a Chester Alan Arthur t-shirt here.

 

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