Historic Presidential Boys' Clothing: 19th Century
Figure 1.--The Lincolns were in an age of strict parents what we would now call permissive. The antics of Willie and Tad set a standard of White House mayhem that even the Roosevelt children could not top. Dr. Spock might even have questioned the Lincolns parenting skills. Here the President is pictured with Tad, after the loss of Willie, helping him with his studies. Tad was not a good student.
The clothing worn by presidents as children and the clothing
worn by their children are a good reflection of contemporary
children's clothing. America of course has no royal family to help set fashion standards as was the case in
Europe. The American president and his family have in part played this role. Thus a review of the American presidents provide glimpses on popular children's fashions of the day. In addition, the clothing of the presidents themselves provide additional glimpses. Very limited information is available on the childhood of many presidents, especially the childhood of presidents like Abraham Lincoln that grew up in modest circumstances.
This website will assess the boyhood of each president to determine popular contemporary boys' fashions. We will also assess the clothes worn by the children in each president's family. Some basic historical information will be presented to place each president in historical perspective.
Available information on the following presidents is as follows:
- Thomas Jefferson (1801-09): Thomas Jefferson was the 3rd and one of the greatest American presidents. By a stoke of a pen he made America a continental power when he approved the Louisana Purchase. But he is perhaps best known for the force of his ideas and eloquence uin expressing them. Jefferson is perhaps is also the most enigmatic of all presidents. No American president wrote so eloquently about liberty and yet relied on slave labor his entire life for his livelihood and unlike fellow Virginia planter George Washington--never freed them. Many American presidents owned slaves, but none wrote so eloquantly about liberty and the natural rights of man. He has been described as the conceiving spirit of the Ameican Republic.
- James Madison (1809-1817): James Madison was the 4th president, another in a long line of Virginian-born presidents. He was not an imposing man and in our modern world of mass-media, he would certainly have never become president. It was his mind that set Madion apart an his colleagues recognized this. Madison was a close associate of Thomas Jefferson. Madison is best known for his role in creating the Constitution. And one of the most unlikely political partnerships in American history, Masison and Alexander Hamilton, were largely responsivle for ratification. He had led the fight in Congress against creating a U.S. Navy. The emerging Republican Party he led were hostile to both a standing army and even the existence of a navy. Ironically, while the Federalists avoided war, President Madison was the first president to ask for a declaration of war and led a largely unprepared counrty into the War of 1812 with the British.
- Janes Monroe (1817-25): James Monroe was the 5th president, another Virginian-born planter president. Monroe's greatest achievement was probably many years before he became president--the negotiation of the Louisana Purchase treaty with France.
- John Quincy Adams (1825-29): John Quincy Adams was the 6th president of the United States, the first son of a president to be elected to the office himself. Interestingly, Adams may have made a greater contribution to the United States as President Monroe's Secretary of State than as president. John Quincy Adams in many respects paralleled the career as well as the temperament and viewpoints of
his illustrious father.
- Andrew Jackson (1829-37): Andrew Jackson was the 7th Presisdent of the United States and the first real populist and frontier President. He
came to the office with emense popular support. He actively courted the public and threw public parties. The White House smelled of cheese for weeks. More nearly than any of
his predecessors, Andrew Jackson was elected by popular vote; as President he sought to act as the direct representative of
the common man.
- Martin Van Buren (1837-41): Martin Van Buren was the 8th President of the United States, serving from 1837-1841. He was the first Chief Executive born under the United States flag. Only about 5 feet, 6 inches tall, but trim and erect, Martin Van Buren dressed fastidiously. His impeccable appearance belied his amiability--and his humble background.
- William Henry Harrison (1841): William Henry Harrison was the 9th president of the United States, one of the presidents elected based on military service, in his case the successful conduct of Indian wars. He was the shortest serving president and the first President to die in office. His great service to the country was before his election as president.
- John Tyler (1841-45): John Tyler was the 10th president of the United States. He was the first vice-president to gain office as a result of the death of a setting president. While never elected president, he established many precedents. He was the first vice president to assume the office because the elected president died in office. He was also the first president to to be married in office on June 26, 1844. The Whigs who elected Harrison were so outraged that Tyler opposed their policies that they expelled him from the party. This did not bother Tyler who was more of a democrat anyway. At the end of John Tyler's administration to upsage Polk, the United States annexed Texas. He was raised believing that the Constitution must be strictly construed and he never wavered from this conviction.
- James Polk (1845-49): James K.
Polk was the 11th president. He is often referred
to as the first "dark horse" President or little-known
candidate, to win the presidency when he unexpectedly
defeated Henry Clay in the election of 1844. Polk was a
comitted Jacksonian and the last strong President
until the Civil War. At 49 years of age, he was also the
youngest president the United States had yet had. During his term
of office Polk added more territory to the United States than
any other president other than Jeffereson with the Louisiana Purchase. The vast region stretching from the Rocky Mountains to
the Pacific Ocean acquired from Mexico. The immediate consequence, however, was a rise in sectionlism as the issue of the
extensuion of slavery in the new territories inflamed passions in the North and South. Abolistionists condemned Polk,
believeing that he desired to extend slavery. Many modern scholars, however, classify this lesser known president and often
rank Polk as one of the 10 greatest American presidents.
- Zachary Taylor (1849-50):
Zaccary Taylor was the 12th president of the
United States. He was the first military hero
elected without previous elected office. The
Whigs nominated him without any idea of his
views on key issues. He was a firm Union man
and threatened to hang Southern secessionists
as high as he hung traitors in Mexico. He died in office of food poisoning after serving only 16
months. He is regared as an honest, stright forward man. Confederate President Jeffereson Davis
was his son in law. His son was a Confederate General.
- Millard Filmore (1850-53): Millard
Filmore was the 13th President of the United States.
He was the first president born in the new century. While
little regarded in the public pantheon, Filmore may have well
saved the Union. Fillmore's conciliatory politics helped
postpone the Civil War, probably a key factor in the
North's victory and the preservation of the Union. His
support of the Fugative Slave Act as part of the Compromise of 1850, however, destroyed his political career. In his rise from
a log cabin to wealth and the White House, Millard Fillmore demonstrated that through methodical industry and some
competence an uninspiring man could make the American dream come true.
- Franklin Pierce (1853-57): Franklin Pierce was the youngest president up to that time. He was one in a series of one-term presidents bent on holding the Union together through compromise with southern planters and in doing so ruined his political career. The Civil War approached during the adminisration of Franklin Pierce as guerrilla raids in Kansas forsaw the fierceness of the impending struggle. The United States, by virtue of the Compromise of 1850, seemed to have weathered its sectional storm. By pursuing the recommendations of southern advisers, Pierce--a New Englander--hoped to prevent still another outbreak of that storm. His support of the Kansas-Nebraskla Act, however, only brought on the fiercest outbreak yet.
- James Buchanan (1857-61):
James Buchanan was the 15th president of the United States. He groped for
compromise as the South advanced toward secession. Tall,
stately, stiffly formal in the high stock he wore
around his jowls, James Buchanan was the
only President who never married. Presiding
over a rapidly dividing Nation, Buchanan grasped inadequately the political realities of the time.
Relying on constitutional doctrines to close the widening rift over slavery, he failed to understand that
the North would not accept constitutional arguments which favored the South. Nor could he realize
how sectionalism had realigned political parties: the Democrats split; the Whigs were destroyed,
giving rise to the Republicans.
- Abraham Lincoln (1861-65):
Abraham Lincoln was the 16th and the most beloved of all American presidents. Lincoln was the first strong president
since Polk. While his election precitated the Civil War, it was clear by 1860 that the southern states were preparing
to seceed and only Federal military force could prevent. Abhorring war, Abraham Lincoln accepted it as the only
means to save the Union. President Lincoln's leadership proceeded not only to save the Union, but also emancipate the slaves. This Civil War was no mere domestic struggle. Consider the fate of Europe if a powerful and united American Republic did not exist to confront the NAZIs in 1941 and the Russians in 1945. The amazing historical footnote is that a president with limited formal education as well as poorly schooled farm boys from Maine to Wisconsin so clearly understood this and supported the Union through 4 terrible years of Civil War.
- Jefferson Davis (1861-65): The only Confederate President Jefferson Davis led a long and eventful life. He was a Mississippi planter, a husband, a father, West Point graduate, war hero, Congressman, Senator, Secretary of War, and finally President of the Confederate States of America. In many ways he was a study of contrast with his northern counterpart, Abraham Lincoln. Davis was a rich, educated, war hero who did not understand the political process or have the personal skills to work with others. Lincon had none of the background of Davis, but a consummate politician. Like Lee, Davis opposed secession until his state left the Union. He was constantly out manuevered by Linclon. His lack of political skills were confounded by the unwillingness of the state's rights obsessed Confederate states to give him the war powers the Northern states allowed Lincoln. Even after the General Lee's surrender at Appomatox Court House (1865). Davis was unprepared to surrender. He rejected Lee's approach of recognizing the Federal victory and advising his men to become good citizens of the United states. Davis rejected any compromise and wanted to lead a guerrilla war that would have only further devastated the South. Federal calvary captured the fleeing Davis in Georgia (May 10, 1865). He was not as expected tried for treason after the War.
- Andrew Johnson (1865-69): Andrew Johnson was the 17th and one of the
most controversial of the American presidents. He was chosen to run with Lincoln in the 1864 election. Johnson was a Southern Democrat who steadfastly support the Union and sought valiantly to keep Tennessee in the Union. It was thought having a Democrat on the ticket would help Lincoln get reelectd. After Lincoln's assasination, Johnson sought to bring the Southern states back into the Union as quickly as possible. He was impeached for opposing the Reconstruction program of the Radical Republicans in Congress.
- Ulysses Grant (1869-77): Ulysses S. Grant was the 18th president. He came to the Presidency a great military hero, the leading Union general in the Civil War. Paradoxically, many histiorians contend that the decisive Civil War General proved a weak and vascilating president. This is in part the continuing imprint of the Lost Cause historians. Other historians dispute this view and see him an upholder of Civil Rights for blacks and a supporter of efforts to move native Americans toward citzenship. Grant proved the only president from LAbraham incoln to Lyndon Johnson to put the full vrce of the Federal Government behind the fight for black rights. One historian writes, "Southern sabotage and Northern apathydefeated his efforts, but he set down a moral that the nation finlly had to redeam." Scrupuously honest himself, the trust he placed in friends and chronies was misplaced and he presided over one of the country's most corrupt asministrations.
- Rutherford Hayes (1877-81): Hayes
was 19th president. Helost the popular election, but still become president through a narrow victory in the electoral college. He urged badly needed civil service reform. He was an honest moderate reformer, but his administration marked the removal of Federal troops from the South and thus the end of Reconstruction and the berginning of Jim Crow segregation laws. The first telephone was installed in the White House during 1879. At first it was hardly used, because there weren't many other phones in Washington to call.
- James Garfield (1881): James A. Garfield was the 20th president of the United States. He was the last of the "log cabin" Presidents. He was one of the more impressive men to run for the presidency, born in poverty, he was a self made man. He was a respected scholar, Civil War hero, and reformist Congressman. He was a dark horse candidate and one of the few presidents to reach the iffice through the House of Reporesentatives. Garfield as President attacked political corruption. He won back for the Presidency a measure of prestige it had lost in the popular mind during the Reconstruction period. He died from an assassin's bullet only 6 months after he took office. He was the second president shot in office. Doctors tried to find the bullet with a metal detector invented by Alexander Graham Bell. But the device failed because Garfield was placed on a bed with metal springs, and no one thought to move him. He died on September 19, 1881.
- Chester Arthur (1881-85): Chester A. Arthur was the 21st president. He was a Republican machine politician, who fervently believed in the spoils system. He became president after the assaination of President Garfield and proceeded to champion civil service reform. Handsome, dignified, and genial, Arthur was a conscientious administrator, but never an inspiring leader of men. He was probably one of the unhappiest presidents, both because of his wife's death and his own debilitating disease. He was the last Republican champion of Civil Rights for blacks.
- Grover Cleveland (1885-89): President Cleveland was the 22nd president of the United States. He is one of the most highly regarded presidents. He was honest and corageous. He vetoed more bills than all other presidents combined up to that time--outding Andrew Jackson who was known for using the veto power. Cleveland fought for needed reforms when other presidents of the era refrained from major iniatives. He was the First Democrat elected after the Civil War, causing great concern among blacks in the South. He was only president to be married in the White House to Frances Folsom in 1886--and the first to have a child born in the White House, in 1893 just as he was leaving office.
- Benjamin Harrison (1889-93): Benjamin Harrison was the 23rd president of the United States. He was the only president who was the
grandson of a President. He was also one of the presidents who lost in the popular vote, but won in the Electoral College. He championed the rights of settlers, Indians, and Civil War veterans. Harrison presided over an aggresive foreign policy. He also signed the Sherman Anti-Trust Act, the beginning of Federal efforts to control the power of the industrial monopolies in the booming economy of the late 19th Cebtury.
- Grover Cleveland (1893-97): President Cleveland was also the 24th president of the United States. He was only president to have a non-consecutive term, leaving the White House and then wining a second term 4 years later. Unfortunately the second term coincided with a severe depression. We consider both terms with one main page for him.
- William McKinnley (1897-1901): William McKinley was the 25th United States President. The McKinley presidency was a turning point for America. Under McKinley the Nation gained its first overseas possessions. Presdidents from even before the Civil War had been advocating American expansion into the Cariibean. This occurred during the McKinley presidency, but more importantly America acuqired extensive Pacific possesions. This made America a major Pacific power and would provide the eventual basis for the resisting the agressive expansion of the Japanese militarists within only a
few decades. At the 1896 Republican Convention, in time of depression, the wealthy Cleveland
businessman Marcus Alonzo Hanna ensured the nomination of his friend William McKinley as "the advance agent of prosperity." The Democrats, advocating the "free and unlimited coinage of both silver and gold"--which would have mildly inflated the currency--nominated William Jennings Bryan. While Hanna used large contributions from eastern Republicans frightened by Bryan's views on silver, McKinley met delegations on his front porch in Canton, Ohio. He won by the largest majority of popular votes since 1872.
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Created: June 1, 1999
Last updarted: 11:59 PM 7/14/2016