Historic Presidential Boys' Clothing: 20th Century
Figure 1.--John F. Kennedy is pictured here at about 11 years of age in 1928. Boys by the 1920s were wearing suits, soft-collared shirts, and ties with recognizable modern styling.
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.
The 20th Century began with hard charging Theodore Roosvelt and
ended with William Clinton, who just managed to hold on to his office, despite being
impeached by the Republican-dominated House of Representaives for personal misconduct.
Boys fashions evolved from Buster Brown and sailor suits worn with knickers or short pants
in the 1900s to the jeans and logo-emblazoned "T" suits worn in the 1990s.
Available information on the presidents of the 20th century is as follows:
- Theodore Roosevelt (1901-1909):
The 25th president was the first significant president
of the 20th century. He was elected vice-president in 1900 and
became president upon the assasination of President McKinley in 1901. He estabklished the key
principle of an acrtive Federal Government with a responsibility to
intervene in the
in the economy to ensure the welfare of the common man. Roosevellt
was born in New York City. His firth mairage ended sadly in the
death of his wife. Their only child Alice is a case study on her
own. The President once said that a President can manage the
country or manage Alice, but it was impossible to do both at the
same time. His second family included: Theodore Jr. (1887-1944), Kermit (1889-1943), Ethel (1891-1977), Archibald (1894-1979), and , and Quentin (1897-1918).
- William Howard Taft (1909-1913):
President Taft was the 26th president of the United States.
He was the only president to go on to seve as chief justice of the
Supreme Court. Distinguished jurist, effective administrator, but
poor politician, William Howard Taft spent 4 uncomfortable years in
the White House. Large, jovial, conscientious, he was caught in
the intense battles between Progressives and conservatives. He
came to be regarded by the progressives as as conservative. His
record, however, was more complex and many important progressive
reforms were implemented during his administration.
- Woodrow Wilson
(1913-21): Woodrow Wilson tried in vain to bring the
United States into the League of Nations. Like
Theodore Roosevelt before him, Woodrow Wilson regarded himself as the personal
representative of the people. "No one but the President," he said, "seems to be expected ...
to look out for the general interests of the country." He developed a program of progressive reform
and asserted international leadership in building a new world order. In 1917 he proclaimed American
entrance into World War I a crusade to make the world "safe for democracy." Wilson had seen the
frightfulness of war as a young boy in the South during the Civil War..
- Warren Harding (1921-23): The 28th president is widely considered
one of the worst presidents. He was born on an Ohio farm and after college
entered the newspaper profession. He was elected president in 1920.
Before his nomination, Harding declared, "America's present need is not
heroics, but healing; not nostrums, but
normalcy; not revolution, but restoration; not
agitation, but adjustment; not surgery, but
serenity; not the dramatic, but the
dispassionate; not experiment, but equipoise; not submergence in internationality, but sustainment in
triumphant nationality...." A Democratic leader, William Gibbs McAdoo, called Harding's speeches
"an army of pompous phrases moving across the landscape in search of an idea." and
mercifully died before scandals broke.
- Calvin Cooldidge (1923-29): Calvin Coolidge was the 29th president of the
United States. Some presidents are known for their charisma. Coolidge was known for his flinty lack of it. And the public after Wilsonian moral idealism and Harding's croynism found Coolidge's integrity and low-key approach refreshing. Coolidge served at a time of unparalled prosperity -- The Roaring Twenties. He was a president of few words, was so famous for saying so little
that a White House dinner guest made a bet that she could get the president to say more than two words. She told the president of her wager. His reply: "You lose." Coolidge was a laconic New Englander who strongly favored frugality in Government. Cooldlidge had his achievemnts, he put a stop to the post-World War I Red Scare, cut taxs, abd called for americans to wirk for themselves and not the Government. Coolidge n cintrast to Wilson spoke out fir civil rights. He restored faith in the Federal Government after the unbridle corruption of Harding's cronies. He changed policy during his presidency and called for American naval suprenecy, beginninga a naval building program.
- Herbert Hoover (1929-33): Herbert C. Hoover was the 30th President of
the United States. His was a failed presidency. So often in American history, presidents have risen to the occasion in times of national crises. Hoover did not. It was not because of lack of competence. Hoover was higly competent, but he was locked
in by his ideological view on the proper role of the government. It was not that he was a mean-spirited man, in
fact Hoover's record of service abroad and at home spanned half a century. Hoover brought to the Presidency an unparalleled reputation for public service as an engineer, administrator, and humanitarian. His policies, however, left Americans to fight the
full furry of the Great Depression with little assistance from their government. Lives were ruined, people went hungry,
and many dispaired and the very survival of the republic was in question when he turned over the presidency to Franklin Roosevelt.
- Franklin Roosevelt (1933-45): The 31st president is generally considered to be the most
important American statesman of the 20th century. He led America through the two most serious crises of the century, the Great Depression and Second World War. He inspired confidence and despite his patrician origins came to be loved by the least favored Americans. Thus when other countries turned to totalitarianism and dictatorship, American democractic society grew stronger. His policies helped to give voice of the American worker through trade unions. The resulting prosperity of the American worker created the basis for the success of the American economy in the second half of the 20th Century. He was born into a wealthy family with an elderly father. He had a charmed childhood at his father's Hyde Park, New York estate. He was a cousin of President Theodore Roosevelt, whose niece he mairred in 1905.
- Harry Truman (1945-53): Harry Truman was the 32nd President of the United States. World War II and the cold war posed challenges unprecedented in U.S. history. Truman was severly criticised by the Republicans and much underestimated by the press. In fact he is now regarded as one of the more important American presidents. He made the difficult decision to end the World War II by dropping the atomic bombs. He initiated the American effort to spread the expansion of Soviet imperialism. The immediate result was to save democratic givernmebts in Western Europe, but this policy, followed by suceeding presidents eventually led to the collapse of Soviet communism. Truman was the first president to adopt Frederal poicies to undo racial segregation in America with steps like desegregating the military--in opposition to important military leaders like General Eisenhower.
- Dwight Eisenhower (1954-61): Dwight Eisenhowe was the 33rd president. He
will be remenbered for his reasuring friendy smile during the dark days of World War II and his leadership of the D-Day invasion which help free Western Europe from NAZI tyranny and prevent Soviet expansion west. He precided over America during a period of affluence and ably led the Western alliance in its confrontation of totalitarian Soviet expansion. His tentative policies toward marshalling Federal authority after the Supreme Court ordered schools desegregated was a factor in the painful period of violence and disorder throuhgout the South. He had substantial achievements: he forced aeace in Korea, avoided war in Vietnam anf thawed the Cold war to an extent--here Stalin's death was a factor. Other accomplishments included ending McCarhysm, founded the Inter-State Highway System and thSt.Lawrence Seaway, opening the Great Lakes to ocaenic trade.
- John Kennedy (1961-63): John Fitzgerald Kennedy was was the 34th president of the
United States, the great-grandson of Irish immigrants. He became one of the most charismatic leaders of the United
States when he was elected president in 1961. He was, at the age of 43, the youngest man and the first Roman
Catholic ever elected to the presidency. Rich, handsome, elegant, and articulate, he aroused great admiration at home
and abroad. His assassination in Dallas, Texas in November 1963 provoked outrage and widespread mourning. His term
of office as president was short but launched American on a path of securing basic civil rights for all its citizens and a
technology race with the Russians to the moon which was an important element in forging America's technological
dominance in the last quarter of the 20th Century.
- Lyndon Johnson (1963-69):
Lyndon Johnson was the 35th president of the United States.
He oversaw an unprecedented era of social reform in the
United States and worked unceasingly toward a Great
Society for the Nation. Huge strides were achieved on civil rights.
His domestic anti-poverty program, however,
floundered as a result of the divisive Viet Nam War.
- Richard Nixon (1969-74): Richard Milhous Nixon was the 36th president of the United States. Nixon was an inteligent, experience man when he became president. His essential amprality, however, was to result uin a failed presidency. He is most remembered for his Vietnam War policies and the Watergate scandal which resulted in his resignation, the only president ever to do so. Nixon was a highly competent negotiator with considerable understanding of world affairs. Nixon and his foreign affairds adviser Henry Kissinger ended the participation of U.S. combat troops in the Vietnam War by pulling out U.S. forces. They initiated relations with Mainland China and at the same time the Soviet Union--an impressive achievement. They helped end a war between Israel and
the Arab countries. The oil embargo placed by the Arabs on America had a major impact on the resulting recession.
- Gerald Ford (1974-77): President
Ford was the 37th president of the United States. He confronted with the difficult task of
restoring confidence to the U.S. Presidency after the Watergate
and the resignation of President Nixon. It is said that President
Nixon chose him as Vice President because he didn't think he
would be acceptable as President, thus making his own impeachment
less likely. While not a brilliant intellect, President Ford was
an man of unquestioned integrity and character. After President
Nixon's resignation, Ford's pardon Nixon which was one of the
principal reasions why he lost the 1976 presidential election to
Georgia Governor, Jimmy Carter.
- Jimmy Carter (1977-81): Jimmy
Carter, the 38th president of the United States, championed
human rights throughout the world. President Carter aspired to make
Government "competent and compassionate,"
responsive to the American people and their expectations. His a
chievements were notable, but in an
era of rising energy costs, mounting inflation, and continuing
tensions, his administration failed to meet these high expectations. He was preceived by many contempraries as
an inefectual president and lost overwealimingly to Ronald Regan
in the 1980 election.
- Ronald Reagan (1981-89):
Ronald Reagan, the 39th president of the United States, envisioned a smaller Federal Government, a greater America. At the end of his two terms in office, he viewed with satisfaction the achievements of his innovative program known as the Reagan Revolution, which aimed to reinvigorate the American people and reduce their reliance upon Government. He felt he had fulfilled his campaign pledge of 1980 to restore "the great, confident roar of American progress and growth and optimism." Overall, the Reagan years saw a restoration of prosperity, and the goal of peace through strength seemed to be within grasp.
- George Bush (1989-1993): George
Bush was the 40th president of the United States. He effectively
conducted foreign policy at the end to the Cold War which ended the
post-World War II division of Europe. He also sucessfully drove
Sadam Hussain out of Kuwait which without Bush's
firm stand would have fundamentally changed power relatiionships in
the Middle East. This would have had a huge impact on Western
economies because Hussain would have had great control over
- William Clinton (1993-2001): William Clinton, the 41st president of the United States, promised a more compassionate society and focused on the national economy. He was at 46 the youngest man elected President since John F. Kennedy, came to the White House pledging to end the era of drift and deadlock and begin a new season of American renewal.
He pursued a bold strategy to lift the economy through increased public and private investment while cutting $500 billion from the Federal deficit. He promoted his "new direction" to the people through television appearances and rallies, thus by-passing entrenched special interests in Washington. The tactic was a reprise of his successful campaign, using modern communications to brush aside Democratic challengers and best a Republican incumbent.
Note on numbering: There are a few difficulties
in numbering presidents. Some early texts number Polk as the 10th ptresident as they did not think it appropriate to count Tyler (who had not been elected). The
greater problem is how to count Cleveland, who was elected twice, but not consecutively. We have decided to count him only once. Thus the numbered list is one off after his second election.
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Created: November 1, 1999
Last updated: October 30, 2003