Saturday, October 1, 2016

Conduct in the Public Service

Last night I attended the opening of the new exhibit Conduct in the Public Service: Artifacts of Politics and Government from the Collection of the James Monroe Museum.  The James Monroe Museum located in Fredericksburg, VA is a hidden gem.  The Museum was founded in the 1920's by President James Monroe's great-grandson Laurence Gouverneur Hoes as a repository to showcase his ancestors artifacts and papers.

Like all political campaign functions food was provided for the attendees.  But instead of the traditional rubber chicken diner, guests munched on delicious " Monroe '16" cookies.

In honor of the upcoming election and the fact that this November celebrates the 200th anniversary of James Monroe's election as the fifth president of the United States, the James Monroe Museum unveiled the new exhibit highlight an eclectic mix of political memorabilia.  The items featured in the exhibit range from political cartoons to the wallet of President Warren G. Harding with the president's lucky penny.  All of the items came from the personal collection of Laurence Hoes and many of the items have never been displayed before.

Attendees received a Monroe campaign button.  The slogan "Monroe is the Man!" was taken from a lyric from a Monroe campaign song written in 1816.

Bellow are a few highlights from the exhibit:

Laurence Hoes was able to acquire numerous original political cartoons from the collection of the Washington Post, including this cartoon from 1965 titled "Monroe's Wisdom," featuring an embattled LBJ seeking advice from the portrait of James Monroe over LBJ's decision to escalate military involvement in Vietnam.  LBJ tried to justify his policy in Vietnam by citing the Monroe doctrine. Unfortunately, the American public was not buying it as the caption reads, "They just don't seem to go for the idea like they used to."

The Tea Pot Dome scandal was the biggest political scandal before Watergate in the 1970's.  The scandal.  This widow display allowed Americans to express their feelings much in the way Americans use bumper stickers and lawn signs today.

One of the exhibit's more unique items is President Warren G. Harding's wallet complete with lucky penny.  Harding carried this 1901 Indian Head penny during the 1920 election.  Harding won the election, but died in office in 1923.

President Millard Fillmore came to office in 1850 after the sudden death of President Zachary Taylor. Laurence Gouverneur Hoes by a descendant of Fillmore.

In 1889, President Benjamin Harrison gave the last Peace Medal to Native American chiefs as a token of goodwill and friendship between the US government and Native tribes.  The year after this medal was minted the military clashed with the Lakota Sioux in North Dakota culminating with the Wounded Knee massacre where at least 150 Sioux and 25 soldiers were killed.

One of my favorite artifacts is this commemorative pitcher made in 1820 and presented to James Monroe.  On the front is a poorly executed portrait of James Monroe and on the back is an idealized image of George Washington's tomb.  The creamware pitcher was made in England!

This pitcher was made to commemorate President Calvin Coolidge, but there is a major flaw: the Presidential seal was printed upside down!  Imported from Liverpool by John H. Roth & Co. it was donated to the James Monroe Museum.  "Perhaps, in the many years in the future, the visitors to the James Monroe Memorial Library and Museum [as it was then known] will find the jug both interesting and see that we lived in the late 20th century were as human as mankind has always been," Mr. Roth wrote.

Presidents Abraham Lincoln and James Monroe share the spotlight in the political cartoon from 1963 critical of JFK's handling of communist Cuba.  "Yes, Jim...they're made a lot of changes!" the caption declared.

Conduct in the Public Service: Artifacts of Politics and Government from the Collection of the James Monroe Museum is open until March 2017.

To learn more information about the James Monroe Museum please visit: