Pondering the Presidents In the National Park System on President’s Day

With President's Day on Monday, how well-versed are you in regard to National Park System sites that honor one or more of the presidents? NPS photo of Mount Rushmore.

Here's some President's Day trivia: How many presidents are memorialized in the National Park System?

The answer? At last count there were at least 32 places throughout the park system where a past president is honored.

Since George Washington was elected president in 1789, there have been 43 presidents of the United States. While each president is vastly different from the others in their personalities, political beliefs, and educational and socioeconomic backgrounds, they all have one thing in common: their service to the citizens of the United States.

George Washington’s Birthday, designated by Congress in 1880, was the first federal holiday to honor an American citizen, and occurs on the third Monday in February. The holiday became widely known as President’s Day in the 1980s to include Abraham Lincoln’s birthday, which falls on February 12th.

Three decades earlier, though, a somewhat similar effort failed. It was back in the 1950s when Harold Stonebridge Fischer, executive director of the President’s Day National Committee, started a campaign to honor the Office of the Presidency, not just the birthdays of our first and 16th presidents. A proposal included in the Uniform Monday Holiday Act of 1968 sought to change the name of the holiday from Washington’s Birthday to President’s Day, but it failed in committee, thus maintaining the official name of the holiday as Washington’s Birthday.

Still, presidents are honored individually by some states, such as Massachusetts, which commemorates the lives of native son Presidents John Adams, John Quincy Adams, Calvin Coolidge and John F. Kennedy on May 29th each year. In George Washington’s home state of Virginia, President’s Day is known simply as “George Washington Day.”

Visiting America’s national parks is a great way to learn about the lives and legacies of our presidents. At least 32 sites in the National Park System commemorate the lives of these men. And then there are six more units that relate to the presidency through their wives or historic places in which momentous events occurred, such as the signing of the Declaration of Independence at Independence Hall.

It seems fitting that five sites are dedicated to Theodore Roosevelt, considered the father of the National Park System. An additional five parks honor Abraham Lincoln, from his birth home in Kentucky to Ford’s Theater in Washington D.C., where he was assassinated.

The most recent park designated to honor a president is the William Jefferson Clinton Birthplace in Arkansas, which was taken over by the National Park Service in 2011.

There are other sites of significance to the presidency, such as First Ladies National Historic Site and Eleanor Roosevelt National Historic Site, which honor the wives of our presidents, and the contributions they have made; Mount Rushmore National Memorial, with its iconic, larger than life tribute to four of our greatest presidents, Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln and Roosevelt, and; Independence National Historical Park and Federal Hall National Memorial, where visitors can retrace the steps of our founding fathers.

Those who visit the White House and President’s Park will gain a wealth of information about life in the White House. The White House Visitor Center offers several exhibits such as First Families in the White House, Symbols and Images, White House Architecture, White House Interiors, Working White House, and Ceremonies and Celebration, plus a short film.

There are many items including books, toys and multimedia available on eParks.com that document the lives of the presidents and the presidency itself. And in honor of President’s Day, eParks.com is offering a 15 percent discount on all purchases through February 25th- Enter with Coupon Code President15 at checkout. Here is a small sampling:

Abraham Lincoln: A Living Legacy
Abraham Lincoln left an indelible mark on the nation he sacrificed his life to preserve. The National Park Service maintains several sites that figured largely in the life of Abraham Lincoln.

This book is an eParks exclusive! Just in time for the Lincoln Bicentennial, this full-color 160 page guide to three Abraham Lincoln National Park sites includes more than 160 photographs, maps and historic images that illustrate the story of one of the greatest men to ever lead this nation!

This publication is printed in the USA. Softcover, $11.95.

Truman, by David McCullough
In this riveting biography, acclaimed historian David McCullough not only captures the man - a more complex, informed, and determined man than ever before imagined - but also the turbulent times in which he rose, boldly, to meet unprecedented challenges. Truman's story spans the raw world of the Missouri frontier, World War I, the powerful Pendergast machine of Kansas City, the legendary Whistle-Stop Campaign of 1948, and the decisions to drop the atomic bomb, confront Stalin at Potsdam, send troops to Korea, and fire General MacArthur. Drawing on a wide variety of materials, McCullough tells the deeply moving story of the seemingly ordinary "man from Missouri" who was perhaps the most courageous president in our history. $40.00

The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt, by Edmund Morris
This biography won the Pulitzer Prize and the American Book Award in 1980. It chronicles the life and times of one of the most charismatic presidents this country has ever had! "Stirring, dramatic, irresistible, and wonderfuly absorbing."-The New York Times.
Softcover; 920 pages. $17.95

Hopes and Dreams: The Story of Barack Obama, by Steve Dougherty

A lively overview of Barack Obama's life, this timely book relates the story of his difficult childhood as the son of a Kansas-born mother and a black Kenyan who abandoned the family, through his election to president of the Harvard Law Review (the first black Law Review president ever); his early political career; his own family life with his wife, Michelle, and two daughters; his 2004 election to U.S. Senator; and his emergence as a symbol of hope for America. Including Obama's own words and comments from both his critics and supporters, Hopes and Dreams is essential reading for people curious to know about the man who has been elected to our nation's highest office. $12.95.

Eisenhower: A Soldier’s Life, by Carlo D’Este
With full access to his private papers and letters, the author traces Dwight David Eisenhower's meteoric rise from hardscrapple poverty in rural Kansas to high command and eventually the presidency. He probes Eisnhower's public persona and his private encounters with Churchill, FDR, George Patton and other legendary figures of the century. Based on five years of extensive research, this definitive biography ay change your view of this man who helped shpae world history. Author Carlo D'Este has been called one the finest military historians of his generation and his study on Eisenhower deemed “uncompromising, compassionate, brilliant." Hardcover, 848 pages, $35.00

John Adams, by David McCullough
In this powerful, epic biography, McCullough unfolds the adventurous life-journey of John Adams, the brilliant, fiercely independent, often irascible, always honest Yankee patriot - "the colossus of independence," as Thomas Jefferson called him - who spared nothing in his zeal for the American Revolution; who rose to become the second President of the United States and saved the country from blundering into an unnecessary war; who was learned beyond all but a few and regarded by some as "out of his senses"; and whose marriage to the wise and valiant Abigail Adams is one of the moving love stories in American history. Hardcover, 751 pages, $38.00

The Book of the Presidents, by Vincent Wilson, Jr.
This is a reference and souvenir volume with biographies and gallery portraits of all the Presidents from George Washington to George W. Bush. 100 pages, $5.95.

AUDIO/VIDEO

Abraham Lincoln Sings On! (CD), performed by Tenor Douglas Jimerson.

This collection of popular patriotic songs, includes a few of Abraham Lincoln's favorites and is perfect for any music historian. Songs include: Oh! Susanna, The Bonnie Blue Flag, Gentle Annie, and many more! CD, $17.95.

Thomas Jefferson by Ken Burns (DVD)
Returning from France, Jefferson strives to preserve the fragile new U.S. government and helps create the first political party, in bitter struggles with the Federalists. He becomes vice president in 1797, and the third U.S. president in 1801. His Louisiana Purchase doubles the nation's size, but he faces controversy and scandal, finally retiring to his beloved Monticello in 1809. His last years are spent founding the University of Virginia. DVD, 3 hours, $29.98.

FOR KIDS

Young Teddy Roosevelt, by Cheryl Harness
This book briefly traces Teddy Roosevelt's steady growth-from his boyhood in New York as a weak, asthmatic child to his sudden presidency-is glowingly pictured in this book. For young readers ages 9-12. Hardcover, 48 pages, $17.95.

George Washington Leads the Way, by Bentley Boyd
This biography is divided into seven chapters headed by seven words describing Washington's qualities of leadership. These words are not exaggerations. Learn how he used honesty, perseverance, responsibility, innovation, integrity, bravery, and fairness to become a founding father, help the United States win independence, and become the nation's first president. Softcover, 24 pages, $6.95.

TOYS/ GAMES

Flash Card Pack: Presidents of the U.S.
A complete set of informative picture cards featuring every American President from George Washington to George W. Bush. Each card has a full-color reproduction of the President's official White House portrait or photograph on one side with text about the man and the important events of his term on the reverse. These cards are a great way to quiz young people or yourself about the leaders of our nation. Cards are printed on sturdy, glossy stock for durability. This product is proudly made in the USA. $12.95.

George Washington Doll
The General George Washington Famous Be'an® Collectible features the General in his "Crossing the Delaware" uniform, complete with sword, spy glass, and watch fob. His hangtag cites information about his life and accomplishments: "George Washington’s task wasn’t easy, for inexperienced troops he did command. But he was determined to win our freedom to help establish an independent land. . . ." Safe for children 18 months and older, Plush, $18.95.

Lincoln Fact Pack
This Abraham Lincoln fact pack includes seven trivia cards that your kids can color themselves! Discover how much you and your kids know about the 16th president while having fun at the same time! This product is proudly made in the USA. $6.95.

Comments

I'm wondering if this includes place names, like the Roosevelt area of Yellowstone.

One President who is greatly underrated is Calvin Coolidge. He came into office are the Great War and his primary goal was to restore nation to a peacetime basis. He focused the government back on its core functions and made it function in efficiently, effectively, and economically. His most important achievements were cutting the war debt signifcantly and reducing or eliminating taxes on most Americans. He presided over the most exciting and vital decade--marked by individual freedom and bursts of creativity--in our history. Most Americans had never known period of such prosperity and well being....Folks would enjoy visiting the Coolidge homestead at Plymouth Notch, VT. It was there he grew up and took the oath of office from his father, a notary public. It is preserved as it was in Coolidge's day....Coolidge has several good biographies, among which are Robert Sobel's ENIGMA, Robert Ferrell's THE PRESIDENCY OF CALVIN COOLIDGE, and David Greenberg's CALVIN COOLIDGE. Amity Shlaes is presently working on a new biography of the man.

Not a national park, but Custer State Park in the Black Hills of SD interprets Coolidge's visit to the Game Lodge there, and a campground is named after Grace Coolidge. Coolidge hit Wind Cave National Park and other sites too.

Finally, a reference to our Presidents around this time of year that is not intended to help sell cars, mattresses, and fast food! ;-)