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tv   First Ladies Influence and Image  CSPAN  August 1, 2015 12:02pm-1:36pm EDT

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>> you are watching american history tv. 48 hours of programming on american history every weekend on c-span 3. follow us on twitter for information on our schedule of upcoming programs, and to keep up with the latest history news. >> american history tv is featuring c-span's original series "first ladies" at 8:00 on sundays for the rest of the year. c-span conducted the serious and partnership with the u.s. historical foundation. we tell the stories of the nation's 45 first ladies. now, caroline harrison. this is about 45 minutes. ♪
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susan swain: caroline scott harrison was born in 1832 in oxford, ohio, where she met benjamin harrison. married when she was 21, she grew into an accomplished artist, interested in women's issues. although the harrison presidency has been rated as fairly unsuccessful by some historians, those who track first ladies consider caroline harrison as one of the more underrated to serve in this role. we'll learn why in this segment of "first ladies: influence and image." and here to tell us more about the story of caroline harrison are two guests who know the office well. edi mayo, first ladies historian, the director emeritus of that enormously popular first ladies exhibit at the smithsonian. edi, thanks for coming back. edith mayo: thank you. susan swain: and bill seale, white house historian, has spent his professional career understanding the history of that building. among his books is "the president's house." bill and edi are both members of c-span's academic advisory committee for this series. and, dr. seale, we're going to
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start with an illustration tonight. i'd like to -- the white house itself is one of the most iconic buildings in the world, i think you'll agree. william seale: certainly, yeah. susan swain: if caroline harrison had had her way, it would look very different today. and we have an illustration from your book of her designs for the white house that we'd like to show people at home right now. what were her plans? what was she trying to do with this big expansion of the white house? william seale: well, it was a time of big spending in his administration. the government was spending a lot of money. and she got into it by wanting to create a house -- they were crammed in this house. they only lived upstairs. you see, to understand that on the picture, the middle of the upper picture, the columns and just the floor windows to each side of it, the office was on the left, the east room was just below that, and the other public rooms on the ground floor. then the other end, the west end or the right side, was the family quarters, which were seven rooms, that was all, and a bath-and-a-half. and she wanted something big to live in, but something also to
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entertain in, because the harrisons entertained all the time. and so she had this plan done, which you see here. you're looking at the south or the back part of the white house with the round porch where president truman later built a balcony. the center part is the old white house, built -- finished in the turn of the century, 18th century, and the white house is on a bank about 17 feet up from -- on one side, it's one story, two-story house. it's a three-story house walk out on the back, about 17 feet i guess. and so what you see here was a quadrangle with the greenhouses that they had had, which are really specimen conservatories orchids and things like that. you see, that's dropped. so the windows would still have the beautiful view of the potomac. it would not have been an enclosed area. on the right side was to be, as i recall, the national gallery or the national museum -- it was not one -- and then other public
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rooms on the other side. and the second floor then had guest rooms, family quarters and such as that to make it a much more livable house, as well as the office. susan swain: looks a bit like some of the grand houses of europe. okay, this is going to brand me as a traditionalist, but are you happy she wasn't successful? william seale: well, yes, i am from our point of view. it was basically theodore roosevelt who insisted that it be restored. susan swain: edi mayo, what's interesting about the story, though, is that this woman came into the white house not being seen as political, but she had an innate sense of how to lobby for this. edith mayo: yes, she did. susan swain: she was, in fact, successful in getting it passed the senate. so tell the story of how she put together that winning coalition for the senate. edith mayo: well, she went about lobbying through her entertaining in the first place, but she also called in the press and showed them the plans and got their -- you know, got them to sign on that this was really a good idea. and, of course, they were in the white house at the centennial of the presidency, so she thought
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this would be a wonderful plan as a memorial for the 100th anniversary. and the nation had grown in land and in power and she wanted a residence that reflected the global power of the united states. so this was a perfect opportunity. so she called in the press. she got a lot of major people in washington interested. she lobbied the senate. she lobbied the house. and i will let bill tell why it failed. susan swain: before we do that she also enlisted the help of a former first lady. edith mayo: yes, harriet lane. she brought her in, and she also used the name of george washington and how this would be, you know, a fitting memorial and so forth. william seale: he had built the house, and she was just making it work. edith mayo: right. that's right. susan swain: and hadn't washington also envisioned that it could have been added on as he did to mount vernon?
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william seale: yes, he did, in years to come. and -- susan swain: so she won the senate, but in the house she ran into a formidable foe, which was the speaker reed. william seale: speaker tom reed from maine. he was a great adversary of benjamin harrison. they fought a lot over bills. and leland stanford of california was mrs. harrison's great ally. and he spent the night sleeping in the cloak room hoping the act of appropriation would go through, but speaker reed, looking -- he was a very razor-tongued kind of sharp guy, and he cooked up this story that harrison had dared to appoint a postmaster in maine without his approval and he crashed the whole thing. he wouldn't let it come up. susan swain: so lacking her ability to expand the white house, she turned to restoring what she already had. william seale: she redecorated thinking and hoping it was a minor thing to do, and she
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became interested in the historic house and began researching the attics and so forth and pulling out antiques and stuff and putting in the different rooms. and she had a decorator in boston made things spiffy. see, tiffany had been the last one to do the rooms. and they were very run-down, the special effects and all that nobody could reproduce. susan swain: well, when she got to the attic of the white house, she didn't just find old furniture that had been stored. and here's a quote of what else she discovered in the white house. this is from her diary, and we'll be using quotes from her very prolific diary throughout our program tonight. "the rats have nearly taken the building, so it has become necessary to get a man with ferrets to drive them out. they have become so numerous and so bold that they get up on the table in the upper hall, and one got up on mr. halford's bed." tell me the story of the rats in the white house. edith mayo: well, washington has a very prolific and well-known rat community, so they had infested the white house and were both in the basement and, i guess, also in the attic. william seale: attic, yeah.
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edith mayo: and so apparently the man with the ferrets was brought in to help reduce the rat population, but there was also a man with a gun, i think -- william seale: with a pistol yeah. edith mayo: -- who was shooting the rats whenever he saw them. so -- william seale: he would proceed her through the attic. now, strangely enough, the attic had no access to it. when the elevator was put into the white house, the little back stair that lincoln made famous was taken out and the elevator was put in there. and so you had stair access to two floors, so they had to go in a ladder up above the elevator. and she went, the little tiny woman, she went up there with this guard with a gun, and they began pulling things out of boxes, and a rat would appear, and he'd shoot it. and they were big ones, too. susan swain: he'd shoot, she'd scream. william seale: she'd scream right. susan swain: is how the story goes. well, we would like to invite you to participate. this series, which has been really learning so much and i
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hope you are, too, this is our next to last for season one, and we'd love to have your comments and your participation and question tonight. you can do it three ways. you can call us, and our phone numbers in the eastern and central time zones 202-585-3880. if you live out west, mountain and pacific or beyond, 202-585-3881. make sure you dial that 202 area code. and if you would like, you can also join our social community. our facebook page already has some comments coming in. and you can tweet us, but if you do, use the hashtag #firstladies, and we'll mix some of your comments and questions in our discussion tonight. well, as she approached the white house, she was criticized by the press for being overly domestic. edith mayo: that's correct. susan swain: what was the view of the changing first lady that it would be criticized to be domestic? edith mayo: i think they thought that doing actual housework, which was what was rumored rather than, you know, looking for historical treasures and trying to find -- trying to salvage the history of the white house and the presidency, it was
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looked at as she was, you know actually engaging in housework and maybe her cooking their own meals. and this was seen as very much beneath the dignity of a first lady. but one of the things that she mirrors in the time is the growing home economics movement, which organized itself around 1890. and so she was very much a part of her times in anticipating what was thought to be the professionalization of housework. so instead of being praised for what she did, she was criticized. and she could not fathom why there was all this, you know scorn and mocking and so forth in the press of what she was doing in the white house, but i think people didn't quite understand what she was trying to accomplish. william seale: but, you know edi, i would have thought -- washington is hard on first ladies, even a little hard on mrs. obama. they are until they sort of
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prove themselves. and she had been around -- he had been in the senate, they'd been in washington many times. edith mayo: right, in the senate. she'd been a senate wife. william seale: she was a popular woman in washington socially. but when she got in the house, it was a little different, and she was hurt -- edith mayo: different viewpoint. she was very hurt, i think, by the criticism. susan swain: and what we learned from frances cleveland is that the press went into a frenzy over -- there was the -- it was the booming age of newspapers. there was coverage in magazines. so the press was prepared to cover this first lady and weren't happy with what they were seeing. here's one quote, again, from her diary. she wrote about the press, "i am disgusted with newspapers and reporters. truth is a characteristic entirely unknown to them," a sentiment we might hear from presidents today? edith mayo: sounds very modern doesn't it? william seale: it does, doesn't it? edith mayo: very modern. plus, she was following this absolutely gorgeous young woman, so that must have been very, very difficult. william seale: and a clever young woman, a very clever
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woman, young and with a husband who had no use for pr, and people flocked around frances cleveland. edith mayo: well, frances was the sort of jacquelyn kennedy of her age. she was quite beautiful -- william seale: about 10 years younger than ms. kennedy was when she went to the white house. edith mayo: yeah, she was 10 years younger than jackie was when jacquelyn entered the white house, and so she was very, very popular. and, of course, there was this whole thing about this may-december romance that had taken place with the president and much speculation before he actually married that maybe he was courting her mother. and then there was the sort of the bombshell when it was announced that, no, he was courting the young and beautiful frances. william seale: didn't he say why are they attaching me to that old lady? susan swain: so we have the beautiful frances cleveland and then the harrisons who came in who were grandparents by the time they arrived. william seale: yeah. edith mayo: right. right. and she was a matronly woman by that age.
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william seale: she was a beautiful woman, as you can see from the picture, but she was not -- frances cleveland frankie, as she was known in the press, but -- just to tell a story about how clever she was you may have had it on the -- susan swain: not too much, because she got her due last week, so short story. william seale: okay. princess eulalia of spain is the first real state, visitor of state the united states. she was the same age as ms. cleveland. well, there was a reception at the white house, and princess eulalia, who was a pretty, pretty woman, wore pearls clear to the floor and diamonds and a diamond tiara and bracelets and all that stuff, just perfect for royalty, you know? and mrs. cleveland wore an off-white silk dress with a little antique lace at the top white camellia, and her wedding band. and it was a coup. she stole the show, yeah. susan swain: so benjamin harrison, our 23rd president and he was a republican. cleveland was a democrat. and we're going to learn a little bit more about the politics and some of the policies of his administration. but we talked about the fact that we'll be hearing quotes or reading quotes from her diary throughout this 90 minutes, and dave murdock on twitter asks "knowing how important the presidency had become, did caroline expect her diary to be
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made public someday?" we're going to answer that question about her diaries by visiting the harrison house. it is in indianapolis, and if you get to the capital city of indiana, you can visit it yourself. it's still open for tours. we're going to visit there for the first time and learn more about the diaries. jennifer capps: so you have caroline harrison's white house diary. this is something that we don't have out very often. she kept the diary, and you can see very fragile, so she's written in the front here, keeping the diary and the dates, 1889 to '91 for this one. and in the diary, she mentioned several different things. she mentions going to arlington cemetery and decorating the soldiers' gravesite at arlington. she mentions riding with
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benjamin to the soldiers' home and hospital. you know, some of the things that were very near and dear to her here were working with orphan asylum and with the hospitals, and she continued to do some of that while she was in washington, as well, visiting the hospitals and whatnot there, as well. but she also mentioned some of the other events and things that are going on in her diary. her artistic abilities, i think, come through again and love of flowers, so she mentioned making -- having the floral arrangements for several different banquets and dinners. one was the pan-american conference of all the north and south american countries coming together, meeting there. she mentions doing the decorations there for that, as well. and this was a dinner at the arlington in washington, d.c., and you can see the table setting at quite a large group. we have the vice president, the president, and where the different delegations were sitting at that particular dinner. she also talks a lot about the centennial celebration in new york for the centennial of george washington's inauguration from 1789 to, of course,
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harrison in 1889, so things from the banquets and whatnot here. one of the parades was seven-and-a-half hours long that she mentions in her dairy. and then also, very personal and family-related things mentioned in the diary, as well. she'll mention how she's feeling, what the weather is like. but one of the things that she talks about is the christening of their young granddaughter mary lodge mckee, and she says that they use water from the river jordan that her sister had brought back from a trip over there. and we actually have some of that water in our collection here today, so a little container here, actually have, you know, some water in there, as well as well, and a bottle with the label there from the river jordan that her sister had brought back. and mary lodge mckee was christened in the blue room of the white house in a very private family ceremony at that time. and she also mentions christmas at the white house and having the tree put out for the
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grandchildren, and the harrisons actually had the first decorated christmas tree in the white house. and she mentioned some of the gifts that were given to her at that time, including some opera glasses. so we have actually her little opera glasses here that were given to her as a christmas gift that she mentions in the diary as well. susan swain: so the answer to that viewer's question is, it looked like she very much intended for these to be public documents. william seale: but you never know. you know, a person can get -- if she had started much earlier, a person can get so absorbed in a dairy, it almost becomes like a confidante or a friend to write. i don't know whether she did or not. she didn't do other things like that, self-promotional or showing her -- you know, she and the president both suffered from depression. and it eventually had an impact on her health. but they fought that together very hard. susan swain: by keeping busy. william seale: by keeping busy. susan swain: bethany johnson on twitter asks the question, "how
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many children had benjamin and caroline harrison had?" they had two, but as they mentioned, they were older when they came to the white house. william seale: they had lost one. edith mayo: two who lived. william seale: a little girl they lost. susan swain: so the white house in their time was filled with children, but they were their grandchildren, correct? william seale: they were their grandchildren and their children. and the son was in and out. he lived out in helena, montana, but his wife was there and the children. and then the daughter, mary, who's called mamie, and mrs. mckee, and she had the celebrated baby mckee, the little boy who became world famous -- susan swain: for doing what? william seale: -- for doing nothing. just being baby mckee. susan swain: just being a baby at the white house. william seale: at the white house. susan swain: right. so what was life at the white house like? william seale: crowded. and lots and lots of entertaining. the evening was absolutely absorbed with it. and, remember, the office was in the house at the other end of the hall from the family quarters. so it was -- there were about 15 servants, as i recall, most federal employees from the agencies, and they are paid from the agencies. and all these children and the routine of a private house, plus the public activities, it was a
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very busy place. susan swain: we mentioned at the outset that the first lady was an artist, and we're going to learn a little bit more about the kind of art she particularly loved, but first let's do a few calls. i'm going to talk to horace, who is watching us in philadelphia. hi, horace. you're on, your question? horace: thank you for taking my call -- susan swain: yeah, before you ask your question, would you mute the volume on your tv? we're getting feedback. horace: sure. thank you for taking my call. i've been watching the series right along. i'm enjoying it very, very much. susan swain: thank you. horace: can you tell us a little bit about her background, who were her parents, where was she raised? was she educated? long before she met her husband, can you tell us a little bit about that? susan swain: sure. i'm going to ask -- edi, can you take that? and briefly, because we're going to spend a segment on it later on. edith mayo: okay. well, she was born and brought up in oxford, ohio. her father had been a minister but at the time, he was a professor at the university,
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miami university, and then went on to found the oxford women's institute, which was a college for women. and so her parents were both extremely well educated, and her father was a supporter of women's education. so he made certain that his daughter had a good one. and i think that sort of interested her for the future in women's accomplishments and, you know, the progress of women. susan swain: laura is watching in clarksville, indiana. you're on. laura: why are the first ladies called the first ladies? susan swain: well, good question. why are they called first ladies? edith mayo: well, i think that started when zachary taylor used that term for dolley madison during her memorial service in 1849, and he said she was truly the first lady of our land.
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she was a connection to the revolutionary time period, and she keeps coming back to the white house. she was the first in social standing probably for 16 years first as jefferson's stand-in first lady, then as first lady on her own. but she continued to have great influence. edith mayo: and so i think that's how it started, that she was the first in stature, and that name carried on. it wasn't really picked up until after the civil war, but it's used -- william seale: i would say mrs. hayes was the first, yeah. edith mayo: i was going to say mrs. hayes, although i think harriet lane had that under some of her photographs in harpers and -- so, anyway, but it just means the first among everyone. susan swain: linda, bloomington, minnesota, you're on. good evening. linda: good evening.
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i have a question that relates to my own family. there is a -- i had a grandmother whose name was kate harrison, and then she married and her name was thomas. and she grew up, i believe, in missouri. there was a story that her mother had been married in the white house. and i don't know if there's any truth to this, but i thought perhaps you might know if there was a wedding in the white house during benjamin harrison's term there. william seale: it would not be surprising, but i don't know that by name. edith mayo: i don't know either. william seale: the local newspapers would probably carry it, both in washington and wherever they were from. that's where i would look for it, if i were looking for it. but i don't -- i know in lincoln's time, there were marriages in the white house john adams' and some others, but i don't know of any in the harrison tenure. susan swain: one more question
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and then we'll learn more about the first lady's artistic endeavors. this is charlotte who is watching us in olympia washington. hi, charlotte. what's your question? charlotte: hi, i just wanted to mention i had had the fortune of going through indianapolis last fall and got to visit the harrison home. and it's a beautiful house. i've been able to go to several presidential homes, but they have so much actual furniture that belonged to the harrisons and it's -- the people there are very friendly. and so if anyone happens to be going through indianapolis, do stop. it's a wonderful home. edith mayo: treasure trove. susan swain: i think they will appreciate the endorsement, and they certainly were very helpful to us in allowing us to record so much video for you to see tonight. by the way, when we talked about the white house diaries, every week on our first ladies website, all the video from the programs we've done so far is contained there and also some special video you haven't seen during the program. but there's always one special feature for each first lady, and
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tonight it is the entirety of caroline harrison's white house diary. so if you really want to dig into her observations of what her days were like, you can read it all there at well, ellen wilson-pruitt has a comment on facebook about her artistic endeavors. mrs. harrison, she writes, was an avid china painter and moved her china painting teacher when she went to washington. she painted in fired china while in the white house. we china painters here in indiana are very proud of our art's heritage in our state. to learn more about how we are keeping caroline harrison's love of the art alive here in indiana, you can visit our website, which is well, let's now go to the white house for our next video. and you will learn more from the white house curator, bill allman, about the white house china collection. bill allman: when she came to the white house, she was very interested in how the place worked. she came down here -- this was the ground -- this still is the ground floor, but it was sort of considered to be the basement,
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because the kitchen was down here, laundry facilities, the storage for food and tableware and such, and she came down and found that it was rather dilapidated, rather dirty, sort of ominous. and she tried to, like, spruce it up. she went through the cabinets and found old pieces of china and then asked servants if they could tell her, does anybody remember how old this piece is? so she started the idea of trying to catalog and create a sense of what the chinas were. she had a plan for putting some display cases in the state dining room, but never came to fruition. but she is credited with being the initiator of the concept of a permanent china collection at the white house. mrs. harrison was interested in designing a china. she wanted it to be american. as other first ladies had discovered, there was not a strong enough porcelain manufacturing industry in america in 1891 when she started looking into new china, so she decided they would go ahead and let a french company make the blanks, but she would provide the design. and so it wasn't a full service. i mean, she didn't try to order
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12 or 15 pieces per place setting. it was designed with a shape that was pretty much the lincoln-era shape, the kind of simple -- this is a soup plate and a breakfast plate or a tea plate. the eagle was very similar to what was on the lincoln china that represents the great seal of the united states. what she specifically designed was the border. it was a combination of ears of corn and golden rod, which she felt represented american plants, the agricultural plants and corn and wildflowers and the golden rod. so there was dinner plates and soup plates and breakfast plates made in the blue, and there were also breakfast plates and tea plates made with the white border, and then a series of demitasse cups and saucers. so there weren't all the other shapes that you might have in a state service of bowls and cream soup cups and various and sundry things that went with it. susan swain: so we credit her today with establishing this very popular spot in the white
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house. william seale: yes, and, of course, table service all through the years is extremely important to the white house with the state dinners, that is, the official dinners that are paid for by the state department, planned by the family, more or less. but, you know, eight wines were served normally at dinner -- it would be reduced to three under theodore roosevelt -- and poured generously, but there was a lot of wine. and men guests would sometimes have scotch instead of wine. and then you would have numerous plates, bone dishes, all of these things at the each plate have -- serving about 60 for a state dinner in those days. edith mayo: and i just wanted to say that the cups and saucers that were ordered for the harrison china did not arrive at the white house until after caroline's death, which is very sad that she didn't get to see them. and the china was reordered periodically in later administrations, so it became a
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very popular service, ordered again by mckinley and roosevelt and even as late as jacquelyn kennedy and mrs. clinton. susan swain: in addition to the official design that she did she was an avid painter of china as a hobby. and, in fact, she gave classes in this at the white house. edith mayo: right. william seale: which may have been a political move. she had music -- she was a musician -- susan swain: politics at the white house? william seale: right, where? edith mayo: another form of lobbying. william seale: she was a musician, a painter, and was fluent in french, and i think she spoke spanish. edi, did she? edith mayo: i know she spoke french. i'm not sure about the spanish but -- william seale: but she had little classes. it was there for 25 people. edith mayo: she did have classes in language and china painting. william seale: and only 25 could attend. edith mayo: right. william seale: and it rather smoothed the feathers of some of the people in washington. they kind of silenced themselves about her, because they all wanted to be part of those classes. they were ladies classes. susan swain: next is a phone
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call from phil in north hollywood, california. hi, phil. phil: hi there. thank you so much for the wonderful series. i'm just wonderfully addicted to all of you. anyways, you mentioned baby mckee first, and i was kind of curious about it, because i remember reading in "first ladies" -- or "first families" years ago, it was like the first pop culture. now we don't even know about them. but i was wondering if you could elaborate more about -- your historians over there -- about baby mckee and how he became such a big sensation throughout america. i was just kind of curious if you have any more observations about him. susan swain: thank you. we have a photograph of baby mckee we'll show as we're learning more. william seale: i think he was just a cute little kid that they had let the press have access to. edith mayo: well, and in the cleveland administration, you know, they had baby ruth. william seale: baby ruth, yeah. edith mayo: and the candy bar was named after baby ruth, not after the baseball player, babe ruth. but at any rate, this is the period when photographic studios started taking enormous numbers of pictures of the white house
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the furnishings, the occupants and particularly the children became very, very -- it was sort of a new pop culture kind of sensation, and fixated on baby mckee. susan swain: here's a great picture we're showing right now of a goat cart on the lawn of the white house with the harrison grandchildren. william seale: the wicker cart that the children played on the driveway on the south lawn. the south lawn was kept closed since the grant administration for children to play. see the greenhouses behind them, the whole way it was? and that goat is a special kind of goat. i forget the name, but he's -- still very prominent goat-raisers that raise that kind of goat, and they do race them and show them. the harrisons were big animal people, so they had all kinds of animals. now, mrs. cleveland had 29 pets, but they didn't have that many but they had some pets, and that little cart became quite famous. there actually is another one, another cart, as well as that one.
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susan swain: in addition to the china, establishing the china collection, she also bought the first white house christmas tree, which we now think of as very much a part of the holiday celebration. what was it like in the harrison years? william seale: i don't know what it was like. i know she brought the christmas tree in. edi, do you know? edith mayo: that's as much as i know, and that it was decorated, but -- susan swain: but in the family quarters, as opposed to on public display. william seale: in the family quarters, yes. susan swain: and today, it's part of the public display for people coming in. william seale: yes, it's a major -- edith mayo: and the president dressed up as santa claus and played santa claus with the grandchildren and so forth. susan swain: can we imagine a modern-day president in a santa claus suit? william seale: well, now i can. susan swain: you can? william seale: i can. yeah. susan swain: when i read that, i thought, hmm, photographs. william seale: that might be -- edith mayo: speaking of photographs and the donkey cart -- i mean, the goat cart, excuse me -- caroline, i think, was very savvy in knowing that people were going to demand photographs of the grandchildren and the family. so instead of just letting them
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descend on her willy-nilly, she called in a pioneering woman photographer, frances benjamin johnston, and had the children photographed, and it gave her and the family much more control over how the photographs were taken and where and when and you know, how these children were pictured in the press. william seale: that's a good point. and they were -- there's one -- edith mayo: and i think she was very smart about doing that. william seale: -- one of a tea party with the and the little babies around the table having whatever they were having. edith mayo: right, yes. susan swain: which also seems very modern, to control the access -- edith mayo: yes, it is very modern, exactly. susan swain: -- to the images. edith mayo: exactly. and that was one of the things that frances cleveland had -- or did complain about in the second -- their second administration was that she was afraid people were going to kidnap the children. i mean, you know, they found
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ways to get into the white house grounds, and she was constantly fearful. so i think what caroline did was very smart. susan swain: another thing she did for the white house was to bring electricity into it. and we have a photograph or an illustration, rather, of what's called the great illumination of the white house in 1891. how important was this to bring electricity into the mansion? william seale: oh, extremely important. and the harrisons were terrified of it. they wouldn't turn it on or off. and they would -- when they were ready to go to bed, they'd call one of the employees up to turn the lights off. susan swain: throughout the four years, they never got comfortable with it? william seale: never got used to it. edith mayo: never, no. william seale: scared to death of it. they were used to gas. susan swain: and what's interesting is it was installed by the edison company itself. william seale: yes. susan swain: so was the entire mansion illuminated at that point? or was it just in the public space?
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william seale: none of the living rooms were. the bedrooms, they had -- they threaded the old gas fixtures, some of them, and then hung light bulbs from the chandeliers. and that was that way until 1902. and there were lots of those big, old filament bulbs hanging around, you know? but it was not lighted like it would be today. today, you know, it would be heavy candlelight to us, but it was really an innovation and considered less dangerous, because the gas went off at a certain time at night, about 9:00 or 9:30 at night. and if you didn't have all those cocks turned, to turn the gas off, the gas would come out into the rooms. and people are asphyxiated all the time. so there was a man at the white house who did nothing else but turn these things off. and then they would light the coal oil or petroleum oil lights, kerosene lights. and so this was something that wasn't as dangerous, really, but it seemed dangerous to them. edith mayo: they were afraid of getting shocked, i think, or starting a fire. william seale: yes. well, i think they could have been shocked from any time they did it wrong, yeah. edith mayo: well, they probably could have been. susan swain: right. so prior to this, when presidents burned the midnight
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oil, they really were. edith mayo: they really were. william seale: they did. susan swain: because they were -- william seale: the gas was off yeah. susan swain: dan is in big timber, montana. hi, dan. what's your question tonight? dan: well, my question -- i heard you mention earlier that one of the president's children -- i think his son you said -- lived in helena? william seale: russell. russell, uh-huh. dan: did they stay in helena? william seale: i don't know, but there's a harrison house there. i think their house still stands. dan: oh, wow. and i remember justice harrison just passed away a couple years ago was on the supreme court for years. i wonder if he was related. william seale: i don't really know. i know they were devoted to montana. he had ranching interests and also copper interests and was a very successful man. and he was not going to give that up to go stay in the white house. susan swain: well, besides the baby mckee and things for which they might have been celebrated, she also received criticism in the press, and this came when she accepted a gift from a postmaster general wanamaker who was a very successful man, of a house in cape may, new jersey. can either of you tell the story of how that -- that blew up in her face and what happened with the first lady? edith mayo: well, people looked at it as if it were a bribe.
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it was supposed to be a little cottage, and i think it had, what, 20 rooms or something like that? william seale: uh-huh. edith mayo: but at any rate, it was looked on as a bribe to -- from wanamaker to the harrison administration. and finally, the outcry got so heated that they had to pay wanamaker for it $10,000, which was a lot of money in those days, to make it look like, you know, the president said, well we were going to buy it anyway. but it was one of those things like, for instance, after the civil war, a list of subscribers got together and gave grant a home, and so it was not unheard of. william seale: no. edith mayo: but for some reason, the press spun it as if this was possibly a bribe. so they had to end up paying for the house. william seale: it was a very tumultuous time politically.
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anything they could jump -- i mean, grant got a house practically every year, and he had lots of houses, fully furnished, linens and all. but he didn't get any trouble for it, but this did, but it was a pretty hot time, it was a very tense time between the democrats and the republicans. and the motivations were clearly drawn. the republicans were protectionists. the democrats were not. the republicans wanted high tariffs, and then the democrats did not, and so on. and harrison was a man who was of conservative nature, in that he wanted to the debts paid, he didn't want a lot of spending paradoxically, because it was a time of very great spending, really, in his administration. but these were the tensions of the time and how cleveland got back in. susan swain: i also read that it was a time of great grief and sadness in washington.
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no less than 15 deaths during their four-year period of people in the washington circle, people like associate justices on the supreme court. the navy secretary and his family were burned alive in a house. and you mentioned, are there also labor strikes in the east and a miner strike -- william seale: and a homestead strike of carnegie's steel plant was a terrible thing. susan swain: with deaths, yes. william seale: and 20 men were shot dead of the protestors, and the american public -- while it seemed justified to the plant and carnegie and the rest, it was -- it horrified the american public. they just could not believe it. and this chipped away at -- harrison got a lot of the blame for that. susan swain: and did this contribute to the depression that you mentioned earlier? william seale: the depression, oh, his own depression? i think that went way back. i think it goes back to the civil war when he was a brevet general and was with sherman at atlanta. and though he was a little man he was quite a leader, and the whole prospect of war was horrifying to him. they had been married about,
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what, five years, maybe more? edith mayo: yeah, very short time, five years, i think. william seale: and they both were very gripped by that period, as many people were. edith mayo: and he must have witnessed horrible things on the battlefield, i would imagine. william seale: well, apparently he did, yes. susan swain: before we leave this part of their life in the white house, a couple more questions. john coleman on facebook, can you expand on some of the things mrs. harrison found in the attic besides the rats? were there any important pieces that they brought down? william seale: there were a lot of old curtains. furniture, different objects of furniture, not specifically. edith mayo: but was it the resolute desk brought down? william seale: the resolute desk was just recently. edith mayo: that was something that came in the hayes administration. william seale: hayes. susan swain: okay. william seale: and it was used in the upstairs hall. she furnished the upstairs hall from the attic, though. the corridor that runs the full length of -- as you face the white house, the full length of the house on the second floor was just an old hallway with white wardrobes and things in it.
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and one end of it was a waiting room. mrs. harrison furnished it as a room, as it is today. and if you went up in the elevator in the family quarters, you would find that as a sitting -- a big sitting room divided by doors. and she furnished that a lot from old things she found in the attic. edith mayo: and she was trying to make more room for the family. i mean, the family quarters had become so cramped and overrun by the presidential offices that, you know, she was looking for space anywhere she could find it, so she turned that hallway into, you know, a large sort of living area with, you know defined spaces for seating and conversation. susan swain: sheldon cooper on twitter. besides harriet lane, did caroline invite any first ladies back to the white house? william seale: well, mrs. hayes had died. edith mayo: that's the one i know about, is harriet lane. susan swain: all right. all known to history is harriet lane. so we talked about the fact that she was seen as a domestic partner, but in fact, caroline harrison was a great political partner to her husband, benjamin harrison. and next, we're going to learn about that more and how it affected his political success
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in this visit to the harrison home in indianapolis. phyllis geeslin: caroline harrison was certainly an active participant in benjamin harrison's political life. well, i have just stepped out the door, as benjamin harrison did many times, to address the crowds that came to hear him speak when he was campaigning for the presidency. there were over 300,000 people who came to indianapolis. in fact, the yard became so crowded that they had to move some of the speeches downtown to the university park. carrie was always beside him or just inside the door, preparing for the guests to come through the house, preparing to maybe give refreshments to some of the guests, preparing to greet them and shake their hands. carrie was very much devoted to benjamin harrison and the ideals of his campaign. when she planned her inaugural dress, she wanted it to be
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designed in the united states. she wanted the silk to be spun in the united states. she wanted the dress to be designed and made in the united states, because benjamin harrison's campaign advocated him that we become an independent nation, and she was willing to do her part to see that happen. this probably was one of caroline's favorite rooms in the house. she loved to entertain. and many, many different groups came to hear benjamin harrison speak. caroline was his right-hand person. she wasn't always on the stoop with him, but she was certainly behind the scenes and eager to invite people in for some hospitality. one group that came was a group that harrison greatly admired and very much encouraged, and
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that was the black community in this area. and when he finished speaking to them, he invited them all to come into his home, which they did, and they shook hands with benjamin harrison and caroline harrison as they walked through the house. well, this is benjamin harrison's favorite room. it's his library. and how interesting that in his place to be, we have caroline harrison's beautiful little desk. i think that in this room, probably, benjamin drew a great deal of strength and comfort from having caroline close by. and maybe she didn't talk to him about what paper he was writing or what bill he was working on but just looking up from his desk and seeing his carrie was an encouragement to him. he knew that she was there if he needed her. he knew that she loved him. and i think that carrie was the kind of wife that empowered her husband.
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susan swain: so we learned that she was very much instrumental in hosting these events that would bring the crowds, and he campaigned for public office essentially by staying home, which was -- edith mayo: well, there were two new ways of -- two different campaign techniques that came in at the end of the 19th century. the front porch campaign was one, and the whistle stop was the other, and they were sort of at opposite ends of the spectrum. the whistle stop, you know, you got on a train and went all around the country. this way, you stayed home on the front porch campaign and greeted the neighbors and anybody who came in by train. so this brought the wife of the candidate right into the forefront of the campaigning without violating the norms of women's places in the home. so it was perfect for her as far as a type of campaign technique.
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susan swain: regina crumkey asks on twitter, did caroline like campaigning? or did she have safety concerns for her husband? we'd already lost two presidents as a nation. was there an increase in security for presidential candidates at this time? edith mayo: i don't think in these front porch campaigns -- william seale: i don't think so. no, they traveled with -- edith mayo: -- no. william seale: -- and maybe the local sheriff, but, you know even president truman had no -- when he left office had no protection. but one thing -- i'd like to add to what edi said, is that it was considered inappropriate for a man to campaign for himself, to get out and make the speeches for himself. edith mayo: very different from today. william seale: very different from today. and the -- sitting on the front porch was another way of sitting in your nest -- edith mayo: you're being called. william seale: -- or stage or deer stand or whatever. edith mayo: you're being called to the office. you're not going out -- it's not self-promotion. william seale: yeah, and they're coming to see you. edith mayo: they're coming -- they're coming to call you to be their president. william seale: and these are regular carnivals. they sell postcards and the entrepreneurs, special drinks at
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the drug store -- edith mayo: and marching bands. william seale: and this will be repeated when you get to mckinley, because he was very famous for it, and -- just sit on the porch in rocking chairs and people would come by the thousands to look at them. susan swain: jordan in towanda pennsylvania. good evening, and welcome to the conversation. jordan: hi, i'm a big fan of your guys, and i know all about the presidents. i know their age and stuff. and my question is, was caroline harrison older than her husband? william seale: yes. susan swain: jordan -- edith mayo: a year older. susan swain: oh, i was going to ask if jordan knew the answer. edith mayo: oh, excuse me. susan swain: one year ago. edith mayo: yes, one year ago. william seale: about a year, yeah. susan swain: and while we're talking about her husband, here are some of the important things that happened politically and policy-wise during the harrison presidency. first of all, there were a number of states that were added to the union, north dakota south dakota, montana, and washington. and in the year later, in 1890 idaho and wyoming were added as part of the united states. also, the battle of wounded knee occurred during the harrison administration, and the sherman
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antitrust act and the sherman silver purchase act, so two raging debates in this country were about silver, silver policy, and also the whole tariff concept, which we saw that the president greatly supported. what happened to the economy as a result of this? william seale: well, the economy -- basically, the silver act led the economy into a depression. harrison lost in the election of 1892, and he was lucky, because the economy crashed in the autumn of 1893 for president cleveland, who returned to office. and mrs. harrison by that time had died. susan swain: and on twitter, regina crumkey once again asks whether or not caroline provided any political guidance or was her place beside her husband like frances was with grover? answer would be, yes, she was much more attuned to politics. william seale: oh, much, much more. oh, i wouldn't say frances was at all, would you, except to be pretty and funny?
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edith mayo: no, i wouldn't, either. no, no. william seale: no, this woman was very much attuned -- edith mayo: she was politically savvy. william seale: -- savvy to what he was doing. and very interested in the position of women. she was not an activist in the street, like the suffragettes would be who wanted the vote later on, but she believed that the power of women was very, very great, which it was, and she believed in women getting out there and getting involved. susan swain: and speaking of her influence, not just on her husband, but also to effect change in society, here's another item from her diary. and the first lady wrote, "my mail consisting of requests to use my influence for some office, asking for money, and one from some woman asking that i would use my influence to get her husband out of jail." william seale: they all had that. edith mayo: i think that was a part of being first lady probably since dolley madison's time. william seale: oh, mrs. roosevelt -- mrs. fdr had just cards and cards of her -- edith mayo: oh, yes, stacks of mail. william seale: -- in a card catalog of letters, people wanted to get someone out of jail or kept from hanging or whatever.
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susan swain: next is a call from duncan in rootstown, ohio. you're on. duncan: yes, thank you. my last name is reinhart, and there was a wealthy family in ohio at the turn of the century last named reinhart. did the harrisons have any past experience with that family by any chance? edith mayo: i have no idea. william seale: i don't know. susan swain: yeah, we wouldn't be able to know that kind of detail. william seale: i have no idea. i don't know. wish i did, yeah. susan swain: i hope you can find some sources in your own state to answer that. laura in novi, michigan. hi, laura. laura: hi. how are you? i'm so excited, i can't believe you're talking about the harrisons. i've about 30 years, i've had an inaugural invitation to the inaugural ball in 1889 of benjamin harrison. him and i wonder if you could tell me anything about that inaugural ball. william seale: well, you don't
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need to write a regret anymore. but that's fascinating. the inaugural ball, it was a ferociously rainy time. edith mayo: and it was in the pension building, i believe. william seale: in the pension building. edith mayo: all decorated inside. william seale: yeah, the -- edith mayo: and the ballroom. susan swain: where the marine band played. william seale: the marine band played. and the harrisons -- and they danced. they had not done so in a while. and the dancing custom was brought back to the white house, where it had been missing since harriet lane. and the marine band would play and people would dance, and that was a spin-off of the inaugural. it was a very -- in a rainstorm, but it was a very glamorous and happy event. you're lucky to have that artifact. it's nice. susan swain: more than halfway through our program, and time to look back. i know we had an earlier question about this, about the couple's early life. they were both attendees of miami of ohio in oxford, ohio. edith mayo: right. susan swain: tell us more about how they met.
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she was a native. he came from somewhere else? edith mayo: i think he was from cincinnati, maybe. william seale: well, he -- from ohio, yeah. edith mayo: yeah, he was definitely from ohio. and they met there in college. he, i think, was taking a course from her father in mathematics. and then he began to visit the harrison home under the pretense of, you know, creating a relationship with his professor, but in actuality because he wanted to see more of carrie. william seale: uh-huh. susan swain: after they married, they moved to indianapolis. william seale: yes, where they were to stay the rest of their lives, except for washington. susan swain: were the politics in indianapolis or indiana at the time easier to get into? what was the motivation that took them to the state? edith mayo: it's a smaller place. william seale: well, smaller place. he was from a very prominent family, and she was, too. dr. scott was, you know, a prominent educator, as you've said, and very well known. and harrison quickly rose, really -- he went to the civil war, and after the civil war his law practice flourished in
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business law and divorce. indianapolis was the reno of its day. edith mayo: of the day. william seale: and lots of people went there to get a divorce, and he was the best divorce lawyer in town. and his fortune increased. he made quite a bit of money as a lawyer. susan swain: indianapolis was the reno of its day. all you hoosiers out there that's a little bit of your history. william seale: you don't have to leave home. susan swain: so his civil war service went -- he had children by the time the civil war started, and it was a big decision -- william seale: yes. edith mayo: right. susan swain: -- in the family as to whether or not he would serve. what did she do during the civil war? edith mayo: she worked with several women's patriotic associations. she visited hospitals, attended wounded soldiers, you know helped with the women's loyal league and that kind of -- william seale: sanitary -- edith mayo: -- union -- what do i want to say -- patriotic organizations, the women's sanitary commissions, which were helping with nurse wounded soldiers, so, you know, the
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women's side of the war issue. susan swain: which gave her experience in organizing for causes, is it fair to say? william seale: i just think she was psychologically set for that, because of her upbringing. i mean, that's what her family believed in. and i'm sure her father as a widower living with them in the white house encouraged everything she did in that direction, too. edith mayo: and contributing back to the community, i think was part of their ethical background. william seale: they were deeply religious people, presbyterian. susan swain: so harrison's interest in -- how did his law career lead him into politics? william seale: well, just the way a law career does. i mean, there he was. and he was thought well of and simply decided -- persuaded to run for office and did. i mean, he just drifted into it. edith mayo: and then he became the secretary of the republican
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state committee, so through that, he began to make all these contacts in the state -- susan swain: and campaigned for -- edith mayo: -- and campaigned for other republicans, which then stood him in good stead in his own right, as far as a candidate or possible candidate. susan swain: and was elected to the united states senate. william seale: senate. susan swain: he first tried for governor and was unsuccessful in that bid. william seale: yes. yes, uh-huh, he did. susan swain: and then -- and then was successful in his bid for the united states senate. william seale: for the senate. susan swain: we have another video. we're going to return to the harrison home and learn more about caroline's interest and causes. phyllis geeslin: this is the part of the master bedroom suite. this is just a beautiful room, a room where we love to think of caroline. this would be the sitting room where caroline might have entertained her friends. for instance, she belonged to a number of literary clubs. perhaps they came and me here and talked about the authors that they liked. caroline particularly liked dickens and especially liked shakespeare, so that might have
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been going on in this room. i think, too, that, of course, this might have been the room that inspired some of her art, because it has a beautiful view out the window onto the yard where her gardens were and where her flowers grew. there are -- there's a wonderful easel, which is a display easel, so when she finished a picture she might put it on that easel for her friends to admire when they came up for tea. there is a beautiful fan that was given to her by ulysses grant's daughter-in-law. and she thought it was so beautiful that she put it in a frame so that nobody could hurt it. she also would have probably done some piecework in here. she loved to do embroidery, and i think she -- and beading, that was very popular.
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and so i think this would have been a room that she worked in as well as entertained in. she did many community things. for instance, she was involved in the orphans asylum. she served on their board. she went to the orphans asylum at least once a week. she often made clothes or took clothes to them. she did cooking and took the cooking to the orphan asylum. she cared very much about these little children and making sure that their lives were better than they might have been. so that was one of her causes. so also played the piano, of course, for her church, and every single sunday. so that was a talent that she put to use for other people. i think caroline had confidence, but i also think she had purpose. and so she was always looking for an opportunity to use her skills to help her fellow man
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and to serve her community. susan swain: it's really an interesting line, that she had purpose. and we're going to talk about how she used some of that purpose when she came to the white house, but, first, a couple of other questions. will flautt asks, was it common -- on twitter -- for first ladies to go to school, let alone hold a college degree like mrs. harrison? edith mayo: that was something that was relatively new. mrs. hayes was the first college graduate among first ladies. frances cleveland, i think, also graduated from college, and i think grover weighted to pop the question while sending flowers to her the whole time she was there. and then caroline harrison also had a college degree. so it was something that was coming into vogue for women in the later part of the century. william seale: but they were all well educated, whether it was home education, of course, was the commonest of all that people had, but some of these girls, as young girls, went to the female academies, sponsored by the churches like the baptists, the
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methodists, and they would live there, and they would learn the language. they'd learn whatever they learned there, classics, and so they were some -- you know, some learned there, classics, and so they were some -- you know, some of them -- call it college was a later idea, i think, with women. edith mayo: but very well read all of them. william seale: well read, yeah. susan swain: ted flynt asks on facebook, mrs. harrison was so progressive on women's issues what about her views on race? was she influenced at all by the abolitionist movement in her early adult years? william seale: oh, yes. edith mayo: very much so. william seale: very much so. and he -- his whole administration fought for the african-american vote everywhere. now, of course, remember now that -- only african-american to vote, not women. but it was for the african-american vote, he was very vocal about it.
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susan swain: next is dan in omaha. hi, dan. dan: hi. when you showed the office there, at his personal home there, i think i saw the picture of the ninth president, the grandfather of -- william seale: william henry harrison. edith mayo: william henry. dan: yeah. was -- did the -- did william harrison, did he own this property at one time himself? william seale: wait a minute. what -- susan swain: did william henry harrison own that property? william seale: where the house is? no, he lived in ohio. his home was in ohio, and it's open to the public, as well. william henry harrison is another matter. he died after 30 years in the -- 30 days in the white house, and harrison saw him as a little boy of maybe 9 years old in his coffin. that's the only time he saw him. they were, you know, from a very distinguished family in virginia. they lived at berkeley plantation on the james river. president harrison, benjamin harrison, was the son, except for the bushes, would be the only son of a -- because it was his grandfather, not his father -- that was a president --
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grandfather and son. but the grandfather's father had signed the declaration of independence. edith mayo: right, a virginia signer. william seale: one of the virginia signers. and berkeley, you can still see on the james river, open to the public. and they were a distinguished virginia family and in politics for years and years. and when william henry harrison went to be inaugurated, he went to berkeley, where he had been born. i don't know whether benjamin harrison ever went, but he was very conscious of being the grandson of a founder -- i mean, the great-grandson of a founder and the grandson of a president. susan swain: okay. just to summarize that, then there have been two father-son combinations, the adams and the bushes, and this was the only grandfather-grandson -- william seale: yeah, exactly clarify that, right. susan swain: -- in the white house history. so -- edith mayo: and the campaign benjamin harrison's campaign was all about little tippecanoe or young tippecanoe. william seale: you saw the log
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cabin in the picture. edith mayo: right, and that had been his grandfather's campaign slogan. and also, there was something about he's -- you know, he fits his grandfather's hat, so you saw lots of hats as a, you know, campaign device during harrison's campaign. susan swain: gary robinson asks on twitter, did caroline's interest in history and the presidency fuel desires for her to be the dar -- that's the daughters of the american republic -- president or vice versa? now, to answer that question it's interesting that she took on the role as the president general of the dar. william seale: now, there's a story there. susan swain: i thought there would be. william seale: the dar is always misunderstood. the dar was founded by working women who were supporting themselves, their children perhaps whatever. there were four major ones and many others.
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it was founded in the fall of 1890. and for some way, caroline harrison became involved probably because of all the 1789 centennial stuff, centennial of washington's inauguration. so they persuaded her to be first president. and she made the first recorded address ever made by a first lady to their convention. the dar had a lot to do with working women who were in the field and not being treated like ladies, and with this -- edith mayo: particularly in the government agencies in washington. william seale: yes. and when they showed dissent from the revolution, you know, i'm just as good as you are, or however you want to say it. but mrs. harrison saw political promise in it, and she is the one that thought the dar ought to be political. they never intended that. and they met in the blue room at their first meeting. and she told them how to do it. susan swain: but it was a working job, it looked like.
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it was busy. it required a lot of energy on her part. william seale: i think it did, and i think she had a lot of support, though, the founders themselves. susan swain: could we imagine the first lady today taking on a role like this? william seale: could, yeah. i could. she's too busy, for one thing, but -- edith mayo: it would depend on how overtly political people would think it was, but i could certainly imagine somebody doing something like that today. susan swain: james bowen to clarify, he asks, didn't caroline harrison start the dar? the answer is no, but she -- william seale: no, it was a group of working women. susan swain: but she agreed to run it and brought it to high prominence. william seale: she was fascinated by the idea. edith mayo: gave it visibility legitimacy, a place to meet, helped sort of smooth over the political differences within the group, you know, people wanting different offices and so forth. so by taking the president general position, she sort of quelled a lot of that, you know, i want the position, i want the position kind of thing. susan swain: what was happening overall with the women's movement?
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women still don't have the right to vote in this country at this point. edith mayo: they do not have the right to vote. the suffrage movement was finally coming together in 1890, after having been split since the end of the civil war. one group wanted to go the constitutional route. the other group wanted to have it done state by state, in other words, a states' rights approach. and they'd fought each other for a generation, and finally, in 1890, they had a meeting in washington in 1888 and decided to unify the suffrage movement. so that was going on at the national level. as i mentioned before, the home economics movement began in 1890. the club movement had progressed from local and state groups to national groups in 1890. you have the white clubs, the black clubs, the jewish women's
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clubs, and they all get started in the early '90s. so the women are really beginning to organize and lobby very loudly for women's progress. susan swain: harold is in new milford, connecticut. hi, harold, your question? harold: yes, thank you very much for this wonderful series. i was just wondering if your guests know anything -- you were discussing the china services at the white house. do you know anything about the silver collections and how both the hollowware and the flatware were being developed at the white house? and lastly, when did lenox china begin its first production for the white house, if you know? thank you so much, and thank you for a great series. edith mayo: well, i can answer the question about the lenox china. that was the wilson administration. up until that time, there had been no ceramic manufacturer
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that could equal the quality of european ceramics. and so almost all of the 19th century and even some of the early 20th century chinaware that was ordered for the white house was from france, except for that of theodore and edith roosevelt, and they used wedgwood. edith mayo ware that they felt was proper for the white house. and that was the first order from lenox. william seale: now, on the silver front, it's a strange story. silver, big orders of silver such as the white house in the first -- the earliest since james monroe's, came in trunks, with trays, and you had little depressions in there where a knife would fit exactly here. so if you have a dozen knives, they'd be in a fan or a line. so many spoons and these trays would come out. so when it was all washed after dinner, you could look at the
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trays, and if there wasn't a hole or a vacant place, it was all there. it lasted all those years through the 19th century, and there were increases, but they had all the trunks. mrs. william howard taft went on one of those lesser tour than mrs. harrison, but a tour of the storage rooms that bill allman was talking about, and she saw those dirty old trunks, as she said. so she had the silver taken out and put in drawers, and like anyone does at home today, and had the trunks thrown away and the silver decimated and just -- would begin to go out with the garbage. a lot of it remains, but, you know, you began to lose it, if you can't count it. susan swain: edi looks pained at the thought. edith mayo: yeah, that is painful. sort of like the decayed furnishings they also found at the white house for years and years, all these things that were thought to be out of date were sold at auction. they had huge auctions. and, you know, all of this marvelous stuff sort of migrated out of the white house. susan swain: sam is watching us in cherry hill, new jersey, that is.
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and you're on, sam. sam: hello, there. now, i had a question about mrs. harrison's ill health. so, first, let me begin by saying i am a huge caroline harrison fan. i have been following her for years. she is one of my absolute favorite first ladies. but i was wondering, did her ill health have any effect on the amount of work she was able to do in her husband's administration? do you think it prevented her from taking on a more active role in the administration? because she was a beautiful woman in every sense of the word, and i believe she could have had some great influence over him. william seale: she had tuberculosis, and it -- she fought it and stayed busy. tuberculosis and depression has to be added to it. and finally, she couldn't anymore, and i think it was just the last two months of her life that she really ailed. and she died in october. you know, everything in her life happened in october. she was born in october; she was married in october; and she died in october; and the dar was founded in october. so --
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susan swain: well, how about that? we'll learn a little bit more about her death and the effect on the campaign, but before we leave her influences, there's a story about her support for johns hopkins that you need to tell. edith mayo: yes, okay. well, the back story is that johns hopkins had built a hospital and was going to build a medical school with graduate education. and they built the hospital, but they ran out of money for the medical school. and so a young woman whose name was mary elizabeth garrett, who was the daughter of the owner of the baltimore and ohio railroad, had a group of women all of whom had their fathers on the board at johns hopkins university. and so they would meet regularly in a group they called the friday, not the friday club, the friday. and they referred to themselves
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in their memos and so forth as girls. well, the girls decided to take on this project. mary elizabeth garrett had been her father's sort of right-hand person. she'd traveled with him, watched him make, as donald trump would say, the art of the deal. and so she was very aware that this was the time that they should tell johns hopkins that they would raise the money that was needed for this medical school if the medical school would admit women on the same equal basis as men. well, it took the men on the board a little aback and took them a while to sort of come around to the idea, but there were all these incredible women that she had contact with. and i will read you some of their names. they were mrs. leland stanford -- susan swain: of stanford university. edith mayo: -- of stanford university, and mrs. potter palmer, whose husband had built the palmer house in chicago,
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julia ward howe, elizabeth blackwell, who was the first female doctor in the country louisa catherine adams, who i think was a granddaughter of the first louisa catherine, the first lady, m. carey thomas, head of bryn mawr. so, anyway, these women decided that this was going to be their mission and they were going to raise $100,000 to help johns hopkins put up this medical school, and the men acquiesced and the women divided the country into 15 geographical regions and invited caroline harrison to be the person in charge of washington, d.c., with all her connections and so forth. so she had several receptions in the white house. and, of course, this was wonderful publicity and
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legitimacy for this group of women and their mission to get women into the medical school. and she also went to baltimore several times was the guest of honor at the receptions that mary elizabeth garrett held. so it was a very successful kind of lobbying, if you will, and the women came through and raised the money. susan swain: and caroline harrison used the white house to advance the causes she was interested in. edith mayo: absolutely. susan swain: on our next video we'll learn more about that, as we once again visit the harrison home in indianapolis. jennifer capps: caroline harrison was one of the first first ladies to have her own project and go to congress to try to get money to renovate the white house. we have fabrics here that she used in her redecorating of the white house, and this particular one was used in the east room. and there are just lots of different fabrics here, little swatches, some nice velvets in different colors, and we have, you know, the pale greens which were used in her bedroom, i believe. you have gold and green here just all the different fabrics
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that were used when she was redecorating the white house, as well. you can see the different shades. and we have a little book that -- francis johnston was the photographer in the white house at that time, and she took a lot of photographs, and this little book is a compiling of those but it also has a description of the rooms and the colors that were used by mrs. harrison along with then the photographs of the rooms once they were decorated. and then we have just lots of things that they save from those state dinners, and things like the ribbons here or bows. it actually has the white house image on there and then the date of the event, so this is mrs. harrison, january 19, 1892. and different colors, different ribbons that they would use, so this one's from a february dinner in 1892. it's been untied, but we have the nice image of the white house at one end and the name and the event at the other end. we also have several place cards
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in our collection, as well. the card with the eagle, mrs. harrison, january 20, 1891. we have another one for mrs. mckee, the daughter, so we have executive mansion on the one side and the event, may 29 1891, on the other. and one more here for the president, for the january 20, 1891, event, as well. and then also just below this section, a lot of the ribbons, again, nice red, white and blue, these were all for the same event, but different colors, so we have the eagle on one end and the date, april 23, 1890, on the other in there for them, as well. susan swain: and the -- they entertained and also some of the historic preservation of the events in the white house, interesting to see. back to telephone calls. marge is watching us in charleston, south carolina.
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hello, marge. merge: hello, what a wonderful program. i am so thrilled. my question might be a little premature, but, ms. mayo, as the prime historian of the first ladies, can you, in your opinion, tell us which may have been the most despised, which may have been the most loved? and my second question is, is it true nancy reagan bribed the designers to give her, her dresses for free? edith mayo: wow. well, the most despised -- william seale: was there one? edith mayo: i don't know that i would use that term. there were people who greatly disliked eleanor roosevelt. william seale: i don't think they despised her, did they? edith mayo: because -- but i don't think they despised her. i think they respected her -- william seale: they loved -- edith mayo: -- even though they -- william seale: -- hate mary lincoln, yeah. susan swain: and mary was the one they loved to hate. william seale: they loved to hate, yeah.
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edith mayo: and i think mary lincoln also was very much hated, and that had to do with the civil war, i think, as much as anything. susan swain: most loved? edith mayo: most loved, probably dolley madison is who i would choose or jacquelyn kennedy in the modern time. william seale: mamie eisenhower -- edith mayo: mamie eisenhower was very well loved. and what was the last part of her question? william seale: oh, is she still on? susan swain: it was about the dresses for nancy reagan. edith mayo: oh, nancy reagan did receive dresses for free from -- as a form of advertising for the different designers who gave them to her. william seale: oh -- susan swain: was this something done in the age that we're in right now? would people have designed dresses and given them to the first ladies? or would they have purchased them? edith mayo: i think after nancy reagan got into problems with that, that they're -- susan swain: oh, i mean in the days we're in the right now, in the 1890s and -- people were become interested in fashion. were they supporting american -- edith mayo: i don't think so. william seale: they certainly did it in europe. that's how the designers -- the same way movie stars are today.
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in europe, the nobility and people like that wore clothes. i mean, that's how worth in paris got his name -- edith mayo: exactly. william seale: -- was princess pauline. edith mayo: but i'm not familiar with anything that went on like this, within this particular period. william seale: maybe we just didn't know. edith mayo: maybe we didn't know. susan swain: sharon in sacramento. william seale: that's a good question. sharon: hello? susan swain: hi, sharon. we're listening. sharon: okay. yes, you were talking a little while ago about the father-son who had been president. i'm wondering about benjamin's father. what did he do? was he in politics? or did that skip a generation? and did he live to see benjamin become president? susan swain: that's one for bill. william seale: that's one for bill doesn't know. he wasn't -- he was in politics, yeah. edith mayo: elected congressman. william seale: yeah, he was. and -- but whether he had died before harrison went to office
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i don't know. edith mayo: i don't know that, either. susan swain: yeah, so the answer is, yes, his father was also in politics, although he didn't make it to the level of his own father or his son, but we don't know the answer. sorry about whether or not he was there for the inauguration of his son. thanks for asking. next up is marie in lovejoy, georgia. hi, marie. marie: hi, i love your show and your intelligent guests. my question is, what was the salary of the president from washington to harrison compared to today? william seale: $25,000 a year had been the salary. it went up to $75,000 for grant. and it stayed there forever. edith mayo: for a long time. william seale: forever and ever. and they were allowed -- susan swain: which we should say was good money in those days. william seale: yeah, it was. and when -- and what they usually would do is they would spend it, because they had to in the first term and pay their debts. second term, they'd try to squirrel it way for retirement. and lincoln was doing that, and they were all -- jefferson did it. and, of course, jefferson was no businessman. but, anyway, they had that. but then for every term, you had $20,000 you didn't have to account for. and that finally got up to $50,000 and more.
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and the first person that -- the president that they may account for it was president truman in just a mean-spirited act from congress. they made him account for every penny of that. but normally it was something that -- realizing there were these extra expenses that they had to do. susan swain: next is gail in palm coast, florida. hi, gail. gail: hi. i was wondering, since jacquelyn kennedy, our first ladies have been foremost in our country with hairstyles and fashion. was caroline harrison the same way? because she was such a beautiful lady. william seale: i don't think so. edith mayo: i don't think so. i think it was frances cleveland and certainly not caroline at that point in her life. william seale: ms. cleveland was into style. i mean, there were -- people would borrow her name, soaps and things like that, would borrow her name without permission. it infuriated the president. edith mayo: and put her image on every kind of conceivable tchotske that anybody wanted to sell.
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in fact, grover was so upset about that, that he tried to get a bill through congress to prevent it, but he didn't succeed. and talking about, you know, from jacquelyn kennedy on, actually mamie eisenhower was the one who i think in modern times started the whole thing with fashion. remember her mamie bangs and -- william seale: yes. edith mayo: -- the fact that she would buy fashionable clothes. and also, she was approached by designers to wear their clothing and their hats and was on the best-dressed list for many years in the white house. susan swain: the election of 1892 and benjamin harrison as a candidate for re-election, although the economy is in tough shape and he is, once again, rematched with former president cleveland, as he goes into the election, and caroline harrison becomes more and more ill. can you tell the story of her death? william seale: well, she just declined and declined. and he could have been re-elected, but he was so devastated by her illness and
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her sinking -- susan swain: did he not send her up to the adirondacks for a while to recover, to try and recover? william seale: yes, and they tried to get her to go to montana, and she wouldn't do it. edith mayo: and the whole family went up with her to the adirondacks. william seale: but she died in the white house in 1892. susan swain: the second and only -- second and only two first ladies who have died in the white house. william seale: first lady in the white house. edith mayo: letitia tyler being the first. susan swain: and what was the effect on the nation, first of all? was there a great state funeral, one of our viewers wants to know? william seale: no, i don't think so. edith mayo: no, i think it was in the east room. william seale: in the east room. edith mayo: but i think it was not of a state nature. william seale: it was the people that you have to invite in the government were there, you know, the cabinet and the wives and so forth, but he was in the east room. there's a photograph of her coffin covered in roses, pink roses. and she died, and he was -- had he worked harder, he could have won in that campaign, because
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what he was saying was flavored with reform, and what grover cleveland was doing was bringing back the past. and it didn't happen. i mean, cleveland won. edith mayo: well, and the other thing that's i think very notable about that is that neither of them, out of respect for caroline and her health, and then subsequently her death, actually did much campaigning. william seale: no, he didn't make speeches. edith mayo: nor did cleveland, which -- william seale: but cleveland never did make campaign speeches. susan swain: but it'd be interesting to see what happened today if there was a great death, whether or not we would abstain from campaigning in this society, as they did back then. so what happened to the official white house in the days after her death? did someone else step in to act as first lady? edith mayo: i think mary mckee did until the end of the administration. susan swain: the mother of the baby mckee. edith mayo: mother of baby mckee. susan swain: there are a lot of stories about benjamin harrison's personal life. he went on to remarry. can you tell us about who he remarried?
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william seale: 1896. edith mayo: he remarried caroline's niece, who had been her social secretary and also an aide to him as the president. and she had lost both her parents when she was very young, so they brought her into the family sort of as, you know, another daughter into the family. and she looked at both of them i think, for most of the time as parents, you know, substitute parents. whether there was -- william seale: elizabeth wasn't still living, her mother? edith mayo: her mother had died in the white house. william seale: in the white house, okay, you're right. edith mayo: in '89. caroline's sister. so -- but -- william seale: this lady was a widow, the niece was a widow. edith mayo: the niece was a widow. william seale: a young widow. edith mayo: and without parents, so they, you know, had brought her into the family. susan swain: so benjamin harrison, after the death of his wife, wrote this. "for me, there is no sting in losing the election.
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indeed, after the heavy blow the death of my wife dealt me, i do not think i could have stood the strain a re-election would have brought." so how many years after that defeat did he actually marry? edith mayo: four, i think. susan swain: four years? edith mayo: four or five. william seale: '96. they married in '96. edith mayo: oh, okay. four. william seale: and there was a great shuffle about it. it was considered the wrong thing to do by a lot of the public and the family. edith mayo: and certainly by the children. william seale: the family was shocked. edith mayo: the children were furious. william seale: because she had been there with them almost like a sister, and it was very shocking to them, and they had a child. edith mayo: holly hunt asks, having read that benjamin harrison remarried after caroline died to her niece wants to know, was there evidence of them having an affair when caroline was still alive? william seale: oh, no. edith mayo: it's interesting. in one of the articles that i read, it talks about memorandum written by george cortelyou, who was mckinley's and then later theodore roosevelt's sort of chief of staff, in which he says
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that he had a conversation with robert mckee, the father of baby mckee, who lived in the white house the entire time. and the story was that mckee told cortelyou that caroline was so distressed, because she thought she was losing him to the younger niece, that she was going to move out of the white house and that he personally talked her out of it because of the scandal that would come down on the family and the presidency. i don't know whether -- you know, who knows? but that was -- william seale: well, cortelyou was there, because he worked for harrison and cleveland -- edith mayo: oh, did he work for harrison, as well? william seale: -- and -- not in the high position that he was later to have. susan swain: but you're skeptical? william seale: i'm very skeptical. edith mayo: and the people at the harrison home are very skeptical, i should add, as well. william seale: they were a devoted couple. and this -- she was, as edi said, she was like a child to
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them. but that he married her and then had a baby, they had a little girl, was -- of course, the public will always give its opinion. susan swain: louis is watching us in los angeles and has a question. louis: yes, i do. i'm enjoying this series, and keep it up. i have two questions. you said you had a recorded caroline, the first lady, was the first first lady to have her voice recorded. and do we have one of the president? my second question is, what was the president, president harrison's, views on civil rights at the time? thank you. william seale: well, i don't know where that recording is. i assume the daughters of the american revolution have it in their extensive library in washington. but the harrisons were both committed to civil rights. i said earlier, he fought his whole time different ways -- he had a very legalistic mind, of course, and he looked for ways of assuring the vote to the
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african-american male, of course -- wouldn't have been -- white women weren't voting, either -- but, no, they were very committed to it and very public about it. edith mayo: and they were saying that one of the favorite people -- groups of people that visited the front porch during the campaign were african-american groups. susan swain: crystal in terre haute, indiana, another hoosier, your question about benjamin harrison or his wife? cystal: yes, this question is about mrs. harrison. and it's on the line of the other caller about african-americans. and i know that mrs. lincoln had an african-american seamstress who was also a friend of hers, and i thought i read that she was a confidante of mrs. lincoln. my question is, did mrs. harrison -- i know there are several servants and several helpers that were african-american at the white house. did mrs. harrison have a special relationship with any of her african-american helpers or servants? and what was her relationship to them? edith mayo: i don't know. william seale: i don't know. there were always
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african-americans, except for one brief period in 1859, '60 at the white house. the butlers, the people like that sort of ran things. and she perhaps had a maid or somebody that -- i don't know. edi doesn't know, either. edith mayo: i don't know whether there was a personal friendship of any kind. william seale: it'd be interesting to know. susan swain: here are the not quite four years of caroline harrison's tenure as first lady and some of the things that she is noted for -- serving as the first president general of the national society of the daughters of the american revolution; raising funds for johns hopkins university medical school, and also campaigning for them to open the medical school to women; first sitting first lady to deliver a speech, that was in conjunction with the dar; and the establishment of the white house china collection. so where does she fit in the pantheon of first ladies, do you think? william seale: obscurely, for some reason. edith mayo: yes, unfortunately she's very little known by the general public.
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susan swain: but why unfortunately and why obscurely for some reason? william seale: because she was stronger -- susan swain: is she deserving of more? william seale: -- she did more than most -- yes -- and there -- wouldn't you agree, edi? there are seeds in what she did that were later to be measured -- edith mayo: absolutely, that come to fruition. certainly her vision of the historic nature of the white house and the fact that it should be reflecting the united states as this up-and-coming power in the world i think were motivating factors in trying to get the white house renovated and reconstructed and, you know, her grand vision or what the white house could become. and i think she also is probably the first who correctly understood that the white house was the historic repository of the american people and of the presidency. and she -- i think the white house china collection was one of the things she did. the fact that she used antiques
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that she kind of resurrected from the attic and the basement, so i think she -- you know, she was a predecessor for people like mrs. coolidge and mrs. hoover, who tried to do inventories of the white house. she did the first inventory that i'm aware of. and i think just her vision, both about the historic nature of the white house and its collections and her campaigns for the betterment of women -- william seale: of women were very important. edith mayo: -- were very important, but not picked up on in her own time. susan swain: bill, calvin monroe miller wants to know on facebook what modern-day first lady would caroline compare most to. william seale: did i say rosalynn carter, who was a quiet first lady? edith mayo: yeah. william seale: but a woman who very -- was very busy and trying to do worthy things. i guess -- you know, the thing like mrs. carter, very modern lady -- edith mayo: or betty ford and
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her -- william seale: less public. betty ford was awfully public for that, not awfully. edith mayo: yes, she was. she was. william seale: but she was public. and ms. carter wasn't. edith mayo: no, she was a much quieter, more behind-the-scenes -- william seale: and -- edith mayo: -- person, but i also want -- i want to say jacquelyn kennedy, in the sense of her sense of the white house and historic preservation and why that's important to the presidency. susan swain: we began 90 minutes ago with the thesis that caroline harrison was one of the more underrated first ladies. we hope you've demonstrated over the next 90 minutes some of the ways in which she perhaps should be better known than she is. i want to say thanks to our two guests for being here and for all the help they've supplied for us during the series, and we'll see them as the series progresses. next week, ida mckinley will be the final first lady in our first season of first ladies taking us into the new century and we look forward to seeing you then. william seale: thank you.
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>> ♪ [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2015] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit] >> when first lady ida mckinley arrived at the white house in
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1897, she was in poor health suffering from epilepsy. at white house event, her husband would sit next to her so when he saw she was having a seizure, he would cover her face with a large handkerchief until the episode past. despite her health problems, she traveled. even attending the 1901 pan-american exposition, where her husband was assassinated. i do mckinley, dissenting night at 8:00 p.m. eastern on "first ladies." examining the public and private lives of the women who fill the position of first lady and their influence on the presidency. from martha washington to most cell obama -- to michelle obama, senate 8:00 p.m. on c-span3. >> recently, "american history tv" was at the organization of american historians annual meeting in st. louis missouri. we spoke with professors authors, and graduate students about the research. this interview is about 20 minutes.


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