tv The Presidency Dwight D. Eisenhower the West CSPAN December 3, 2017 7:58pm-8:43pm EST
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next, on the presidency, timothy reese explains how dwight d. eisenhower's upbringing and influence influenced his personal code of behavior. in 34th president was born 1890, the year that the u.s. government declared the american frontier closed. he is the deputy director and supervisory archivist at the dwight d. eisenhower presidential library at the museum. this is 40 minutes. >> we are pleased to have our own tim reeves here. he is my go to guy for all andrmation on archives records administration related questions. i rely on him greatly. he is here to speak to you today about the western influences on
our beloved president dwight d eisenhower. he is a graduate of wichita .tate and emporium state he served in the united states for five years or yet thank you for your service. he is the author of many articles on a variety of subjects. i hope you enjoy our program today. please welcome with me, tim reeves. [applause] >> thanks everybody. great to see such a nice turnout during the middle of the week. really appreciate it.
the food has a large part in the attraction of these events, not just the wonderful speakers we attract. thanks to the foundation and the trust. all this started a couple years ago in 2015 because it was 125th anniversary of his birth. born the year that he was was the year that the frontier was declared closed. we did a number of programs looking at 125 years. i did one on the influence of the frontier on his political thinking, imagination. i will include a little bit of that today. i really want to look at the three influences that developed here. you can see traces throughout his life, his military career and his presidency. , thee right at the matrix history of the old west, the
legend of the old west, ground beneath this for. -- floor. just a couple hundred feet to your right, there was the chisholm trail. up atower really did grow of oldimportant center west history. from the beginning, he was aware of that history. i read an account by his brother, edgar. this was confirmed by a letter i wrote to a friend of his. he began meeting pulp western novels. he would take proceeds from the vegetables he sold from their family garden in order to buy those magazines and books. he mentioned a neighbor in his autobiography. the home is no longer there. george dudley had at least
claimed to have been a marshal under well-built :00. wild bill hickok. eisenhower knew many people. he really was not that far removed. the heyday of the cattle trade was 1967 to 1971. 19 --ower was built in not just the location of where he lived, but the places around town really had an influence on him. this was working a minute ago. now it does not want to advance at all. i will keep going in hopes that it will. the three influences or his love of western novels and history
and movies, a code of behavior that he learned, a code of the west, and the influence of the closing of the american frontier on his policy thinking. i will try this again. william, will you come up and fiddle with this while i do a song and dance? [laughter] >> i can go right into the western novels. this is something he began reading when he was just a boy. hisontinued through presidency. there was also -- always in attempt to play it down. -- thankpresidents you. for the rest of their presidency
-- he is a good guy, a good manager, but all he really wants to do is play golf with his buddies and play bridge. he reads westerns and westerns are not terribly sophisticated. with someonentrast like his successor, john f. kennedy. jfk did not read westerns come he read spy novels. a superior literary form to the western. now we can hopefully move on. ike liked westerns. he could relive that history that he witnessed as a boy and relive those conversations that he had with people like george dudley and others he mentioned in his book "at ease." that insed correspondence with people to say i hear you like to read westerns. he said i do, but it is so i can relax.
others did not like the westerns. there were many letters. unfortunately, we do not have this letter from this particular writer. some of you may recognize him more quickly than others. it was from hugh hefner, who i just founded a new magazine ."lled ""playboy". he said what we really need is a president who reads science fiction, as if science-fiction spy novels are better than westerns. westerns became a bit of a political liability. i am not sure how well you will be able to read it. frometter on the left is the western writers of america, an organization that is still around.
wanted to raise the level of westerns. they wanted western writers to unite in terms of advocating better payment for themselves, and they lobbied eisenhower for changes to a tax code that would have helped freelance writers. it was clear from the beginning that some of the correspondence did want to use eisenhower, as a well-known lover of westerns, to their advantage. in 1950 three come he had not been in office very long. every year, they publish a compilation of western stories. they wanted to dedicate their first volume to dwight d. eisenhower, our kindest critic. i do not know if you need someone's permission to dedicate a book to them, but they wrote to the white house.
she knowledged that usually come anytime they got letters like this, they were afraid it might look like a commercial endorsement. the initial answer was no. because of his interest of western stories come to think and -- the president would have any interest in this ? ,hey said no, he would not because our enemies, our critics would use this against him. you can find letter after letter from the white house for someone wants someone to comment on his .ffection for western novels the white house said no, back off because this could be used against him. here is an example of a letter to a citizen who read an article that he only read westerns, and should the president be reading something more important than a
book about a guy on a horse? they said, this is based on some kind of facetious remarks that eisenhower makes. when he really likes his classical history and serious look on public -- policy. from the time he was a boy, classical history was his favorite. he is the head of the field and how quickly he can grasp the new subject. throughout that presidency, the white house had to push back on that image that he was a simpleminded western reader. i feel so much of that is not just based on a bias towards that popular genre. it was a bias against any western writing in general, no matter the quality. that is the western united states, nothing good literary wise comes out of there. here you can see on this real level to eisenhower and his
staff. named douglasd black. he would eventually publish his memoirs. they also published more westerns. douglas black sent boxes of westerns to ike regularly. he had a habit of reading westerns continuously. one of the reasons i like these programs so much is that we publicized as a research library. we have records in october of 1955, he was in colorado and had a heart attack and was hospitalized for a time. during that time, he read 46 westerns in less than three weeks. i will show you the records in a minute. the last couple years of his his staff noted
the titles of 206 westerns that he read. i like to poke a little fun at him and his staff. he might have read histories and biographies, but we do not have list like this. i do not know why you keep such meticulous records. october 1955. on the left is a cover sheet. he is writing one of the enlisted man on the staff. checked atat are not up to 46. he would have read about 64 books during the three weeks. he was really reading westerns at a rapid rate.
because enjoyed this correspondence, especially and ne whitman, she would write about what westerns would help relieve his mind from. he was reading the bushwhackers by max brand. during a boring meeting and canada, he read another. actualill is not an person. he is a house name. many writers would write as ham. it is the powder valley or powder river serious. -- series. at campsee where he met david.
by a father and son team. afghanistan and reads a book by lp homes. i'm trying to assemble as many of these as i can to correlate events and books because it is fun to see what he was reading and when. favorite authors, we know this because of that great record from 1967 to 1969 of the 206 books you read during that time period. he graded the authors. is not aste well-known today. he wrote books that became well-known movies like "the wild bunch." and he wrote a short story called "the last stage to
lawrenceburg." he was of that caliber. he was considered the best of the writers in that genre, among the best of the western writers. he had good taste in westerns no matter what other people thought about them. -- l'a louis the more mour. , he hasn'thave seen sold something like 330 million books. ronald reagan was a huge louis l'amour fan. brand. this is interesting. he rates the thing growth as no. grove as no.
these are just a few book covers. the probably cannot even see that first one. that is "the wild bunch." these are scans of the covers of his actual books. i liked that one. "the smiling desperado" by max brand. "renegade guns," is interesting because it takes us into what he liked in a western and what he did not like. what he liked were books that included kansas. he really disliked criticisms of the frontier army. this comes from a letter he wrote to the then president of
the western writers association, who later produced a television show called "bonanza." after eisenhower became an honorary member of the association, it says it is for his reading of westerns, not his writing. he was given that book and wrote to complain about it to his friend, saying you can probably read that the frontier army was a necessary force. needede i knew said he the frontier army there as a counselor and someone to maintain order. is that if there were any kind of romantic, he dropped it. stuff. no mushy i know you thought it was can be -- i know mostsy
of you know that he was a great athlete. he played at west point his sophomore year and got tackled in a game and that was the last thing he ever played. for a while, it threatened his commission. he would not have gone on to military service. you would think that would really bother him, but as he records, this was his reaction. he said it is all right for me because i always read about where they have gauchos. maybe i will go down there and see the place and stay for two or three years. his first reaction was i will go to this place that was like the wild west. he is writing this from 50 years removed or more.
i again get to show off a little gem. recognizeu probably wild bill hickok. here is a picture i did of him. this goes back to the code that he carried. it is interesting. eisenhower had speechwriters. the team of writers would take it over and there was all kinds of back-and-forth. there was probably more back-and-forth than usual. they would revise until the last minute. assistant at the last
minute -- mccarthy was becoming a huge issue. eisenhower thought he is really ruining any sensible way we had to detect communist and government. it was becoming more and more of a political liability. mccarthy was a problem, but eisenhower never liked to name his opponents. he takes this opportunity for a nationally televised beach, in league. the it was a big event. story about this
where if youode of had a disagreement with someone, you met them face-to-face. he said the bullet had to be in front. he could not sneak up on someone and surprise them the way that joe mccarthy obviously was. this was a lesson he took from abilene. i found some other evidence of that. another wonderful item from our holdings. this is a message from george marshall. you can see in the second paragraph, this is at a time where the relationship with russia, which had never been warm and fuzzy, was now becoming cold and prickly. the cold war was beginning to start. marshall says you have to deal streetalin by using main
abilene style. i found it interesting that in his -- he showed it off in his military career as well is that speech that he wrote. one reason i had my doubts was because in that speech, when he not knowo -- if you do wild bill hickok, you should read your westerns more, not your history. maybe he was just remembering this because he had read so many restaurants -- westerns, but then i found a clipping from the chronicle, from the time that wild bill hickok was marshaled. there was a gunfight on 1st street. one man apparently drew his
revolver and the other guy said that is not fair, you need to re-holster. when he re-holster, the other guy put out his gun and shot him. refers to a code of honor that you play fairly and do not sneak up on someone like that and shoot them from behind or to them somehow into holster and their weapon. here, they were talking about this code of honor, this code of the west. says he got it from western fiction. that leads us to another. how was wild bill hickok killed? anybody? it violates the code of the west . he was shot in the back of the head at a poker game in 1876.
there were elements to do not want a lawman anywhere near the game or any other activities going on. a man was encouraged to assassinate hickok. they said he would be acquitted, which he was in his first trial, but then the u.s. attorneys convicted him and he was hanged. he violated the code of the west. he shot bill hickok from behind. another quiz. i really like this one. it is reported to have been his favorite western movie. there are a lot of them. this was the second movie he watched after he moved into the white house area it was "high " which is a great movie, if you have never seen it.
is 90 minutes. there is a famous song, which e would walk ik around the white house whistling. he really got a kick out of it. it is 1955 and he is at home recuperating. he gets a letter from dimitri, forget -- for not sick me, oh my darling." i do not know if you can read those were not -- or not. there is an australian version fo"do not for sick me -- rsake me."
he learned of poker in abilene as well. at the closing of the frontier, in 1890, that was the same year the census bureau declared the frontier was gone. it was the census bureau making that proclamation because it had to do with density and population. the west is so populated now that you cannot get there being any more of a frontier. , there wasuple years a popular -- he said the end of the frontier and the beginning of this era of land is the first era of american history. they are responsible for these truly american trait of individualism and reliance. it created a rough democracy where if you could somehow scratcher living out of the west , that gave you economic
independence, which gave new political independence. well we do now that the basis of these relative freedoms is no longer there? there was a lot of debate of where we would go as a country because the frontier was gone. you would hear about the safety valve and that the left was a safety valve. say go west, young man. recession in the east, factory workers could go to the west. it was a safety net and safety valve. aboutere very concerned the consequences. it was psychological as much as anything. it is interesting to note that one of the first films that thomas edison did had a western aspect to it. frederick jackson turner and others associated with the
progressive movement said the new basis to guarantee our political independence and some ant of safety valve would be administrative state in expanding government. of political reforms and instead of the safety valve of land, you would have some kind of social safety net, shall for security -- social security or welfare. , in particular. they said the frontier had been a natural regulator for unemployment and business. when you have infinite square miles of land, he did not matter if you cleared forest within sight or if you strip or mind every mountain range. you could always keep moving west. once they realized it was finite, they knew he had to take
some kind of measures so that people can reasonably use these resources. you some more regulations for what had once been a natural regulation. general johnson was the head of the recovery organization. he was a friend of eisenhower's. he said he admired johnson the most of all. the nra program as the most effective. this program be designed with the political replacement of the frontier. you see that intersection between the old west part of the frontier and what was happening politically. republicans were very excited, even though eisenhower never really was that close to the more conservative wing of his party. ,he republicans have a house senate and white house for the first time in 20 years area they thought this is great because we can rollback all these new deal
programs that we dislike so much area eisenhower had -- so much. eisenhower had a friend, a general who spent most of world war ii in a japanese prisoner of war camp. they had known each other in panama in the early 1920's. they used out all these fine heated debates. it started up again when he took office. his friend was against any kind of federal where fair -- welfare at all. cites that there is no more free land were untouched natural resources. since these are no longer here, the government has to play that role. that is why eisenhower tells his friend eddie's rated social security to include another 10 million people. there is an interesting connection between him and the old west and how that expresses itself politically.
you do not have pop quizzes without a final. we have another question. eisenhower launched the d-day invasion and talked to the men of the airborne division. there was really nothing he could do until the first reports started coming back, saying how the initial party invasion was going. found ikeck and propped up in his bed reading a western. he looked at him, lit a cigarette and went back to reading his western. there was nothing else he could do during that time. he was relying on that western to help relieve his mind in this time of tremendous stress. , that greatis up love of popular culture
astinued through those years post president when he was allowed to receive his honorary membership with the western writers, for being such a good reader of westerns. the abilene code was genuine. these interesting views on the frontier. there are probably more of these influences on ike. how is fueled his imagination. one final image to show you how captivated he was by the old west. that is the first inaugural parade. he is being lassoed by monte montana. that may have been one reason he tried to play down the western interests. that is it for my part. i will be happy to take any questions. please use the microphones, since the program is being
recorded today. i welcome any questions about eisenhower and the west. if i cannot answer, we have other staff members that can. thank you. [applause] >> considering that most people ranked the virginian very highly , did he reject it because the virginian had a thing for the schoolmarm? tim: we know that he read it. western novels really show up after the frontier disappears. thosen novels reaffirm values that are associated with the frontier. some students of western novels to them as a reaction closing of the frontier as well. there was a psychological element to that. the virginian is the prototypical western and did
include a love interest. it clearly did not make his list of favorite authors. >> a word on western movies? -- boots? tim: he had a pair of western boots, but i do not think he wore them regularly. he has a short-term cowboy hat. you will see many pictures of him wearing that hat. i do not know if he considered himself a cowboy. hisy butcher records and diary that ike told him he had been a cow puncher, a farmhand and a semi professional baseball player. he still had that identification
with the west. wearing western apparel was fairly modest. did he have favorite western tv programs? tim: that is another good point. 17 of the top 25 programs for westerns. seven of the top 10 programs were westerns. the popular culture of the 1950's was dominated by the western. the only one i heard him talk about in his correspondence is "bonanza." he thought the characters were truest to the west, which is an iteresting comment because was changing in the 1960's. antiheroes were becoming more popular and westerns. eisenhower did not the more traditional depictions of the west.
>> forces were still used in the calvary. was he, himself, a competent horseman? tim: he was at west point. he was trained in the calvary. one thing that aggravated his knee injury from when he was injured playing football or the monkey drills -- were the monkey drills. he was told he could never be in the calvary because of that injury. he had a force in panama called blocky, whom he adored. ackie, whom he adored. he also raised and his cattle. he was still a bit of a westerner throughout his life. >> how you doing?
just a note. the last two or three years, i've been on a quest to see as many presidential museums as i can. this is my fourth one. i just read this autobiography by jean edward smith. maybe it is too daring of a question. i wonder if murphy also liked westerns? tim: tried to set me up. there is nothing about her taste in literature. what did his parents do? were they ranchers? in 1878.family arrived
largely south of here in hope, kansas. there was a shortage in denison, texas where he was born, where his father was a self-imposed exile after his store failed in hope. year into college for a compton, kansas where he met ike's mother, ida. he studied engineering. he worked at bell springs creamery. engineer and had taken a correspondence course to learn how to be an engineer. he worked with the pension fund. ike's mother was a homemaker. the father taught the boys to do things around the house like cooking and cleaning, which they
otherwise would not have learned. remained abecame -- very avid cook. a lot of people in that time period, the united states was transferred from an agriculture he economy -- economy to a more industrialized one. even a small city like abilene is party that transformation. -- part of that transformation. if there is anything else? >> is there any evidence of him reading the dime novels that were famous during the western time? tim: i think he alludes to that. in 1967, a friend of his centum a wild bill hickok dime novel. he replies and must have written this -- read this back in abilene as a boy.
with a little bit of money that he had at the time, that was probably more likely the kind of .hing he was buying his reading good start with those sensationalized accounts of the west. he did like those that were more historically minded that were plausible and took place in a real location. max brand books do not. prefers real locations with more plausible plots that some of the writers might present. i think that will do it. thank you again. [applause]
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