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tv   The Presidency Dwight D. Eisenhower the West  CSPAN  December 4, 2017 12:00am-12:42am EST

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missouri's extent how dwight d. eisenhower's western upbringing had interest and imposed his personal code of behavior. and, his actions as a military and political leader, the 34th president was born mr. reeves is a deputy director and supervisory archivist at the dwight eisenhower presidential library and museum. this is 40 minutes. we are pleased to have our own tim rives here. he is my go toguy for all information on archives and records administration related records administration related questions. i rely on him greatly. he is here to speak to you today about the western influences on
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our beloved president dwight eisenhower. he is a graduate of wichita state and emporium state. he served in the united states for five years. thank you for your service. he is the author of many articles on a variety of subjects. these include eisenhower, d-day, ulysses s. grant, and prison baseball. of course. i hope you enjoy our program today. please welcome with me, tim rives. [applause] thanks everybody. tim: 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
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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 the 125th anniversary of his birth. 1890, the year that he was born was theyear 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. we are right at the matrix, the history of the old west, the
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legend of the old west, ground beneath this floor. just a couple hundred feet to your right, there was the chisholm trail. eisenhower really did grow up at a very important center of old 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
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claimed to have been a marshal under wild bill hickok. eisenhower knew many people. he really was not that far removed. the heyday of the cattle trade was 1867 to 1871. 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.
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the three influences were 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] tim: i can go right into the western novels. this is something he began reading when he was just a boy. he continued through his presidency. there was always in attempt to play it down. a lot of presidents -- thank you.
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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. this is in contrast with someone like his successor, john f. kennedy. jfk did not read westerns -- 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." he stressed that in correspondence with people to say i hear you like to read
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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 called "playboy." he said what we really need is apresident 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. the letter on the left is from the western writers of america, an organization that is still
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around. they 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 that they 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 ike eisenhower, our kindest critic. i do not know if you need someone's permission to dedicate a book to them, but they wrote
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to the white house. anne whitman, she knowledged that usually -- 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? they 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 affection 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
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book about a guy on a horse? they said, this is based on some kind of facetious remarks that eisenhower makes. 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 feelso much of that is not just based on a bias towards thatpopular 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
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level to eisenhower and his staff. he had afriend named douglas 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 aheart 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
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life, 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. this is from october 1955. on the left is a cover sheet. he is writing one of the enlisted man on the staff. we need to send these back, but not the ones in red. the ones that are not checked
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up to 46. he would have read about 64 books during the three weeks. he was really reading westerns at a rapid rate. i really enjoyed this because correspondence, especially and whitman -- anne whitman, she would write about what westerns wouldhelp relieve his mind from. he was reading the bushwhackers by max brand. during a boring meeting and was reading -- it is the powder valley or powder series. you can see where he met at camp david.
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the stranger by a father and son team. he goes to afghanistan and reads l.p. 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 of the 206 books you read during that time period. he graded the authors. his favorite is not as well-known today. he wrote books that became well-known movies like "the wild bunch." and he wrote a short story
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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. we have louis la mour. the ones i have seen, he hasn't sold something like 330 million books. ronald reagan was a huge louis l'amour fan. max brand. this is interesting.
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he rates zane grove as no. these are just a few book covers. that is "the wild bunch." these are scans of the covers of 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
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the western writers association, who later produced a television show called "bonanza." after ike 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. everyone i knew said you needed the frontier army there as a counselor and someone to maintain order. my favorite is, that, if there were any kind of romantic subplot, he dropped it.
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he said no mushy stuff. i know most 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 game 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
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removed or more. i again get to show off a little gem. some of you probably recognize wild bill hickok. here is a pencil drawing of him. this goes back to the code that eisenhower carried. it is interesting. eisenhower had speechwriters. the team of writers would take it over and there was all kinds back-and-forth. there was probably more back-and-forth than usual. they would revise until the last
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minute. mccarthy was becoming a huge issue. eisenhower thought he is really ruining any sensible way we had to detect communist in 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 speech, in antidefamation league.
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it was a big event. he relates this story about this boy and the code of where if you 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
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withstalin by using main street abilene style. you wonder if this was from eisenhower.s with 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 says if you do not know wild bill hickok, you should read your westerns more, not your history. i thought maybe he was just remembering this because he had read so many 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
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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. the paper 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 trick them somehow into holster and their weapon. when hickok was here, they were talking about this code of honor, this code of the west. he says he got it from western fiction. that leads us to another. how was wild bill hickok killed? anybody? it violates the code of thewest . he was shot in the back of the
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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. youjudge said, why didn't shoot him from the front? commit, i didn't want to suicide. 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.
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this was the second movie he watched after he moved into the white house. it was "high noon," which is a great movie, if you have never seen it. the movie is 90 minutes. there is a famous song, which whitman said ike would walk around the white house he really got a kick out of it. it is 1955 and he is at home recuperating. he gets a letter from dimitri, i do not know if you can read those or not. there is an australian version of "do not forsake me." he learned of poker in abilene as well.
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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 thatyou cannot get there being any more of a frontier. within a couple years, there was he said theay, and 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 traits of individualism and reliance.
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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 west was a safety valve. they would say go west, young man. if there was a recession in the east, factory workers could go to the west. it was a safety net and safety valve. they were very concerned about 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
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others associated with the progressive movement said the new basis to guarantee our political independence and some sort of safety valve would be an administrative state in expanding government. a lot of political reforms and instead of the safety valve of land, you would have some kind of social safety net, social security or welfare. fdr, in particular. they said the frontier had been a natural regulator for unemployment and business. when you have infinite square miles of land, it did not matter if you cleared forest within
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sight or if you strip mined 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 thefrontier. 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. the republicans have a house, during his presidency, for the
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eisenhower had a good friend who had spent most of world war ii any japanese prisoner war camp. they had known each other in panama and the early 20's. as he said in one of his letters, they had heated debates, sort of like discussing politics. it started up when he took office. he was against any kind of federal welfare. him, ofer described course he sites that there is no and -- andand in untouched natural resources. and the government has to step in and play that role and that is white house it -- eisenhower expanded social security to include another 10 million people. there is a really interesting the oldon between ike,
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west and the frontier and how it expresses itself politically. you do not have pop quizzes without a final. another question, i'm sure a lot of you know the answer to this one. eisenhower lost the d-day invasion when they talk to the men of the 105th air force division. talking to the paratroopers. it was nothing he could do until the report started coming back saying how the initial part of the invasion was going. aid recorded in his diary, he went back and found ike in his bed reading a western. he stuck his head in the 10 end he gave him a cigarette and went back to reading his western. there was nothing else he could do at that time. he relied on that western to help ease his mind during that time of tremendous stress. again, just to wrap this up.
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influences, the great love of popular culture continued through those years when he was at last allowed to receive a membership with the iters for being such a good reader. these interesting views on the frontier. this is something i really just started thinking about. there is probably more than an influence on ike. how a few of his imagination . we have one final image. i want to show you how captivated ike was in the old west. in 53 he is being lassoed by monte montana. he was not thrilled about and i'm sure the secret service was not thrilled either. that may have been one reason they try to downplay the western interest of president eisenhower. that is it for my part. i would be happy to take any questions. use the microphone since the
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program is being recorded today. welcome any questions about ike and the west or any other eisenhower questions. if i cannot answer, there are other stuff members who probably could. thank you. [applause] considering that most people veryd "the virginian" highly, did ike rejected because the virginian had a thing? >> we know he read it, it was on the list of books that he read. western novels really show up right after the frontier disappears. of reaffirmls kind the values that are assisted with the frontier. some students of western novel see them as a reaction of the frontier. again, there was a big psychological element to that. virginian," which is like
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the prototypical western, it did include a love interest. did not include ike's favor offered -- author, so maybe that had something to do with it. >> did ike everywhere western boots? evere question is did ike wear western boots? boots, iome of his don't think he wore them regularly. what he did wear, as well as president truman, president johnson and my grandfather was a hat that is like a short brand cowboy hat. you will see a lot of pictures of ike wearing that hat. it was a popular hat style at that time. i do not know if he considered himself the cowboy. butcher, aide, harry records in his diary that i told him he was a cal puncher, a farm hand and a semiprofessional --eball player, as well as a
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he still had that identification with the west. did he have a tea -- did he have a favorite western tv program? >> that is another good point. tophe 1950's, 17 of the nelson programs were western and 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, at least that i have seen is bonanza.ut he felt that the characters in bonanza where the truest to the west, which is an interesting comment because the western west changing in the 1960's. antiheroes were becoming more popular in westerns, such as dustin hoffman in little big man and films like that. he did bike the more traditional depictions of the west end named bonanza because of that.
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ike's era, horses were still used in the cattle race. was he himself a confident person? he was reallynt into calorie. one thing that aggravated -- calvary, one thing that aggravated his knee injury was going on and off the horse. there were -- he was told he could never be in the calvary because of that knee injury. he had horses and he adored them. it is interesting the number of pages he devoted to one. he had horses in retirement. he always maintained that connection and he raised his retirement out of gettysburg. he still loved westerns and was a bit of a stuntman. >> david from grand junction,
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colorado. just a note here. the last two or three years i've been i quest to see as many presidential museums. this is the fourth one and i usually read a biography beforehand. the best idea as to not do it in one day. [laughter] >> i realize now, stay at least a nine. i just read this biography by jean edward smith, maybe it prompts this question. i wonder if chase murphy also like westerns? any record of that? >> a trying to set me up? [laughter] a record of that. there are pictures on horseback. nothing in that record about her taste in literature. wooded ike's parents do -- what did ike's parents do? in 1878,mily arrived
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largely self appear in hope, kansas. time ins a short denison, texas where ike was born in his father was a self-imposed exile after his general store. his family had an agricultural background, but ike's father did not want to be a farmer. went to college for a year at lane university where he met ike's mother, which is unusual for that time. he studied some classical languages there and he studied engineering. he worked at bill springs creamery is what they called an engineer. he took a correspondence course to learn how to be an engineer at worked the pension fund the seal brown company. ike's mother was a homemaker. without any daughters to help, it would've been the traditional way. she top boys to do things around the house like cooking and cleaning, that they might not
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have otherwise learned. ike really enjoyed that comic especially the cooking part. he liked cooking outside for his friends and preparing meals for people. a lot of people in that time trans- united states was -- transitioning to an industrial time. into a smallmoving city like abilene is part of that greater transformation. and if there is anything else. here is another one. evidence of him reading the dime novel that was famous during the western time? >> i think he alludes to that. --has given a friend of him from a novel he replies, i must've read this back in abilene as a boy. i also think, because of the
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costs, you can buy some of those dime novels for a nickel. the little bit of money that he had at the time, that was probably more likely the kind of thing that he was buying. i'm sure his reading did start with those variations station allies accounts of the west -- those very sensationalized accounts of the west. there were at least plausible and took place in a relocation. the books are just in this mythical west. so eisenhower seem to before relocations -- seemed to prefer relocations and more plausible plots. -- preferred real locations and more plausible plots. i think that will do it. thanks again. [applause] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit]
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