tv The Presidency Dwight D. Eisenhower the West CSPAN December 22, 2017 5:21am-6:04am EST
history for information on your schedule and to keep up with the latest history news. american history tv in prime time focusing on the american west and cowboy culture. up next how president dwight eisenhower's west upbringing noounsed his personal code of behavior and his actions as a military and political leader. >> we are pleased to have our own tim reaves here. he is our deputy director and our super vizry archivest. he is my go-to guy for all archives and administrative records questions. i rely on him greatly. he's here to speak to you today on the western influences on our dwight eisenhower.
he's a graduate of wichita state and served in the united states army for five years. thank you for your service. tim is the author of many articles on a variety of subjects. these include eisenhower, of course, the presidency of ulysses s. grant and prison baseball. of course. so i hope that you enjoy our program today. please welcome with me tim reaves. [ applause ] >> well, thanks everybody. and great to see such a nice turnout during the middle of the week, and really appreciate it again. we know that the food has a large part in the attraction of these events, not just the speakers we attract. so again thanks to the foundation and the miller
nickels trust. all this started with my interest in ike and the old west the 125th anniversary of ike's birth, and 1890 the year ike was born was also the year it was closed. so we did a lot of programs looking at ike, and i did one on the influence of his political thinking and imagination. i'll include a little built of that today, but i want to hook on what i see as three influences that developed with eisenhower as a young man, and you can see traces of in his life. his military career and presidency. as you know we are right at the matrix in many ways the history of the old west, the war and legend of the old west. the ground beneath this floor was used to pasture cattle who made that long trek up the chism
trail so they could fatten them up for market so they could fatten them up. just a couple of 100 feet to your left is the boyhood home of eisenhower. so eisenhower really did grow up at an important center of history. from the beginning he was aware of that history. i read an account from his brother edgar and this was confirmed from a letter that ike wrote to a friend of his, he began reading letters. he would take proceeds from the vegetables they would sell from their family garden in order to buy those magazines and books. he mentioned his neighbor in his biography, lived across the street. of course the home's no longer there. i think a lot of people probably made that claim during that time period, but he said that mr.
dudley shared with him stories of hickok's prowess as a revolver. he wasn't reel that far removed. you know, the heyday of the cattle trade was again '67 to '71. he wasn't really a full generation behind the folks who lived that history. so not only just the location of where he lived but of course the places still around town, the people and all of this i think had an influence on ike. and i think that -- oh, this was working a minute ago. now it doesn't want to advance at all, but i'll keep going in the hopes that it will. and the three influences i think on ike were then his love of western novels and history, but western novels and movies. a code of behavior he learned in
abilene, the code of the west. and also the influence, the closing of the american frontier on his policy thinking. i'm going to try this again. william, would you like to come up and maybe fiddle with this while i do a song and dance? but i can go right into ike and the western novel. as i mentioned this is something he began reading when he was just a boy, continued through his army years and his presidency. and that was always an attempt, though, to play it down. especially once he became president. a lot of presidents, a narrative is formed very early that kind of marks them -- thank you -- for the rest of their presidency. and for eisenhower that narrative was he's a good guy, he's a good manager, but all he wants to do is play golf with his buddies and plays bridge.
and he reads westerns and westerns are terribleally sophisticated. this is in cto his successor. now we can hopefully move on. oh, yeah, ike liked westerns. and so i think reading those westerns, he could relive the history he witnessed as a boy and relive those conversations he had with folks like charles dudley and others that he mentioned in his book "at ease." and it really did help him relax during world war ii and the presidency. and people would say i hear you like to read westerns, and he said i do but that's really when i want to relax. but others didn't like those westerns, as i said. and there were many letters, and
unfortunately, we don't have this letter from this particularly writer whom some of you may recognize. some of you may recognize more quickly than others. but it was from hugh hefner who had just founded a new magazine called playboy. and he'd read this article and one president he'd read about was addicted to westerns, meaning ike. what we really need is president who reads science fiction, again as if science fiction and spy novels are somewhere above the westerns, i guess of sofisicated reading. as i mentioned westerns became a political liability. i'm not sure you well you'll be able to read it, but i'll help you out. the letter on the left is from the western writers of america. it's an organization still around. they were formed in 1953 when eisenhower took office. and they wanted to raise the level, the literary level of
westerns. and they wanted western writers to unite in terms of advocating better payment for themselves. and they even lobbied eisenhower for some changes to a tax code that would have helped freelance writers. but it was clear from the beginning from some of the correspondence we have, they did want to use eisenhower's well-known love of westerns to their own advantage. they wrote imine 1953, he'd not been in office very long. every year they publish a dedication of short stories. first of all, i don't know why they bothered to ask. i don't know if you really need someone's permission to dedicate a book to him. but i guess out of courtesy they wrote to the white house. so anne whitman, eisenhower's brilliant and witty secretary, she acknowledged -- anytime they
got letters like this, i should say they were afraid it might look like a commercial endorsement. so ann's answer was no, and jim haggerty the press secretary responsible for managing ike's image, said no, he wouldn't because our enemies, our critics would use it against him. so you can find letter after letter in the white house where someone wants ike to either comment about his affection for western novels or write a dedication to the book and the white house would say back off because we know this will be used against us. here's an example where a citizen read ike only read westerns and shouldn't he read something more important. it also comes from sherman adams, eisenhower's special
assistant and they're saying this is based on facetious remarks eisenhower made. from a time he was boy classical history was his favorite, and he's really at the head of the field in terms of how quickly he can grasp a new subject. so again throughout that presidency the white house was having to push back on that image as ike as a simpleminded western reeder. i feel it's not so much based upon a bias of that particular genre. nothing good literary-wise comes out of the west, and here you can see it on this very real level to eisenhower and his staff. douglas black was the president
of double day books and would eventually publish ike's memories and they also published a lot of westerns. and douglas black sent a box of westerns to ike regularly. and eisenhower said thank you. and he said i know i have this habit of reading westerns continuously. and one reason i like doing these programs so much is we get to publicize what we do here. we have records, for example, from october 1955 ike was in colorado and had a heart attack. he was hospitalized for a time in denver. and during that time he read 46 westerns in less than three weeks. and i'll show you the records here in a minute. and then the last couple of years of his life from late '67 until he died in march '69 his staff noted the titles of 206 westerns that he read.
and one thing that poked a little fun at his staff, he read a lot of histories and biographies, and we don't have a list like this. i don't know why you would keep such records, but i'm thankful his staff did. this is from october 1955. i know you can't read it. on the left is a cover sheet from his army general. and he's writing one of the enlisted men on his staff saying we need to ship these books back but not the ones check marked in red because ike has not read those yet. eventually ike would have read about 64 books during that three week time period. and i presume some of that time period he was too sick to read, so he was really reading westerns at a rapid rate. and i really enjoy this,
correspondence, especially anne whitman, his secretary, when she'd write a thank you note she'd write what it helped relieve ike's mind from. during what we're described as really boring meetings in canada he was reading "drive for the devil's river." peter phil is not an actual person but what they call a house name. so many different writers over the years would write as peter phil. in fact i think it's called the powder valley series. there are still a lot of writers still writing as peter phil. they've gotten a lot of use out of peter. an important meeting at camp david, the stranger by a father
and son team. and then to relieve himself from p it -- it's just kind of fun to see what he was reading when. favorite authors, and we know this because of that great record from '67 to '69, the 206 books he read during that time period, ike graded the authors. and his favorite was earnest y haycox who's newt as well-known. and a well-known movie became
stagecoach. he was also considered the best of just the writers in that genre of western writers. we have peter dawson. lumoir is still in print. in fact whatever stories you can find anymore if you go to book section like the ones i've seen as barnes and noble it's 80% lamoir. ronald reagan was a huge huey lumoir fan. in fact he gave him the presidential award of freedom. that's how much he thought about it. and this is interesting. at least for the books that he read at that time -- and you know who knows what actually drove these decisions but apparently he told his staff these were the authors he liked.
and these are just a few book covers. you probably really kaecan't ev see that first one. these are ike's books and in our holders. so these are scans of some of the covers of ike's actual books. i like that one. luke short was another favorite of eisenhower's. he also has a good reputation among western writers. and renegade guns, this is interesting because it takes us into what ike loved in a western and what he disliked. what he liked his staff said were booked that included kansas. what he really like were criticisms of the frontier army. this comes from letters he wrote to the then president of the western association. a guy named tommy thompson who
later produced a show called bonanza. after he left the white house and his certificate says it's for his reading of westerns, not his writing of westerns, he was given that book and then wrote to complain about it to his friend tommy thompson. you can probably read, that the frontier army was really a necessary and all the people in abilene said you needed that as a counselor and someone to maintain order. but my favorite is what miami told her grond son, david, if there was any subplot of the novel, he'd drop it on the spot. because as she said even in his history books, no goo, no mushy stuff for eisenhower. and so i know you thought i was going to be one of these easy substitute teachers today, but we're going to have a number of pop quizzes just for fun throughout this presentation. and so as i'm sure most of you
know eisenhower was a really good athlete and starting to gain attention in the national press when he was playing at west point his sophomore year. and that was his last game he ever played and for a while it threatened his commission. he could have been allowed to finish west point but he would have not gone onto military service. you would think that would bother him, but as he records in that antidotal memory "at ease" this was was his reaction. he said it's all right with me, so maybe i'll go down there and see the place and stay for two or three years. i found that interesting his first reaction was dwriel go to this place that used to be a wild west. and he's writing that from 50 years or more from his decision as a young man. i again get to show-off another
little gem from those 26 pages of documents we have. some of you could probably recognize wild bill hickok. a letter was written to the president i know you're from abilene and here's a picture of i did of wild bill. this is from that code. eisenhower like any president had speechwriters. and the president would generally discuss the idea of what he would talk about, and then there's all sorts of back and forth. with eisenhower there was probably more back and forth than usual and they would probably be revising to the last minute. and one of his assistants actually wrote 30 drafts before this speech for the anti-defamation legal in 1953. and eisenhower said, that's okay, i'm going to speak
extemporaneously. thank you for your service. but it's very early and mccarthy is becoming a huge issue. the senator from wisconsin and trying to find communist influence in the government, and eisenhower thought he's really ruining any sensible way we have to detect communists in government. he was within his own party and also on the side of the republican party that eisenhower had the most trouble with. so mccarthy was a problem, but eisenhower never liked to name his opponents. he would never talk about his opponents by name. so he takes this opportunity for a nationally televised speech in front of the anti-defamation league. jackie robinson, rex harrison, it was really a big event. and he relates this story how as a boy he lived in abilene, and the code of abilene was if you had a disagreement with someone you met them face-to-face.
there was no character association. he said, you know, the bullet had to be in front. you could sneak up on somebody and surprise them the way that joe mccarthy obviously was. and so this was a lesson that he took, he said, from abilene. and i found some other evidence of that. and i think again another wonderful item from our holdings. and this is message from george c. marshal to was a supreme commander and you can see that it is formally classified secret. this is at a time in the war when a relationship with russia which had not ever been quite warm and fuzzy was now becoming cold and prickly and the cold war was beginning to start and marshall said that you need to deal with stalin, you need to
meet his main street style. knowing that ike was from that part of the country he used it. i i found it interesting that it shows up in his military career as well as the political speech that he wrote. but i had my doubts, and one reason they had my doubts is that because one reason that he had that speech is that if you don't know who wild bill hickock then you need to read more of the west. he didn't say you should read your history more. some historians still dispute whether there was a code of the west that people really followed. i thought maybe ike was remembering this because he had read so many westerns. then i found a clipping from the "abilene chronicle" from the time that wild bill hicock was marshal. there was a gunfight. one man apparently drew his revolver and one man said wait, i haven't drawn mine, and when he reholstered, the guy pulled his weapon out and shot him. nobody died.
but then the paper editorializes about what a coward that man was. he refers to as you can see a code of honor that you play fairly and you don't sneak up on someone like that and shoot them from behind or trick them h like that into tricking them into holstering their weapon. so when hickock was here, they were really talking about the code of the west. so i owe ike one thinking that he got it from the western fiction. okay. so that is going to lead us to another one. how was wild bill hickcock kill killed? well, it violates the code of the west? >> shot in the back of the head. >> he was shot in the back of the head at a poker game in deadwood. there were elements of deadwood that did not want the lawmaen t
be anywhere near deadwood. they encouraged mccall to assassinate hicock. he was eventually convicted and hanged. the judge said why didn't you shoot him from the front and he said because i didn't want to commit suicide. again, he violated the code of the west and went up and shot bill from behind. another quiz. i really like this one. what is reported to have been ike's favorite western movie. there are a lot of them. this was the second movie that he watched after he moved into the white house. it was "high noon" which is a great movie. if you have never seen it, it takes place in real time from 10:30 a.m. to high noon, and so the movie is 90 minutes with a tick tock sound in the
background the whole time. there's a famous song which the secretary said ike would walk around the house whistling. "do not forsake me my darling." he really got a kick out of that. more items from our holdings, it's 1955 and ike's at home recuperating. he gets a letter from the man who wrote "do not foresake me my darling." a russian immigrant actually wrote this cowboy song. he had a special recording made for ike in a number of different languages. i don't know if you can read those. i don't know how australia differs from english, but ike apparently got an australian version of "do not foresake me." this takes us to what i think is the real third influence although poker is probably another one we could include. we'll save that for another program. at the closing of the frontier
in 1890 the year that ike was born, that was the same year the census bureau made that proclamation, because of the density of population. the west is so populated that you can't speak of being any more of a frontier. within a couple years there was a famous circulation and history department, so i'm sure called the significance of the frontier in american history by frederick jackson turner. he said the end of the frontier is not just the tehe end of the era of land, but it's the first era of american history, because the frontier is really responsible for all of the truly american traits and individualism and self-relines. -- self-reliance. it had created a rough democracy to where you could somehow scratch your living out of the west that gave you economic independence which gave you political independence and what are we going to do now that the basis for all those freedoms is
no longer there. there was a lot of debate over where we would go as a country since the frontier was gone. you would also hear about this idea of the safety valve and that the west was a safety valve. so if you had a lot of new immigrants coming, they could go west. as they used to say "go west, young man." or if there was a recession in the east, those displaced factory workers could go west. it was really a social safety net, safety valve. so again, they were very concerned about the consequences, and it was really psychological as much as anything. it is interesting to note that one of the first films that the thomas edison did in 1894 had a western theme to it. so it is just as soon as the west was gone, there was a nostalgia for it. and when the west was gone, there were fears of where do we go next? so fredrick jackson turner associated with the progressive movement of the early 19th century said that the basis of
going to economic independence, and some sort of safety valve would be an expanded administrative state and expanded government and you would see things like direct election of the senators and political reforms and also instead of the safety valve of land, you would have a social safety net of social security or welfare or however you would like to describe it, and it was a direct result of the native thinkers with that land disappearing with fdr. and also, if you had matters of land, it did not matter if you strip mined every land, because it was inexhaustible, but once they realized it was finite, they had to take a measure to see that people could use these measures to see more and more regulations for what was a
regulation. governor hugh johnson was the head of the national recovery administration which is one of the early new deal agencies. a friend of eisenhower, and ize en hower in the diary said that he admired him and as johnson would later write, the national recovery administration that he designed was in fact, a political replacement of the frontier. so you, again, you see the intersection of 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 old guard. nonetheless, the republicans when he was elected had the house, the senate and the white house for the first time in 20 years and they thought, this is great, we will be able to roll back all of those new deal programs we dislike so much. during his presidency, eisenhower had a friend named bradford chenowith, a general
who spent most of world war ii in a japanese prisoner war camp. but ike and chenoweth knew each other, other, and so they liked to write letters, and they used to have fine and heated debates. they liked discussing politics and philosophy. it started up when ike took office. chenowith was against federal welfare at all, so eisenhower described chenowith, why he's in favor of it, and of course he cites there's no more free land and untouched natural resources. since these are no longer here, the government has to step in and play that role, and that's why eisenhower tells chenowith he expanded social security to include another 10 million people. there is, again, that really interesting connection between ike, the old west, the frontier and how that expresses itself politically. oh, and yes. you don't have pop quizes without a final. so we have another question, and i'm sure a lot of you know the answer to this one. eisenhower lost the d-day
invasion and that night of june 5th went and talked to the men at the 101st airborne division, probably one of the most famous pictures of the war, ike talking to his para troopers. there was nothing he could do until the first reports started coming back saying how bad the initial part of the invasion was going. so as his aide recorded in his diary, he went back and found ike propped up in his bed reading a western. he said he stuck his head in the tent. ike looked at him, smiled, lit a cigarette and went back to reading a western. there was nothing else he could do during that time. again, you know, he's relying on that western to help ease his mind during this time of tremendous stress. again, just to wrap this up, the three influences, again, i think that great love of popular culture continued through those years as a post-president, when he was at last allowed to receive his honorary membership with the western riders for being such a good reader of
westerns, the abilene code which was genuine, and then of course the interesting views on the frontier. i really started thinking about, there were probably more of those influences on ike. as not only someone from the western part of the united states, but how it fueled his imagination. we have one final image i think to show you how captivated ike was by the old west. that's from the first inaugural parade in '53 and he is being lassoed by monte montana which he wasn't thrilled about and i'm sure the secret service wasn't thrilled about either. that may have been one reason they tried to play down all of the western interest that president eisenhower had. that's it for my part. i will be happy to take any questions. please do use the microphone since the program is being recorded today. but welcome any questions about ike and the west or any other eisenhower question, that if i can't answer we have lots of other staff members here who probably can. thank you.
[ applause ] >> considering most people ranked a virginian highly, did ike reject it because the virginian had a thing for the school marm? >> he read it. it is on one of the lists of books he read. that raises a good point. western novels really show up after the frontier disappears. western novels in many way reaffirm the values associated with the frontier. some critics, some students of western novels see them as a reaction to the closing of the frontier too, because, again, there was a big psychological element to that. yeah, the virginian, which is almost like the prototypical western, did include a love interest. clearly he didn't make ike's list of his favorite authors, so maybe that has something to do with it.
>> did ike ever wear western boots? >> the question is did ike ever wear western boots? we have some of his boots. i don't think he wore them regularly. what ike did wear, as well as president truman, president johnson and my grandfather, was a hat called a stetson open road. it is like a short-brim cowboy hat. you will see a lot of pictures of ike wearing that hat, but it was a very popular hat style at that time. i don't know if he considered himself a cowboy. again, his naval aide, harry butcher, records in his diary that ike told him he had been a cow puncher, a farm hand and a semi professional baseball player as well as a mechanic at a creamery. so he did -- at least he had that identification with the west, but his wearing of western apparel was fairly modest. >> did he have favorite western tv programs?
>> did he have a favorite western tv program? that's another good point. in the 1950s, 17 of the top 25 nielsen programs were westerns and seven of the top ten television programs were westerns. the popular culture of the '50s, of ike's time in office, was dominated by the western. the only one i have heard him talk about, at least i've seen in his correspondence, was "bonanza." he thought those characters were the true toast the west which is interesting because the west was changing in the '60s, and in a lot of movies, anti-heroes were becoming more popular. eisenhower liked the more traditional depiction of the west and named "bonanza" because of that. yes, sir? >> in ike's era, horses were still used in the cavalry. was he himself a competent horseman?
>> well, he was, and at west point he -- they were all trained really in the cavalry. one thing that aggravated that knee injury from when he was injured playing football, or what they called monkey drills where they were going on and off the horse, and he was told he could never be in the cavalry because of that injury. of course, he grew up with horses here. he had a horse in panama named blacky whom he adored. it is interesting the number of pages he devotes to blackie. blackie knew all sorts of tricks, and then he had horses in retirement. he always maintained that connection. and he raised at his retirement home in gettysburg, he raised angus cattle. he was a bit of a stockman throughout his life. david combs from grand junction, colorado.
>> welcome. >> thank you. kind of a note here, last few years i've been on a quest to see as many presidential museums as i can and this is the fourth one for me. i usually read a biography beforehand. i will say the best way is not to try to do it in one day. i realize now, at least a night. i just read this biography by gene edward smith. >> yes. >> so maybe it prompts this question, maybe it is too daring of a question. i wonder if he also liked westerns? >> i have seen record of that. there are pictures of horseback during world war ii, but nothing about her taste in literature. >> what did ike's parents do? were they ranchers, farmers? >> what did ike's parents do? the family arrived in 1878. largely south of here in hope, kansas, there was a short time in dennison, texas where hike
was born where i think his father was in a self-imposed exile after the jgeneral store failed. ike's father david did not want to be a farmer. in fact, he went to college for a year at lane university in kansas where he met ike's mother, ida, which is really unusual for that time period. he studied some classical languages there and he studied engineering. he worked at a creamery, really as what they called an engineer. he had taken a correspondence course to learn to be an engineer, and then worked with pension fund, the c.o. brown company. ike's mother because homemaker who taught the boys without any daughters how to do things around the house like cooking and cleaning which they might have not have ever learned. and which ike enjoyed especially the cooking part. he liked to cook outside for his friends and preparing big meals for people.
so it is part of the transition, because a lot of people in that time period, the united states was transitioning from the agricultural e kconomy to the industrial. you can see in that transition that eisenhower's part of the family is leaving the farm and moving to even a small city like abilene i think as part of that greater transformation. and if there's anything else? here is another one. >> is there any evidence of him reading the dime novels that were famous during that time? >> he alludes to that. in 1967 he gives his friend who sends him a wild bill hickock dime novel from 1882, and he replies "i must have read this back in abilene as a boy." i also think because of the cost, you could buy some of the dime novels for a nickel. and with the little bit of money that he had at the time, that was probably more likely the
kind of thing that he was buying. so i'm sure his reading did start with sensationalized accounts of the west. there's reference later too that he did like those that were more historically-minded, that were at least plausible and took place in a real location. max brand's books, they're kind of in this mythical west, and so eisenhower seemed to prefer real locations and more plausible plots than some of the other writers might present. well, i think that will do it. thanks again. [ applause ] sunday on c-span's q and a, distinguished fellow leo edwards
chronicles his involvement in the conservative movement. >> i met joe mccarthy through my father who was a confidant to him, and he was a fellow well met, and he liked to party and drink or two. and as long as you did not talk about communism, you could not ask for a more fun to be with, but he was really serious about, that and he was also someone who did not take sad vice -- take advice very well and so consequently he did and said things that hurt the cause of communism. q and a sunday at 8:00 p.m. eastern on c-span. c-span, where history unfolds daily. in 1979, c-span was created as a public service by america's cable television companies and it is brought to you today by
your cable satellite provider. our c-span cities tour takes american history tv on the road to feature the history of cities across america. on the recent visit to sioux falls, zsouth dakota, we stoppe by the western plains museum, and there we are told about the immigrants and american indians who have called this region home. >> this is the northern plains referring to the many different ways that life on this part of the country has been recorded. either through letters or diaries or journals or photographs or objects as well, by the many, many different varieties of ethnic cultures that have lived here. what we wanted to accomplish in emphasizing the