Monday, October 25, 2010

A History of Halloween: Part 3

Halloween in the Victorian Era

Halloween thus entered the Victorian era of America: The 1870-1880's. Halloween all of a sudden became less about being scared, celebrating ancestors, and ghosts, but about having parties. Rich people parties. Most of the lore and modes of celebration were thrown out the window, being considered too un-Victorian. Halloween also became a holiday reinterpreted as the quaint practice of the English. They wanted to get rid of the Irish genesis of the holiday. Victorian upper crust hated the Catholics and wanted nothing to do with their evil holiday, so they changed it to fit their needs. On Halloween night, all the young Victorians would gather, have a nice dinner, bob for apples, and play fortune-telling games. These, again, were for the upper middle class and above. Most of the lower middle class to lower class people still celebrated Halloween like the people before them. The Victorians saw it as a holiday to be made safe for their children. It became more about what food to serve, what to decorate with, or how to break the ice at the party. Halloween was still seen as a mysterious night, filled with romance and divination. The tradition of predicting who a girl's husband would be was always popular. These parties, at first, were not for adults though, they were for the unmarried younger crowd. It would seem childish for grownups to be seen at a party of that sort. They were meant to help you find your husband or wife. Themed parties that were trying to be better than the other parties started to sprout up. People threw Cinderella parties, Black Cat parties, and even Mother Goose parties on Halloween night. The spirit of Halloween was starting to be lost among the vast amount of parties during that time of the year. Halloween at the time was extremely watered down, and became more for kids, though parents made sure that they gave a less spooky celebration to their kids. Think of it as the equivalent of your parents going through all your candy looking for razor blades. It was a downer.

It wasn't until the beginning of the 20th century that Halloween began to look like what we see it today. Thanks to groups like the Lion's Club, Boy Scouts of America, and countless other organizations and churches, Halloween became something for everybody, not just a holiday for the rich or for children.

Halloween in the 20th Century

The first town celebration of Halloween started in Anoka, MN, in 1921. The town decorated its streets, hosted two parades, held a Pumpkin Bowl football game and roped off a city square for dancing. Halloween parades and town celebrations became all the rage in America, and soon all regional differences were put aside and Halloween was a holiday for everyone. With this came the "Halloween Problem," which was the rise in pranks and tomfoolery around Halloween. Many organizations tried to get as many kids involved to do service projects as to keep naughty kids busy. Some towns even had the police hire boys who were the most likely to cause trouble, to patrol the streets on Halloween. In Detroit in 1935, the city invited 45,000 kids to 90 public Halloween parties, just to cut down on traffic deaths and false fire alarms. Even though best efforts were being made, vandalism was still a huge problem, especially in cities. The fun stopped in 1942 when the second World War was starting. All of a sudden it was more serious to waste things and vandalize. Kids were warned against letting air out of tires and souping windows, as soup was a valuable thing and Uncle Sam needed it to throw at the Nazi's or something. Halloween was even canceled in some areas, due to the seriousness of the times and people feeling that there should be no tomfoolery. Anything that could be used for the war was, such as materials that would of gone to making decor and other such Halloween things.

After the war, things winded down and everyone started to party again. Halloween was celebrated everywhere again and costume parties became all the rage. Along with that, people started to make "haunted" rooms in their houses to scare guests and children. By the 1950's, Halloween was considered a real national holiday, up there with Christmas and Fourth of July, and the attendance at town Halloween parties rivaled those of Fourth of July celebrations and Memorial day celebrations. With the sudden spurt of children due to all the men coming home from the war (correlation?), Halloween again became a celebration for children. Town parties started to disappear and were replaced by school parties and personal parties. The most important thing added to the Halloween festivities at this time though was Trick or Treating.

Contemporary Halloween

All of a sudden, all of the old traditions came back into the mainstream. Trick or Treating took over the collection of cakes and nuts and became a time for kids to acquire candy from neighbors. The Jack-O-Lantern became more widely used, and the use of fantastic costumes for children while they paraded through the streets became common place. Why did kids expect to get candy from strangers? In the preceding decades, children were given treats to just stay inside and not cause trouble, so, now they went to houses and basically said, "Hey big nose, give me some treats or you're going to get up close and personal with these eggs I got here." As time went on, the trick portion was left for Mischief night, the night before Halloween, or as we call it in Michigan, Devil's Night. In the 60's and 70's, stories started to pop up about people putting heroin or poison into kid's treats. This did happen twice in the span of the two decades, both being deaths attributed to action inside the home. In both cases, a family member tried to kill their relative or kids and used poison in their Pixy Stix. In one case, the father had put a life insurance policy on all his kids. So what does this teach us? That we should suspect our own parents or relatives of murder before we suspect complete strangers. Even though these were isolated incidents, people started to freak out about trick or treating. People started to come up with stories about finding Cyanide in their kid's candy, or glass and razor blades. Though these things never happened, there was a big push to cancel trick or treating out of fear for the children. It was only later after people realized that these were hoax's and that there were no reported trick or treating deaths in the last thirty years, that people warmed back up to Halloween. But, as we all know, the myths about dangerous things in our candy remains to this day.

Halloween has again become a time for charity though, as many children collect money for UNICEF, or United Nasty Imps Causing Evil Forever. It is only through sheer ignorance that the children collect money from equally ignorant people and further the Imp cause. And of course the dressing up like ancient dead has carried over to our own time, as we dress up like witches, demons, and Hannah Montana.
Halloween has now become a celebration of many things, candy, ghosts, costumes, spooky things, and oh yeah...candy. That's what kids mainly think of these days, is how best to stick it to their parents. Only by completely rotting their teeth can they hit their parents where it hurts...the billfold. Halloween has always been my favorite holiday. I have always loved all the spooky decorations, the ghost stories, walking around getting candy, dressing up like a pirate, and just having a good time being scared. That's something you don't get to do all the time. It's the one time of year where you can go around looking like a bum and actually get food from people as you go begging from house to house. I always enjoyed getting a pop from somebody. They were the ones who for some reason forgot or ran out of candy and had to give you something! Those kind of people also gave out apples, dental floss, pennies,
Hope you enjoyed my history of Halloween! Please feel free to share some favorite Halloween memories that you've had.


"Halloween: An American Holiday, an American History" by Lesley Pratt Bannatyne.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

A History of Halloween: Part 2

Halloween in Early America

When the Puritans settled in New England, they, in the tradition of taking the fun out of everything, had Halloween abolished and replaced it with May Day. May Day happened to be a holiday that was no where near October and involved people making baskets. Oh goody. Though the Puritans didn't like Halloween or honoring ancestors, they did have an interest in the spirit world-an interest that manifested itself in a fearful fascination with witchcraft and divination. Case in point: Salem. Puritans went crazy and killed anyone they even remotely thought were witches. Halloween was eventually brought by the Catholics, and Guy Fawkes day was brought by the Protestants who mainly settled in New York. So, besides New England, Halloween was around in every colony.

After the Revolution and the signing of the Constitution into law, a new era of Halloween began due to the freedom of religion. The Puritan grasp on the ban on Halloween slowly lifted. Halloween became more of a celebration of past and future, where people got together and had cornhusking parties, apple paring parties, and sugaring and sorghummaking days. Otherwise known as "Ask your friends to come over and help you with your work, but you'll give them alcohol as payment" parties. There was ghost stories and fortune telling games, dancing and plenty of food to go around.

The prominence of ghosts and the dead being around Halloween night carried over to America, as did tricks and mischief. Many boys would go out of their way to frighten or trick one of their peers during the night. Halloween was not a national holiday though, not like Thanksgiving or the Fourth of July. It was just a celebration that individual faiths did. It wasn't until the emergence into the 19th century that Halloween would become as popular and widespread as it is today.

With the emergence of immigrants, most coming in the early 1800's, there was more and more stories and customs that went into Halloween. The custom of begging for soul cakes, turned into children going to houses and asking for treats, thus becoming trick or treating. The custom eventually took on the wearing of costumes brought on by the Irish.

Divination became a part of Halloween thanks to the British Isles. Divination was mostly used to predict who you would fall in love with or who your spouse would be. A woman would light a candle and look into a mirror at midnight on All Hallows Eve and see the person she was going to marry over her shoulder. Sounds terrifying!

The custom of hallowing out a turnip and giving it a gruesome face, eventually turned into a Jack-O-Lantern, using a pumpkin instead. The story behind the name Jack-O-Lantern has many variations but most involve a man named Jack and the Devil. Jack hoodwinks the Devil out of crops and the Devil makes Jack hold a lantern for eternity. Tough break.
Black cats and witchcraft and bad luck superstition caught on in America, mostly in the South at first. All of these old traditions were kept intact and spread throughout America, until the late 19th century, when America entered it's so called Victorian Era.

A History of Halloween: Part 1

With Halloween only a few weeks away, you may notice one thing in stores: The loads of Christmas decorations. Though Christmas may be slowly taking over every other holiday, we can relish in the fact that Halloween does get its fair share of attention. This will be the first in my series of Holiday Histories. I will look at our holidays in America and share their sometimes unlikely beginnings.

As most people know, Halloween is a very old holiday, dating back centuries before the birth of Christ. Halloween was first celebrated by the Celtic people, who inhabited present day U.K., and France. The Celtics had two main festivals; one to celebrate the start of winter, when they had to bring the herds in, and one to celebrate the start of summer, when they brought the herds out. In that area, the cold came earlier, in early November, so it became the start of winter and the beginning of the new year. The finest of the herd were put in the shelter, while the rest were slaughtered for the festival. The festival was called Samhain, or summer's end, and was considered the most sacred of their festivals. The point of the festival was also to link the people with their ancestors and past. The Celts believed that the dead rose on the eve of Samhain and that ancestral ghosts and demons were set free to roam the earth (Much like the dead coming back in "A Night on Bald Mountain" from the movie Fantasia. You know that gave you nightmares as a kid).The Celts made offerings to the spirit world in hopes that the spirits of their loved ones would make a brief visit home to enjoy a warm fire at the hearth. Food and wine were set out for the dead souls of the ancestors, sure to be weary from their travels in the netherworld. To avert unwanted guests-any malicious spirits set free on that night-the Celts hid themselves in ghoulish disguise so that the spirits wandering about would mistake them for one of their own and pass by without incident.

The Romans eventually came and conquered the Celts and their rituals combined. The Roman's with their belief in mythological beings, celebrated the Goddess Pomorum, or the Goddess of orchards and the harvest, around the same time as Samhaim was celebrated, November 1st. The Roman celebration of the orchard harvest contributed the bounty of apples and nuts that remains a part of Halloween to this day. In other words, the Romans are to blame for those people giving you fruit and nuts on Halloween night. The Roman and Celtic cultures created what we might identify as Halloween in its ancient form. It was a night devoted to the dead, yet a night for divination and romance as well.

Then came the Christians. When Christianity spread across the Roman empire, the priests had to find a way to wane the new converts off of this pagan stuff. So, instead of destroying their rituals, they let them be, and eventually the people celebrated All Saints Day instead of Samhain. Both being on November 1st, and the celebrations being on October 31st. They had feasts and celebrations, but it wasn't in the same realm as Samhain. All Saints Day was to be a day set aside to honor the martyrs who died for their beliefs. All Saints Day used to be in May, but was set to November 1st to help assimilate people into the Christian faith and celebrations. People were told to pray for the dead, not to sacrifice to them. Instead of setting out wine and food, they set out soul cakes, which were little pastries and bread. The soul cakes would be given to the poor, and in return, the poor would pray for their dead family members. Eventually the custom changed to young men and boys going from house to house singing "souling" songs and asking for ale, food, or money instead of soul cakes. People were asked to masquerade, but to honor the saints, not ward away evil spirits.

A Hollowmas Soul Cake Song

Soul day, Soul day,
We be come a-souling,
Pray good people remember the poor, And give us a soul cake, One for Peter, two for Paul,
Three for Him that made us all

An apple, a pear, a plum or a cherry
Or any good thing to make us merry.

Soul day, Soul day,

We have been praying for the soul departed.
So pray good people give us a cake
For we are all poor people,

Well known to you before.
So give us a cake for charity's sake,

And our blessing we'll leave at your door.

-from Poole, Customs, Superstitions, and Legends of Staffordshire

It was the Christians that gave Halloween its name. During medieval times, All Saints' Day was known as All Hollows, making the night before it All Hollows Eve, which became Hallowe'en, and then Halloween. The church decreed that all celebrations be held the day before Saints Day, thus placing Halloween where we know it today.

The new group off of the Catholics were the Lutherans and Calvinists who decided to get rid of All Saints Day, which meant no Halloween. Thus, for a time, Guy Fawkes Day became the fall festival for some Europeans. Guy Fawkes being the man who tried to blow up the Protestant-sympathetic House of Lords when Parliament met. The holiday was set up to celebrate the Protestants victory over the Catholics. The similarities between Halloween and Guy Fawkes Day were "scary." more puns. They had bonfires, celebrants carried lanterns of hollowed out turnips that had been fashioned into grotesque faces. The eve of Guy Fawkes Day became "mischief night" across most of northern England, an occasion of pranks and skylarking. Boys now begged for coal, so they could have something to burn their Guy Fawkes effigies. Some people even went as far as burning the Pope in effigy. The eve of Guy Fawkes night can be connected with Devil's night, being the night before Halloween, a semi-holiday that is only celebrated in Michigan. Instead of burning effigies of Guy Fawkes and the Pope, the people of Detroit in the 70's burned down small businesses. The day has been changed to Angel's night, but is still rife with pranks and vandalism.

The Catholic's All Hallows' celebration, the old pagan folk customs of the British Isles, and the secular Guy Fawkes Day festivities of the English protestants all helped give birth to the Halloween we know today.

Thomas Woodrow Wilson

Term: 1913-1921

Political Party: Democrat

Nickname: Schoolmaster in Politics.

Short Bio:
Wilson was basically the professor that you don't really like in college. He was smart, but not very friendly. Wilson entered the presidency and got to work. He lowered tariffs, established a graduated income tax, created the Federal Reserve System, and the Federal Trade Commission. Later, he signed laws banning child labor and limiting workdays to eight hours. In foreign affairs, he promised that the U.S. would expand no longer. In 1914, the First World War begins. Wilson, seeing that the country is not ready to jump in, and not really wanting to fight, keeps the U.S. out of it. Wilson wins reelection due to his decision to stay out of war. However, shortly into his second term, he realized that war could not be ignored.
U.S. ships were being blown up while trying to deliver goods and possibly munitions to the English. The most famous is the Lusitania, which caused many to want to enter the war against Germany. Other boats were sunk, and Wilson was starting to see war looming. He started to build up his air force as soon as the war started, seeing as it was at a pitiful level compared to other countries. It wasn't until Germany sent the infamous Zimmerman Telegram that the U.S. had enough and declared war on Germany. The note basically asked Mexico to join Germany and attack the U.S. from the South. The U.S. intercepted the note and finally convinced Wilson to declare war. Also at this time, you had the beginning of Prohibition and Women's right to vote, brought on by Congress.
The put WWI into a short summary, the Europeans were in a trench war, the U.S. came over, refused to fight the same way, and used the air force to basically win the war. Germany quit and met with France, England and the U.S. in Paris. France and England wanted to punish Germany, while Wilson wanted to the Treaty of Versailles to follow his fourteen points. Wilson wan not persuasive enough, as only parts were accepted. Germany was punished thoroughly and came back with a vengeance later. Remember those consequences I talked about earlier? Perhaps if Wilson were not president, Germany would not have been punished so harshly. Or maybe they would have. Who knows.
While on a tour to promote the treaty and the League of Nations, Wilson suffered a stroke, which left him unable to really be president anymore. For the duration of his presidency, Wilson gave orders from bed. Others believe that his second wife, Edith Wilson, was the secret president, and made many decisions for him. Congress did not accept the Treaty of Versailles, and the U.S. was not allowed to be a part of this League of Nations. Wilson's vision led to the eventual creation of the United Nations however. Wilson was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his role in world affairs in 1919. He died in 1924.

Grade: C
Wilson is another president hard to peg down. Some give him more credit, and some very little. Did he bring about the end to the first world war? Yes, but he did not secure peace afterwards. Wilson did a lot of good for the country in terms of progressive reforms. On a character level, he wasn't the nicest person. He was also a extreme racist, which came in the form of firing everyone that wasn't white in the government sector *Disputed*. Had Wilson tried harder to give peace to Europe, perhaps we would not of had WWII. Wilson has some supporters today, and some people to who hate his guts, namely Glenn Beck, who makes a point to talk about his hatred for Wilson on a daily basis.

William Howard Taft

Term: 1909-1913

Party: Republican

Nickname: Big Lub

Short Bio:
Ok, before we get started, yes, Taft was the one who got stuck in his tub. He had to have a larger one installed to support his hefty build. Taft had the daunting task of following up Roosevelt's presidency. History shows us that most presidents that follow greats, do not fair so well. I'm looking at you Adams, Van Buren, and Andrew Johnson. Truman did alright. Taft could not, no matter what he did, get out from Roosevelt's shadow. Roosevelt chose him to keep his progressive ways going and promptly took a safari trip with his son Kermit. Not having Roosevelt around helped, but Taft was just no Teddy. Taft was deliberative and cautious which people perceived as slow moving, which was not what they were used to after Roosevelt.
Taft actually did more in terms of trust busting than Roosevelt, and did a pretty good job with everything else. He parted ways on how do deal with labor unions, income tax, and help for women, children and the poor, finding that those things the government could not interfere with. He believed that presidential power only went as far as the Constitution would allow. Roosevelt was dismayed by Taft's performance when he got back stateside and tried to get the Republican nomination in 1912. No such luck, as Taft won the nomination, though some think it was due to back room dealings to keep the hard to handle Roosevelt out of the office. The 1912 election went this way: Roosevelt made his own party and came in second to Democrat Wilson. Taft came in a distant third for the Republicans. Some argue that if Roosevelt won the nomination, or if he had just stayed out of it, perhaps the Republicans would have won. However, they split the vote and caused Wilson to win. This may of had far reaching consequences, which I will talk about later.
Taft went on to become the only former president to become Chief Justice in the Supreme Court, something that he enjoyed much more.

Grade: B+
I like Taft a lot. Not as much as Roosevelt, but he did a lot of the same stuff. He had a much more conserved viewpoint which may of kept him out of trouble. Taft was extremely hurt when Roosevelt tried to take the reigns back in 1912, and feared that he had lost a friend. The two became friends again afterward, but it showed that Taft had a good heart and cared more about his friends than his political appointment. Good character traits aside, Taft would of had a smoother presidency if he had followed any other person.

Theodore Roosevelt

Term: 1901-1909

Party: Republican, Progressive (Bull Moose)

Nickname: Teddy, Trust-Buster

Short Bio:
If you want to know a lot about Roosevelt, than read my earlier blog on why I like him so much. I'm just going to outline a few main things that he did during his presidency.

-Busted Trusts, or got rid of monopolies that he found to be harmful to the U.S.
-Created National Parks with the help of John Muir.
-Fought corruption.
-Put together the Great White Fleet which showed the U.S. might around the world.
-Supported Panama's revolt against Columbia to give the Panama canal to the U.S.
-Created the Department of Labor.
-Passed the Pure Food and Drug Act.
-Passes the Roosevelt Corollary.
-Wins the Nobel peace price for arranging a peace treaty between Russia and Japan.
-First president to go overseas.
-Shot during election for president in 1912, before giving speech. Goes and does speech anyway.
-Loses sight in one eye after a boxing match with a sailor.
-His refusal to shoot a baby bear that was set up to be shot by him leads to the creation of "Teddy Bears."

These are just a few points in a long and exciting life for Roosevelt. He decided to leave the reigns to Taft in 1908.

Grade: A

I may be a bit biased on this grade, but I still find him to be one of the best presidents, under Washington and Lincoln. He brought America in as a power and led the U.S. on its longest bout of peace, though he was a staunch imperialist. Roosevelt did more in his presidency than a bunch of presidents combined.

William McKinley

Term: 1897-1901

Party: Republican

Nickname: Idol of Ohio

Short Bio:
McKinley's presidency was a time of expansion. The period of Western expansion was over in the American frontier. That meant, if the U.S. wanted to expand, they would have to go outside the mainland. In 1898, the USS Maine exploded in Havana's harbor. Spain ruled over colonial Cuba. A media frenzy pushed a reluctant McKinley to declare war on Spain. Or that's what a lot of people think. There is still controversy today about the Spanish-American War. The U.S. was basically waiting for someone to beat up, and acquire more land. The USS Maine may of sunk for three reasons. First is the reason people agreed with at the time and for many decades after, which is that the ship hit a mine put there by the Spanish. Second, a fire in the coal bunker. And third, and probably the most disturbing, is that the Maine was blown up on purpose to start a war with Spain. We will probably never know which one is true, but it doesn't matter as much now since they went to war anyway.
The U.S. basically slapped the Spanish around, seeing as Spain was a fading power, and the U.S. was coming into an age of power. The war was over in the matter of a few months, and the U.S. now had new territories, the Philippines, Guam, Cuba, and Puerto Rico (The U.S. would let Cuba and the Philippines were let go eventually by the U.S. We are still in possession of Guam and Puerto Rico).The people of the Philippines were happy to be rid of Spain and hoped that the U.S. would grant them independence. No such luck, we colonized the area and used it for raw goods. The people of the Philippines staged a mini-war against the Americans that lasted for a few years.
McKinley, after the war, decided to reverse his decision on high tariffs, deciding that if overseas markets were to be opened to American goods, commercial barriers had to fall at home. He spent the rest of his presidency going against the Republican mode of protectionism and lowered tariffs. Thus ended the Gilded Age, and brought America into the Progressive Era. Even so, McKinley was still hesitant to use the full power of the presidency, a thing his successor would not do.
McKinley won a second term and learned that the rebel forces in the Philippines had been put down ending the war three years after the Spanish-American War. Scattered fighting lasted for about another year. A few months after, McKinley announces that he will not go for another term. *Fun Fact*: Most presidents were extremely hesitant to go for more than two terms due to the fact that Washington had only two terms. They didn't want to make the point that they were better than him. FDR apparently didn't think of it that way, or had no qualm with it.
On September 6, 1901, Polish-American anarchist Leon Czolgosz shoots McKinley in the stomach when the president was touring the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, New York. McKinley dies over a week later. His Vice-President, Theodore Roosevelt is sworn into office.

Grade: B
McKinley is sort of an enigma. He may of started a war to gain land, which is bad, but he also lowered tariffs, which is something he helped raise in the first place. He was an above average president in some regards, but too willingly went out to fight the Spanish I think.

Benjamin Harrison


Party: Republican

Nickname: Little Ben

Short Bio:

People found that Harrison had about only two qualifications to be president; a clean record, and being grandson of former president William Henry Harrison. Harrison basically campaigned from his front porch, literally. His campaign managers poured money into swing states and corporations who detested Cleveland and his lower tariffs, supported Benjamin Harrison. The race was closer than some, but Harrison won due to the support of corporations. Cleveland left his first term with a surplus, which quickly faded into Harrison's presidency.The House spent the money quickly with their thin margin of Republicans over Democrats. Cleveland had vetoed bills for Civil War pensions to veterans because the risk of fraudulent claims ran too high. Congress resubmitted these bills to Harrison, who only too willingly signed them into law. Civil War pension costs soon became one of the largest expenses in the federal budget. To fix the debt, Congress passed the McKinley Tariff, a dramatic increase in import fees. The tariff angered Americans by increasing the prices of many consumer goods. The public showed their dissatisfaction by giving both houses to the Democrats during the mid-term elections. Lingering anger over the tariff led to Cleveland being voted back into the presidency. Harrison went back to Indianapolis, and continued his law firm. He went on to help Venezuela in the settlement of its border dispute with Great Britain.

Grade: C-
Harrison was not a corrupt person, which helped him during his presidency, but was perhaps just a little too trusting. Giving pension to anyone who claimed to have fought in the Civil War was a huge mistake. Harrison backing that up and the McKinley Tariff was not the best thing to do in the economic climate they were in. Harrison is guilty more of bending over to Congress. They came up with the crazy plans, but Harrison agreed.

Grover Cleveland

Terms: 1885-1889, 1893-1897

Party: Democratic

Nickname: Big Steve, Uncle Jumbo

Short Bio:
Stephen Grover Cleveland went by Grover, probably because Stephen Cleveland sounds funny. Say it out loud. Now five times fast. Ok, now that you’ve embarrassed yourself, I’ll tell you about this man that was not a Sesame Street character, but a president.
Cleveland is one of the very few presidents that was a Democrat during the late 1800s, the other being Andrew Johnson. Cleveland was another honest president who wanted to make the presidency honorable again, and wanted to take the power back from the legislative branch. Cleveland was a smart man, and that was apparent in most of his decisions. He blocked civil war pensions that he suspected were fraudulent, vetoed anything that was against his view of limited government, and supported the gold standard as the only currency for the United States. Cleveland also favored lowering tariffs, something that the Republicans vehemently opposed. The issue of tariffs eventually cost him the election of 1888.
Cleveland came back after Benjamin Harrison served one term and served again, being the only president to serve two non-consecutive terms. His second term was far less sunny. A new party had emerged, the People’s Party, which was basically for the workers. Cleveland’s innate conservatism made him generally unsympathetic to the worker’s cause. He lost support when he vetoed a bill that would give 10,000 dollars in aid to drought stricken farmers, and from his heavy handed response to the Pullman strike of 1894. People were also hoping for a silver standard, which went against Cleveland’s gold standard hopes.
Grade: B-
Cleveland was one of the smarted presidents of the time, but proved to be unpopular with the working class in his second term. Cleveland though, held a very strong presidency. He took power back from Congress and vetoed more bills than all presidents before him combined. Cleveland is also considered the most influential of the presidents after Lincoln and before Theodore Roosevelt.

Chester A. Arthur

Term: 1881-1885

Political Party: Republican

Nickname: Elegant Arthur

Short Bio: Chester Alan Arthur was a not exactly the most honest person before he was president. He routinely used his influence to give people high up jobs in exchange for money. He also allowed government employees to profit from their positions. In other words, Arthur was business as usual. The late 1800’s were rife with corruption and greed, and he was no exception. Arthur was basically not known for anything besides his corrupt past and being congressman Roscoe Conkling's puppet. Conkling, who was Arthur's mentor, had made Hayes' presidency a living hell as leader of the pro-Grant Stalwart (Stalwarts supported the spoils system which gave their financial backers positions in their administration once they became president) side of the Republican party. When Garfield won the Republican nomination-even though he was completely opposed to it-the moderate side of the Republican party knew they needed to put a Stalwart in as Vice-President, or Conkling and his Stalwarts wouldn't let Garfield win. So, they chose Chester Arthur. Arthur was satisfied with the position, as it didn't give him too much responsibility, and the proximity to the President would allow for him to destroy Garfield's presidency with Conkling's help. Yeah, Arthur and Conkling (pictured below) were basically heels.

Then, four months later, Charles Guiteau, a Stalwart and a possible lunatic shot Garfield. When Arthur was handed the telegraph about the shooting, his face went pale. He realized his days of lounging around as Vice-President were over; he was probably going to hold the highest office in the United States, which deeply frightened him. Where Garfield was an extremely learned man, Arthur was more of a party goer and lover of relaxation, and the public knew this. They also knew that Arthur was Conkling's lapdog, so Conkling would basically be the de facto President. Gulp. People were not happy about the thought of Arthur as president, a sentiment made even more apparent when rumors of Arthur and Conkling's involvement in the assassination began. The two men had to hide in their hotel until things cooled down lest they be lynched by one of the many mobs roaming around Washington D.C. Garfield worsened, due more to doctors prodding him than anything else, and died a few months after being shot. Arthur was now president of the United States.

What was the first thing he did? He ignored all his political supporters. He pulled a Hayes and had an incredibly honest presidency. He prosecuted Republicans for mail fraud and vetoed popular pork-barrel spending projects, such as the Rivers and Harbor’s Act of 1882. He also signed the Pendleton Civil Service Reform Act, which set up a system through which government jobs were assigned on merit and no political favoritism. Public opinion had soured on the Spoils System and it was all of a sudden very bad to call yourself a Stalwart. This was a much different Arthur that what people saw before his presidency. To boot, he was also an environmentalist, who was concerned about the reckless destruction of forests. Otherwise, Arthur didn’t do too much in his presidency, and was passed over for nomination in 1884. People thought of Arthur as slow and bit lazy. Little did anyone know that Arthur had Bright ’s disease, which is a fatal illness of the kidney. The disease made him weak and accounts for his inaction throughout most of his term. Arthur, probably from knowing his time was short on the earth, was quite the partier. He had grand parties at the white house anytime he had the chance. Arthur in this way, acted like a college student; he went to parties and drank himself stupid. Arthur died two years after leaving office at fifty-six years old.

Grade: C-
He gets an average grade. Arthur had a very honest presidency, and did much for getting rid of corruption within the government. Otherwise he didn’t do that much. The Pendleton Civil Service Reform Act was authored by Garfield, and it was basically a no-brainer for Arthur to pass it, so I don't give him too much credit for it. He wasn't a terrible president, but didn’t do much either. Some of that can be blamed on his disease, but at least he helped stamp out corruption, something he would not have done before his presidency. The biggest blight on his record is the signing of the Chinese Exclusion Act, which made it illegal for Chinese workers to come to America. He had vetoed the bill before, but under pressure from American laborers, he signed the second draft of the bill which barred Chinese laborer immigration for ten years. America has always had a problem with foreigners coming in and “taking our jobs”, and in this case, they did something about it. The law would be renewed every ten years until 1943. This is the only law that was ever passed that banned a group of people from the United States because of their race or nationality.