By Brady Carlson
An unique exploration into the death tales of our nation’s maximum leaders―and the wild methods we decide to recollect and memorialize them.
To public radio host and reporter Brady Carlson, the weighty duties of being president by no means finish. As Carlson sees it, the useless presidents (and the methods we consider them) let us know very much approximately ourselves, our background, and the way we think our previous and destiny. For American presidents, there's existence after death―it’s somewhat weird.
In Dead Presidents, Carlson takes readers on an epic journey to presidential gravesites, monuments, and memorials from sea to shining sea. With an interesting mixture of historical past and modern reporting, Carlson recounts the fabulous starting place tales of the Washington Monument, Mount Rushmore, Grant’s Tomb, and JFK’s everlasting Flame. He explores no matter if William Henry Harrison quite died of a chilly, how the assassin’s bullet won't were what killed James A. Garfield, and why Zachary Taylor’s is still have been exhumed a hundred and forty years after he died. And he explains the unusual afterlives of the presidents, together with why “Hooverball” continues to be performed in Iowa, why Millard Fillmore’s ultimate resting position is subsequent to that of funk legend Rick James, why “Who’s buried in Grant’s Tomb?” turned a working gag for Groucho Marx, why Ohio and Alaska fought for therefore lengthy over the identify of Mt. McKinley (now referred to as Denali), and why we exalt useless presidents not only with public statues and iconic work yet with kitschy wax dummies, Halloween costumes, and bobblehead dolls.
With an infectious ardour for background and a mind for ignored areas and offbeat characters comparable to Tony Horwitz and Sarah Vowell, Carlson exhibits that the methods we memorialize our presidents exhibit as a lot approximately us because it does concerning the males themselves.
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Extra resources for Dead Presidents: An American Adventure into the Strange Deaths and Surprising Afterlives of Our Nation’s Leaders
Politicos ever in view that have Adams’s extra forgiving lead. american citizens of 1841 have been with Adams in this one, too, and so Alexander Hunter and the others made certain the folks may mourn Harrison besides. in order that they prepared a huge funeral procession: army businesses, diplomats, cupboard contributors, newly anointed President John Tyler, and Harrison’s horse, outdated Whitey, have been one of the mourners (more than a mile of them) who walked with Harrison’s physique because it left the White apartment for a public viewing on the Capitol. * there have been bells, cannons, and funeral dirges; the past due president and his casket rode in a black and white carriage pulled by means of six white horses, escorted through a pallbearer for every of the country’s twenty-six states and held up on a raised dais so the 10 thousand those that became up may perhaps see. It used to be tough to overlook; one observer famous that the stark shades of the carriage and people accompanying it “struck the attention even from the best distance, and gave a chilling caution, previously, that the corpse was once drawing nigh. ” there has been a mild challenge with acknowledged corpse; specifically, what used to be to be performed with it as soon as the funeral festival used to be over? Anna Harrison sought after her husband despatched again to Ohio for burial, however the flooring there has been nonetheless too chilly for interment, and regardless, there has been no tomb there but to accommodate him. thankfully there has been a stopgap resolution quite a few blocks east of the Capitol, close to the Anacostia River: a spot often called Congressional Cemetery. The cemetery’s reputable identify used to be Washington Parish Burial Ground—it was once controlled by means of within reach Christ Church—but it picked up the nickname by means of turning into Congress’s go-to burial web site at a time while transport a lawmaker’s physique domestic used to be prohibitively dear. Railroad networks finally solved that challenge, so the cemetery all started erecting cenotaphs—grave markers with out bodies—for individuals of Congress who died in place of work. It used to be a pleasant gesture, yet many Capitol Hill eyebrows furrowed on the glance of these items: a cone-shaped piece on most sensible of a giant dice, which rests on a flat pedestal. In 1876 Congress voted to dispose of the cenotaph culture simply because, as George Frisbie Hoar of Massachusetts informed the Congress, erecting monuments as grotesque as those was once “adding new terrors to demise. ” “We’ve had 3 presidents—dead ones—as guests,” explains journey advisor Tim Krepp, as he unlocks a steel door to a wide constitution marked PUBLIC VAULT. Harrison used to be the 1st; John Quincy Adams and Zachary Taylor additionally hung out right here earlier than returning domestic. the interior is nondescript yet good and dry, the type of position you’d are looking to shop a president should you had to. This, Krepp says, used to be the total element of the vault: “Congress being older gentlemen—it used to be sizzling, they died—they wanted someplace to stash them. ” Krepp, incidentally, is donning a eco-friendly Congressional Cemetery T-shirt that reads “We Will discuss You After You’re long past” at the again. Irreverence, it seems, is whatever this burial flooring has in even better abundance than tombstones: counting on if you stopover at, you could encounter a craft beer tasting, a herd of goats clearing poison ivy and invasive weeds, or the once a year conflict of 1812–themed “Flee the British” 5K race, whole with costumed “Brits” shouting, “Flee, you cowardly Washingtonians!