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FEBRUARY 27, 2011
I'm still on vacation and no, I'm not bored but decided to comment on a book I'm reading before February is behind us. I've got way too many books and while I've been home I've managed to rearrange some yet again. Browsing my shelves I came across this one from The History Channel:
The Greatest Presidential Stories Never Told: 100 tales from history to astonish, bewilder, and stupefy
This seemed the perfect book to thumb through during February, as I think of it as the month of presidents with the celebration of the birthdays of Washington and Lincoln. Now I don't know if the stories told here are truly astonishing but they do offer some fun trivia and things about the presidents that I didn't know. Right at the start there's an interesting story about a custody battle that could have had great ramifications on our history. A man named George Gale married a widow, Mildred from Virginia, and they made their home in London. Mildred had three children from her previous marriage but died in childbirth. George was directed to raise his stepchildren. He applied for custody. Mildred's first husband started a custody battle and after years in court it was ruled that the children should return to Virginia and be raised by relatives. Mildred's first husband was Lawrence Washington. Their son Augustine, had three sons, one who he named after his stepfather, George Gale, none other than our first president, George Washington.
Washington shows up in many other stories in the book. One tells about the fortune he made as a whiskey manufacturer. After two terms as president, he returned to Mount Vernon and was seeking new ways to make his farm profitable. He considered liquor "essential to the health of men" and built a distillery. His chief products were rye and Indian corn, and in 1799, his distillery made eleven thousand gallons of rye whiskey and earned a profit of $7500. Not bad for those days.
To my surprise, most of the stories about Lincoln I had heard. The one about his body snatching, another about a dream he had before his death. Perhaps this is because I have read a few Lincoln biographies and these were mentioned.
If I have any gripe with the book, it's that there is no index or table of contents that make it easy to find a story about a favorite president, a real flaw, in my opinion. Other than this complaint, I am enjoying my reading of presidential lore.