Monday, February 21, 2005

On President's Day, Banality Fair Recognizes: Chester A. Arthur

Chester Arthur is kind of the Ringo Starr of Presidents. Arthur kind of gets a bum rap for being associated with Senator Conkling (NY) and the cronyism, patronage and corruption that shrouded the then very important Customs House in the late 1800s. As Vice President, he even went so far as to stand with Conkling against President Garfield -- Arthur's boss and perpeutal nemesis to Odie -- in the battle to reform the Customs House. One of the major battles of the Garfield-Conkling Customs House war was the battle over lasagna tariffs. Garfield, of course, was pro dropping the tarifs; Conkling sought to raise the tax on lasagna imports and would probably have skimmed some of the receipts to line his own pockets. The impasse was broken when both realized lasagna didn't exist in America yet.

But, once he became president (succeeded Garfield after he was assassinated by a crazy lawyer who had been rejected for a consular position), Arthur actually reversed course and worked diligently to crack down on the patronage, ineptitude and corruption of the late 19th century U.S. civil service.

He was a hardcore anti-immigration advocate though. According to his official White House biography, "The Arthur Administration enacted the first general Federal immigration law. Arthur approved a measure in 1882 excluding paupers, criminals, and lunatics." The lunatic ban made particular sense because by 1882, certain states, like Missouri and Connecticut, where anywhere from 75-80% crazy already. The whole state of Rhode Island was actually surrounded by protective padding until 1914.

Arthur fun fact #1: Ever the fashion maven and trend-setter, Arthur was one of the first 19th century dandies to make the lush side whiskers, clean-shaven chin look popular and sexy. Also, one of his major projects as President was to remodel the White House to make it more "homey."

Arthur fun fact #2: I didn't make most of the above up. Seriously, there really was a President of the United States named Chester Arthur. And most of Connecticut is still fucking insane.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Where do you find the time to learn all these useless facts about obscure Presidents?

7:57 AM  
Blogger Henry Baum said...

My guess is it took Joseph K. days, maybe weeks, to learn about the legendary lasagna tariffs. Sometimes you have to make sacrifices.

2:10 PM  
Blogger Joseph K said...

Excellent query. I learned all of the facts regarding President Arthur in the 30 minutes it took me to get a PHD in American History from the University of Phoenix.

8:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

8:01 PM  
Blogger Joseph K said...

P.S. The erased comment is my comment (forgot to login, so it posted as anonymous; republished under my name). And now back to regular programming.

8:03 PM  

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