Sunday, March 21, 2010

"Old Fatty" Demands His Dollar


Inadvertently prompted in part by Frances Hunter, I picked up a copy of John S.D. Eisenhower's Zachary Taylor. The slim volume (roughly 140 pages of text, exclusive of endnotes, index, etc.), published by the Times Books imprint of Henry Holt & Co., is part of that publisher's American Presidents series.

John Eisenhower, as you probably know, is a son of President Dwight D. Eisenhower and himself a retired general. About half way through, I can report that the book is a straightforward, chronological review of Old Rough and Ready's life and career, divided almost exactly in half by the year 1848. Gen. Eisenhower writes decently and, although there are few frills, he has a good eye for the little stories that give the reader a better feel for the subject of the book. Here, for example, is a tale about Taylor in camp near Corpus Christi in 1845:
[O]n one occasion, according to a questionable source, a young lieutenant came by [Taylor's] tent to “see the general.” The general apparently absent, he approached an old man cleaning a saber and offered his new friend a dollar to clean his own. The young man returned the next day to retrieve his saber, only to discover that “Old Fatty,” as he had called the gentleman, was the general himself – who also said, “I'll take that dollar.”
About the illustration, entitled Knock'd into a cock'd hat, which strikes me as unusual because it relies almost entirely on the image and eschews the wordiness common in most political cartoons of the period:
Zachary Taylor's presidential nomination at the Whig national convention in Philadelphia on June 9, 1848, is represented as a severe blow to Lewis Cass, nominated by the Democrats a few weeks earlier. The extremely simple cartoon shows a cannon ball, marked with a portrait of Taylor, expelled by a cannon marked "Philadelphia Convention." The ball slams Cass backward into a large hat.

2 comments:

  1. Great cartoon, and I LOVED the anecdote about "Old Fatty." What great insight into Taylor's droll wit. How he must have relished the anticipation of the guy coming back, and the life-long humiliation that would ensue!

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  2. I'm glad you both liked the post. Thanks for letting me know. On Frances's point, I suspect that neither Taylor nor the "young lieutenant" anticipated that the joke would become quite so public, or long-lived!

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