Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The new book has arrived!

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Well, it's arrived at my publisher, anyway. Here's a pic they sent me. I should be getting a copy in a day or two, and it should be in stores within the next few weeks. Very exciting!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Not so fast, Besse!

Last week I told you about 114-year-old Besse Cooper of Georgia, who Guinness World Records has named the world's oldest person. Turns out Besse has some competition for the title: The family of Rebecca Lanier of Ohio claims she just turned 119. Problem is, Rebecca has no birth certificate, so Guinness won't recognize her claim. (Rebecca is African American, and her family points out that birth certificates were not always issued for African Americans born in 1892.) Maybe Besse and Rebecca should just duke it out, UFC-style! Anyway, don't worry: I will be following this story very closely and providing regular updates.

Friday, March 25, 2011


I usually don't post contemporary political stuff, but this is just too hilarious. It's Newt Gingrich pulling a classic flip-flop on Libya. Reminds me of the Grover quote, "What's the use of being elected unless you stand for something?" Or, in Newt's case, unless you stand for everything. Or maybe nothing.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

A New World's Oldest Person

The world has a new oldest person: 114-year-old Besse Cooper of Monroe, Georgia. Congratulations, Besse, and long may you reign! Besse was born in Tennessee on August 26, 1896, during the last year of Grover Cleveland's second term. She is among the last of the "Grover babies," children born during Cleveland's two administrations.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Grover Cleveland Birthplace Event

Allyson and I had a wonderful time Saturday at the annual Grover Cleveland Birthday Conference. Many thanks to David, Sharon, and everyone else at the Grover Cleveland Birthplace for making it such an outstanding event. If you ever have the opportunity, please do visit the Cleveland birthplace. It's in Caldwell, New Jersey, a very charming town that's an easy drive from New York and Philadelphia. I'm a little biased, of course, but I think it's splendid!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Annual Grover Cleveland Birthday Conference Presents: A Lecture By Matthew Algeo

The President Is a Sick Man

10 a.m., Saturday March 19th, 2011

Author and journalist, Matthew Algeo, will speak on the secret surgery of President Cleveland in 1893, the ensuing cover-up, and the news reporter who, after publishing the story, was labeled a liar and a “disgrace to journalism”. Twenty-four long years would pass before one of Cleveland’s doctors finally revealed the truth.

As a journalist, Algeo has reported from three continents. His stories have been featured on public radio programs; All Things Considered, Marketplace, and Morning Edition. Mr. Algeo is the author of Harry Truman's Excellent Adventure, named one of the Best Books of 2009 by the Washington Post, and Last Team Standing, a history of the Eagles and the Steelers. Wife, Allyson, works for the United States government as a Foreign Service officer. The couple currently resides in Washington.

Excerpts from his latest book, The President is a Sick Man:

“. . . some presidents have gone to remarkable lengths to hide their infirmities . . . Edith Wilson, for all intents and purposes, oversaw the executive branch after her husband’s stroke. It has been said that she could be considered the country’s first female president. . . .Even his valet knew Harding was deathly ill, telling a Secret Service agent that “something is going to happen to our boss . . .”

“. . . at the very moment President Cleveland was slumped, unconscious, in a makeshift operating room . . . the nation's attention was fixed on the opposite end of New York State . . .A steeplejack and tightrope walker . . . was attempting to cross a wire strung over Niagara Falls. According to one report . . .”

Date: Saturday, March 19th

Time: 9:30 Registration, Lecture 10 am, Luncheon to follow

Location: First Presbyterian Church at Caldwell, 326 Bloomfield Ave., Caldwell NJ

Fee: $25 fee for lecture and luncheon.

Free admission to Grover Cleveland Historic Site

Registration: In advance: 973-226-0001

Or register at the door.

Event Sponsored by: The Grover Cleveland Birthplace Memorial Association

Sunday, March 13, 2011

We honor this month...

Snapped a photo of this sign at 30th Street Station in Philadelphia yesterday. Wow. What a load of ungrammatical gibberish. Besides, what, exactly, is being honored? "This month"? I suspect Amtrak intended to "honor" Black History Month - which ended nearly two weeks ago.

Saturday, March 05, 2011

Grover and Harry in Wax

I got to "meet" Grover Cleveland and Harry Truman today! Allyson and I went to the new Presidents Exhibit at Madame Tussauds here in Washington. Despite a few factual errors (JFK was not the youngest president, TR was), it's an excellent exhibit. Click here to see more pictures from our visit.

Goodbye, Frank Buckles

I happened to be working on the newscast desk at NPR last Sunday when the news came across the wire that Frank Buckles, America’s last surviving First World War veteran, had passed away at the age of 110. (He died of natural causes incidentally; I remember calling Allyson to tell her that Jimmy Stewart had died, and her reaction was, “How?” As if he might have died in a parachuting accident.)

I never met Frank, but I feel like I’ve come to known him over the years. I really respected him for embracing his role as the Last Man Standing. He understood the importance of his place in history. He was America’s last living link to the Great War. One week ago, I (or you) could have spoken with spoken with someone who had experienced that war firsthand. Now that opportunity is gone forever. The first draft of the history of the First World War is finished.

I’ve been fascinated by the First World War since I was a kid, and saw the veterans marching at the head of all the parades in Perkasie. (I also remember seeing a few Spanish-American War veterans in the parades, as well; weird to think that I remember the veterans of a nineteenth-century war.) When I worked at Minnesota Public Radio in the mid 90s I did a story about First World War vets for Veterans Day on year. I remember meeting a 99-year-old vet from Wisconsin who still bowled in a league twice a week. He’d shaken hands with Teddy Roosevelt. So I shook the hand that shook the hand...

Another vet I met had lived in the same Minneapolis apartment since the 1920s. His apartment was a time machine. The lamps, appliances, and furniture were at least fifty years old. The neighborhood had changed rather dramatically; it was populated almost entirely by Laotians. It was like something from the movie Being There.

As a history buff, I was drawn to these men. It was almost inconceivable that I could interview soldiers who had served in the trenches on the Western Front. I knew that was a rare opportunity, and I’m glad I took it, because now it’s gone.

Thank you, Frank Buckles. Thank you for your service to our country, and for bearing the standard of your colleagues with incalculable grace.

If the last surviving Second World War veteran lives as long as Frank did, he or she will live until 2039. I just hope I make it that long!

UPDATE: Turns out John Boehner and Harry Reid are refusing to allow Frank's body to lie in the Capitol Rotunda.