Five Favorites: Ulysses S. Grant’s White Haven

Five Favorites: Ulysses S. Grant’s White Haven

We recently traveled to the Ulysses S. Grant National Historic Site in St. Louis, Missouri. Here are five things that stuck with us after our visit to White Haven.

Paris Green Paint

So, you’re telling me that White Haven is actually green? Say what you will, the Paris green paint color works.

After analyzing layers of paint and historical documents, historians determined the house was Paris green during Grant’s ownership.

The Icehouse

We were immediately drawn to this red building that appeared to be sunken into the ground.

This is the Grants’ icehouse, and it was used to keep perishable items cool—like a nineteenth century refrigerator.

During winter months, blocks of ice were cut from local water sources and packed in saw dust (for insulation). According to our tour, the ice could stay frozen until June!

The Memoirs

This signed first-edition copy of Grant’s personal memoirs reminds the visitor of a full life. 

Throughout the tour, we reflected on the ups and downs of Grant’s life: from struggling farmer to Civil War hero. And from becoming president of the United States to enduring near financial ruin in his later years.

Grant completed his memoirs shortly before his death, and the work remains a valuable historical resource.

Grant’s Farm

Adjacent to the U.S. Grant National Historic Site, you’ll notice Grant’s Farm, a family park owned by Anheuser-Busch.

Inside the park’s gates, you’ll find Grant’s Hardscrabble cabin. Ulysses and Julia lived here for only a short time: from September 1856 to January 1857.

The Hardscrabble cabin was dismantled and moved three times before it found its present location at Grant’s Farm.  

A Great Reminder

On the way out of the site, we snapped this picture. It’s a great reminder that we all have a part in preserving our country’s past.


St. Louis, Missouri

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President Songs Mixtape

President Songs Mixtape

President Songs Mixtape

Every once in a while music and history collide in interesting ways. Dust off your cassette player. It’s time for songs about the presidents.

President Playlist

“Eisenhower Blues”

J.B. Lenoir

In his distinctive voice, J.B. Lenoir sings of difficult times in Eisenhower’s America. The song was eventually re-recorded and renamed “Tax Payin’ Blues.”

“Mister Garfield”

Johnny Cash

The Man in Black recounts the assassination of James A. Garfield. The upbeat and haunting chorus sticks around long after the song ends.

“James K. Polk”

They Might Be Giants

They Might Be Giants always deliver on the geeky history songs. This is their folky tale of “Young Hickory,” “Napoleon of the Stump.”

“Ronnie, Talk to Russia”


Watch out for the snare drum attack on this one. In this Cold War cut, Prince urges Reagan to talk to Russia before nuclear war breaks out.

“Funky President (People It’s Bad)”

James Brown

The Godfather of Soul recorded this song after Richard Nixon’s resignation, and Gerald Ford is the “brand new funky president.”

“We’d Like to Thank You, Herbert Hoover”

Annie Ensemble, Charles Strouse, Peter Howard 

In this bitter song about President Hoover, the cast from Annie laments about hard times during the Great Depression.

“Abraham, Martin & John”

Marvin Gaye 

Marvin Gaye sings of loss in this song that mentions Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Jr., John F. Kennedy, and Robert F. Kennedy.


All Music Guide,

Mississippi Blues Trail,


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Three Presidents, One Year

Three Presidents, One Year

Three Presidents, One Year

Imagine a year with three presidents. It’s happened twice: once in 1841 and again in 1881. We made an infographic about the second time it happened in 1881.  A time line of events and a primary source follow.

A Time Line of Events


Rutherford B. Hayes is a lame duck president, waiting for the end of his term.

MARCH 4, 1881

James A. Garfield is inaugurated as the 20th president.

JULY 2, 1881

After only four months as president, Garfield is shot in a Washington, DC train station.

JULY 1881

Alexander Graham Bell attempts to locate the bullet with his metal detector.

Image: Events related to the assassination of President Garfield, Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper, August 20, 1881 (Library of Congress)


SEPTEMBER 19, 1881

President Garfield dies after an eighty-day fight to survive. Chester A. Arthur is sworn in as the 21st president.

One Eventful Year

The events of 1881 remind us that we can persist through times of uncertainty, and perhaps we can learn a thing or two from studying the past.

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Davis, Kenneth C., and Pedro Martin. Don’t Know Much about the Presidents. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2014.

DeGregorio, William A., and Aaron Jaffe. The Complete Book of U.S. Presidents. Fort Lee, NJ: Barricade Books, Inc., 2017.

Kane, Joseph Nathan, and Janet Podell. Facts about the Presidents: A Compilation of Biographical and Historical Information. New York: H.W. Wilson, 2009.


Encyclopedia Britannica,

Library of Congress,

Miller Center, University of Virginia,

The White House,

Five Favorites: Theodore Roosevelt National Park

Five Favorites: Theodore Roosevelt National Park

One can’t think about national parks without Teddy Roosevelt coming to mind. So why not visit the park named after him? Here are our five favorites from TR National Park.


Seeing a bison was at the top of our list. So, naturally, during our drive through the park, we had a family discussion about the correct name for bison. “It’s bison, not buffalo,” we said to our kids.

But during a hike when our oldest son saw a bison standing just feet away in the middle of our path, he calmly said, “Buffalo.” We all knew exactly what he was talking about. Our youngest son snapped this picture.

Small Town Medora

When we travel to a new place, we often ask ourselves, “Where will we get coffee?” And, “Is it kid-friendly?” The small town of Medora borders Theodore Roosevelt National Park. So, there are plenty of places to grab lunch or to buy that official Teddy Roosevelt teddy bear.

Trail Time

The trails in this park are amazing! There’s something for every type of hiker. It’s easy to drive around the park and get out for a short hike. Plus, there’s all kinds of wildlife around: prairie dogs, wild horses, bison. Here we are on a trail at the top of Buck Hill, one of the highest points in the park.

TR’s Cabin Tour

A real gem of the park! You must see Theodore Roosevelt’s Maltese Cross Cabin. It’s right outside of the South Unit Visitor Center. We listened to a wonderful ranger-led tour (about thirty minutes long). Be sure to take a look inside as well. 

TR’s Undershirt

We didn’t expect to see this one in the South Unit Visitor Center. But there it was: TR’s undershirt with bullet hole and all. In 1912, Roosevelt survived an assassination attempt in Milwaukee, and then proceeded to give a planned address. We assume this shirt is the real deal.

“I will make this speech or die!”

-Theodore Roosevelt, after being shot on October 14, 1912 in Milwaukee, WI


Medora, North Dakota

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Five Favorites: Mount Rushmore

Five Favorites: Mount Rushmore


Mt. Rushmore

Somewhere in the black mining hills of South Dakota there lives Mount Rushmore. Let’s explore five cool things at Rushmore and the surrounding area!


Take the Presidential Trail for a closer look

The trail is a loop, so you have a choice between two starting points. The path to the left (as you face Rushmore) is much easier on the way up. The path to the right is a steep walk with 422 stairs, but it’s paved and shaded most of the way. Much better walk this side of the loop on the way down.


Stop by the Sculptor’s Studio

The presidents had bodies in the original plan? Once inside the studio, you can’t miss the 1/12 scale model of Mount Rushmore. This is the place where sculptor Guzton Borglum worked from 1939 to 1941.


The Space Between the Rocks

We snapped this picture while on the Presidential Trail. We crawled into a space between two large rocks and looked up to see this.


Be sure to see the Crazy Horse Memorial

Down the road from the presidents, you’ll find another memorial–this one dedicated to the Lakota leader Crazy Horse. It’s a work in progress and much larger than Mount Rushmore. In fact, the presidents’ four heads could fit on Crazy Horse’s outstretched arm.


Test your driving skills (and nerves) on the Needles Highway

Jokes aside, this is one of the most beautiful drives we’ve ever experienced. It took about an hour or so. The environment in Custer State Park is just phenomenal. Get out and explore at stops along the way. But be ready, the road gets very narrow with a couple of one-way tunnels that really tested this Illinoisan’s nerve. Iron Creek Tunnel is about 9′ wide and 11” tall.

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