Book cover - Know Your Presidents: Washington to Roosevelt

Presidents in Print...from George Washington to Donald Trump

February 2017

In the United States of America, President's Day is always celebrated on the third Monday in February, and that occasion will serve a short four-week term as the theme of this month's New York State Library public floor exhibit.

Left display case, with books on early presidents, from Washington to Fillmore.

Two or three print items representative of each of the 45 (to date) U.S. presidents have been selected for display, at least one of which carries an image of the chief executive in question. Rather than mining our most unique and precious holdings, from George Washington's vaulted dress sword and presentation pistol to signed presidential letters housed with our Manuscripts and Special Collections unit, in the interest of expediency and preservation all of these print items come from the general collections.

Center diplay case, with books on presidents from Fillmore to Hardingk

On a personal note, the best way to choose these examples was to physically shelf browse the Dewey 973s in the closed stacks where most of them are filed, waiting to serve again. Some of this was done on breaks and late in the day, to the point of almost accidentally getting locked in. What a privilege it is to have such temporary access, and what a heady experience for a book and history lover!

In the midst of periodic doubts about the staying power of print artifacts, deep-research libraries, and the very nature of democracy itself, there all these books and pamphlets lie in wait, a testament to the resiliency of these things, and a linear history lesson unto themselves. Since the founding of our country we have gone from the quill pen to the Internet, from fancy gilt-decoration embossed covers to glossy pictorial covers, and from "I cannot tell a lie" (the cherry tree myth) to The Art of the Deal. Who rose to greatness (hundreds of books on George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and Franklin Roosevelt)…and who perhaps did not (sorry Chester Arthur, only two on you in that section). Sprinkled among old-fashioned biographies and more modern scholarly treatments, rank invective rubs bindings with blind adulation, all in the service of the ultimate rendering and verdict of history.

Rigth display case, with books on 20th 20th and 21st century presidents, from Coolidge to Trump

The earliest item located is a George Washington funeral oration published in Albany in 1800. A list of the titles on display in the main exhibit cases is just below. The more modern presidents from John F. Kennedy onward are also represented by vintage and fresh periodical covers in the longer display cases that ring the elevator lobby.


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An Oration, on the Death of General Washington; Pronounced Before the Citizens of Albany, on Thursday, January 9th, 1800 by William P. Beers (1800)

The Ides of War: George Washington and the Newburgh Crisis by Stephen Howard Browne (2016)

George Washington: The Making of an American Symbol by Barry Schwartz (1987)

The Adams-Jefferson Letters: The Complete Correspondence Between Thomas Jefferson and Abigail and John Adams edited by Lester J. Cappon (1959)

Book truck full of books on the presidents for the exhibit.

The Adams Family in Auteuil, 1784-1785, As Told in the Letters of Abigail Adams (edited by Howard C. Rice, Jr. (1956)

The Revolutionary Writings of John Adams compiled by C. Bradley Thomas (2000)

Thomas Jefferson: A Biographical Companion by David S. Brown (1998)

Thomas Jefferson and His Unknown Brother Randolph: Twenty-Eight Letters Exchanged Between Thomas and Randolph Jefferson Concerning Such Homely Matters as Gerkins and Parsneps, Harness for a Gigg, a Spinning Jenny, the Education of a Nephew and the Death of a Sister, Some Bougies from Dr. Caspar Wistar, Shad and Carp from James River, the Mending of a Watch, a Shepherd Bitch and Her Puppies, as Well as Divers Other Domestic Subjects That Interested the Sage of Monticello and His Country-Squire Brother During the Years 1807 to 1815; Now for the First Time Put to Print, Together with an Introduction by Bernard Mayo (1942)

Mr. Jefferson's Women by John Kukla (2007)

Jefferson and Education by Jennings L. Wagoner, Jr. (2004)

The Last of the Fathers: James Madison and the Republican Legacy by Drew R. McCoy (1989)

Dolly Madison by Paul M. Zall (2001)

James Monroe by W. P. Cresson (1971)

A Narrative of a Tour of Observation, Made During the Summer of 1817 by James Monroe (1818)

Mr. and Mrs. John Quincy Adams: An Adventure in Patriotism by Dorothie Bobbé (1930)

An Exposition of the Political Character and Principles of John Quincy Adams, Showing by Historical Documents, and Incontestible Facts, That He Was Educated a Monarchist: Has Always Been Hostile to Popular Government, and Particularly to Its Great Bulwark, the Right of Suffrage: and That He Affected to Become a Republican Only to Attain the Power to Pervert and Degrade the Democratic Party; and to Pave the Way for Such a Change of the Constitution as Would Establish the United States, an Aristocratical and Hereditary Government (1827)

Poems of Religion and Society by John Quincy Adams (1854)

The Life of Andrew Jackson by John Reid and John Henry Eaton (2007 reprint of 1817 edition).

Andrew Jackson and the Bank of the United States: An Interesting Bit of History Concerning 'Old Hickory' by Stan V. Henkels (1928, No. 56 of 310 printed)

Andrew Jackson and Martin Van Buren by William O. Stoddard (1887)

Martin Van Buren: The Little Magician by Pierre-Marie Loizeau (2008)

Speeches Made in the Senate of the U.S. on the Rejection of Martin Van Buren as Minister to the Court of St. James (1832)

Afruf an die Deutschen Wähler: General Harrison's Leben und Wirken by Franz J. Grund (1840)

Discourse, on the Occasion of the Death of William Henry Harrison by Lyman Sperry (1841)

John Tyler: A President of Many Firsts by Jane C. Walker (2001)

John Tyler: A Bibliography compiled by Harold D. Moser (2001)

"Young Hickory": The Life and Times of President James K. Polk by Martha McBride Morrel (1949)

Slavemaster President: The Double Career of James Polk by William Dusinberre (2003)

Zachary Taylor: Soldier, Planter, Statesman of the Old Southwest by K. Jack Baer (1985)

Life of General Taylor, the Hero of Okee-Chobee, Palo Alto, Resaca de la Palma, Monterey, and Buena Vista (1847)

The Life and Public Services of Millard Fillmore by W. L. Barre (1856)

Is Millard Fillmore an Abolitionist? (1856)

Franklin Pierce: Young Hickory of the Granite Hills by Roy Franklin Nichols (1931)

Franklin Pierce: New Hampshire's Favorite Son by Peter A. Wallner (2004)

James Buchanan and His Cabinet on the Eve of Secession by Philip Gerald Auchampaugh (1926)

The Diary of a Public Man: An Intimate View of the National Administration December 28, 1860 to March 15, 1861, and A Page of Political Correspondence, Stanton to Buchanan (1945)

Lincoln in Photographs: An Album of Every Known Pose by Charles Hamilton and Lloyd Ostendorf (1963)

Abraham Lincoln Looks Across the Mall by Homer Eugene MacMaster (1932)

Lincoln and the Sleeping Sentinel: The True Story by L. E. Chittenden (1909)

The Impeachment of Andrew Johnson by Chester G. Hearn (2000)

Andrew Johnson—Not Guilty by George L. Tappan (1954)

The Life and Services as a Soldier of Major-General Grant, the Hero of Fort Donelson! Vicksburg! and Chattanooga!: Commander of the Military Division of the Mississippi; and Captor of 474 Cannon and Over Ninety Thousand Rebel Prisoners (1864)

The Ulyssiad: An American Epic by E. M. Souvielle (1896)

Life of U. S. Grant by Benjamin Perley Poore and O. H. Tiffany (1885)

Rutherford B. Hayes: Warrior and President by Ari Hoogenboom (1995)

In Memoriam, Brevet Maj.-Gen. Rutherford B. Hayes by Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States (1893?)

The Story of Garfield, Farm-Boy, Soldier, and President by William G. Rutherford (18??)

The Murder of James A. Garfield: The President's Last Days and the Trial and Execution of His Assassin by James C. Clark (1993)

Chester A. Arthur, A Quarter-Century of Machine Politics by George Frederick Howe (1957)

Index to the Chester A. Arthur Papers (1965)

Mr. Cleveland, A Personal Impression by Jesse Lynch Williams (1909)

Benjamin Harrison: Hoosier Warrior, 1833-1865 by Harry J. Sievers (1952)

Benjamin Harrison, 1883-1901: Chronology, Documents, Bibliographic Aids edited by Harry J. Sievers (1969)

Life and Public Services of Hon. Grover Cleveland, The Model Citizen, Eminent Jurist, and Efficient Reform Governor of the Empire State, Also the Unanimous Nominee of the Democratic Party for the Presidency of the United States… by William Dorsheimer (1884)

Major McKinley: William McKinley and the Civil War by William H. Armstrong (2000)

The Personality and Character of the Late President McKinley, as Citizen, Statesman and Friend: Address by Hon. S. V. White Delivered at Plymouth Church, Brooklyn, N.Y. on the Evening of September 22, 1901 (1901)

From the Ranch to the White House: Life of Theodore Roosevelt, Author, Legislator, Field Sportsman, Soldier, Reformer and Executive by Edwars S. Ellis (1906)

Roosevelt in Rhyme: A Historical Commemorative Souvenir, 100 Verses by N. A. Roselund (1919)

The Heart of Roosevelt: An Intimate Life-Story of Theodore Roosevelt (1923)

William Howard Taft, American by Robert Lee Dunn (1908)

William Howard Taft, A Character Study by Edward H. Cotton (1932)

Woodrow Wilson: The Essential Political Writings by Ronald J. Pestritto (2005)

Woodrow Wilson, the Dreamer and the Dream by Lucian Lamar Knight (1924)

Warren G. Harding—the Man by Joe Mitchell Chapple (1920)

Warren G. Harding, an Account of His Nomination for the Presidency by the Republican Convention of 1920 by Ray Baker Harris (1957)

Calvin Coolidge Meets Charles Edward Garman by John Almon Waterhouse (1984)

The Rise of Saint Calvin: Merry Sidelights on the Career of Mr. Coolidge by Duff Gilfond (1932)

The Truth About Hoover by Herbert Corey (1932)

Herbert Hoover at the Onset of the Great Depression, 1929-1930 by Robert Sobel (1975)

Franklin Roosevelt by Charles P. Hill (1966)

These Amazing Roosevelts by William L. Stidger (1938)

Majesty & Mischief; a Mixed Tribute to F.D.R. by William Smith White (1961)

The Eleanor Roosevelt Encyclopedia edited by Maurine H. Beasley et al (2001)

The New Deal as a Triumph of Social Work: Frances Perkins and the Confluence of Early Twentieth Century Social Work with Mid-Twentieth Century Politics and Government by Stephen Paul Miller (2016)

Harry S. Truman by Robert H. Ferrell (2003)

Talking with Harry: Candid Conversations with President Harry S. Truman edited by Ralph E. Weber (2001)

The Eisenhower Presidency, 1953-1961 by Richard V. Damms (2002)

The Quotable Dwight D. Eisenhower compiled and edited by Elsie Gollagher (1967)

Time magazine cover with a portrait of candidate John F. Kennedy

John F. Kennedy; What's Behind the Image…? by Victor Lasky (1960)

Crime of the Century: The Kennedy Assassination from a Historian's Perspective by Michael L. Kurtz (1993)

A Texan Looks at Lyndon: A Study in Illegitimate Power by J. Evetts Haley (1964)

The Choices We Face by Lyndon Baines Johnson (1969)

The Nixon Presidency: An Oral History of the Era by Deborah Hart Strober and Gerald S. Strober (2003)

The Arrogance of Power: The Secret World of Richard Nixon by Anthony Summers (2000)

White House Enemies; or, How We Made the Dean's List by Eugene J. McCarthy et al (1973)

Gerald R. Ford's Date with Destiny: A Political Biography by Edward L. and Frederick H. Schapsmeier (1989)

A Ford, Not a Lincoln by Richard Reeves (1975)

31 Days: Gerald Ford, The Nixon Pardon, and a Government in Crisis by Barry Werth (2006)

Jimmy Carter, Jimmy Carter by Gary Allen (1976)

Prophet from Plains: Jimmy Carter and His Legacy by Frye Gaillard (2007)

The President Who Failed: Carter Out of Control by Clark R. Mollenhoff (1980)

Our Endangered Values: America's Moral Crisis by Jimmy Carter (2005)

What Reagan is Doing to Us edited by Alan Gartner et al (1982)

Grinning with the Gipper: A Celebration of the Wit, Wisdom, and Wisecracks of Ronald Reagan edited by James S. Denton (1988)

Sleepwalking Through History: America in the Reagan Years by Haynes Johnson (2003)

The Reagan Presidency: Assessing the Man and His Legacy edited by Paul Kentor and Peter Schweizer (2005)

President Bush: The Challenge Ahead edited by Hoyt Gimlin (1989)

The Bush Presidency: Triumphs and Adversities edited by Dilys M. Hill and Phil Williams (1994)

Barbara Bush: Presidential Matriarch by Myra G. Gutin (2008)

The Press and the Bush Presidency by Mark J. Rozell (1996)

The Beat Goes On: President Clinton's First Year with the Media by Tom Rosenstiel (1994)

The Hunting of the President: The Ten-Year Campaign to Destroy Bill and Hillary Clinton by Joe Conason and Gene Lyons (2000)

The Clinton Scandals and the Politics of Image Restoration by Joseph R. Blaney and William L. Benoit (2001)

The Survivor: Bill Clinton in the White House by John F. Harris (2005)

The George W. Bush Presidency: An Early Assessment edited by Fred I. Greenstein (2003)

Saving General Washington: The Right Wing Assault on America's Founding Principles by J. R. Norton (2006)

Fortunate Son: George W. Bush and the Making of an American President by James Hatfield (2001)

A Tragic Legacy: How a Good vs. Evil Mentality Destroyed the Bush Presidency by Glenn Greenwald (2007)

Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance by Barack Obama (2004)

Barack Obama: Speeches 2002-2006 edited by Maureen Harrison and Steve Gilbert (2007)

Barack Obama, the New Face of American Politics by Martin Dupuis and Keith Boeckelman (2008)

The Trumps: Three Generations That Built an Empire by Gwenda Blair (2000)

Trump: The Art of the Deal by Donald J. Trump and Tony Schwartz (1987)

Stay tuned…

Two New Yorker covers, showing Presidents Obama and Trump in styles from the Revolutionary era.

Exhibit curated by Shawn Purcell

Last Updated: February 14, 2017