|The new President Hayes (right) is seen in the colorized etching along with
outgoing President Ulysses Grant (left). Hayes had already been
sworn in at a secret White House ceremony two days earlier.
Click on photos to enlarge.
Sunday, October 4, 2015
Rutherford B. Hayes Portraits
Rutherford B. Hayes was born on October 4, 1822. If you uttered out loud, or in your mind, "who?" you're not alone. As suggested by the fact that there are only two major portraits of the 19th President of the United States, any questioning reaction is quite valid and understandable. He was very much an insignificant president. In fact, his wife, Lucy Webb Hayes, better known by the nickname, "Lemonade Lucy," is perhaps better known for never having served alcohol in the White House than for anything her husband did as president. The official, White House Portrait of Rutherford Birchard Hayes (above) is by Daniel Huntington, who also painted Mrs. Hayes (bottom) and her husband's successor, Chester A. Arthur, (whose birthday is tomorrow on October 5th). Huntington was a good choice for both portraits as he was as insignificant as an artist as the two presidents he painted. Both portraits are rather staid, conservative, imminently boring images typical of Victorian era portraiture in the United States.
The choice of Eliphalet Frazer Andrews to paint the National Portrait Gallery (NPG) image of Hayes (above) is equally appropriate. His style is quite similar to Huntington's. Andrews has three portraits hanging in the White House all painted posthumously, the full-length portraits of Martha Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Andrew Johnson. None are particularly outstanding, though the one of Martha Washington is modestly charming. The earliest painted portrait of Hayes (left) has him in full uniform as a major general in the Union Army. He earned his rank the hard way. He was wounded in combat five times and cited for his bravery in battle more often than that. Compared to his presidential portraits, this one is a notch above the others with its associated background and nicely lit face. You can at least see his mouth in this painting.
Hayes came to the White House after one term in Congress and a couple two-year terms as Governor of Ohio. A reasonably good portrait of Hayes as governor (left) is also by an unknown artist. Despite his political background, however, Hayes was very much a dark horse compromise nominee of the Republican party when the frontrunner, James G. Blaine of Maine, could not amass sufficient convention delegate support to clinch the nomination. Hayes was nominated on the seventh ballot. His vice-presidential running mate was William A. Wheeler of New York, whom Hayes had never met. Hayes is said to ask after Wheeler's nomination, "I am ashamed to say: Who is Wheeler?" If the convention turmoil was peculiar by today's standards, the presidential election of 1876 was a nightmare. Hayes lost the popular vote by some 250,000 while Samuel J. Tilden, his Democratic opponent, lost the presidency by one electoral vote. Some twenty electors from three still war-torn states in the South were contested. A bi-partisan Electoral Commission, just days before the March 4th, 1877 inaugural ceremony, eventually awarded them to Hayes in a dark and dirty backroom deal. In return for the 20 electoral votes making him president, Hayes agreed to the removal of federal troops still stationed in those three states to enforce the newly-passed 14th amendment, which had awarded former slaves the right to vote. Nearly one-hundred years of black voter suppression followed.
Today, the four years of the Hayes administration are hardly remember for much of any of real historic importance, other than Lucy Hayes' ban on alcohol and the fact that President Hayes had the first telephone installed in the White House (also the first typewriter). It was 1877; the phone wasn't used much. In fact there was only one other party on the line, the U.S. Treasury Department next door. The phone was installed by Alexander Graham Bell himself; the White House phone number was "1". Hayes is reported to have commented, "It's a great invention, but who'd want to use one?" The quotation has since been widely disputed. At right, Hayes is represented in a Smithsonian exhibit commemorating the event. Rutherford B. Hayes, along with all the other presidents, were also commemorated in a sculpture park just outside Williamsburg, Virginia (below).
Texas artist, David Adickes, had a dream to create his own Mount Rushmore of sorts, but one people could touch, unlike the mountainside megaliths that reside in South Dakota. Also, he wanted to include more of the Presidents. Formerly a painter, and then with more focus as a Sculptor, Mr. Adickes made some of the sculptures. But, it seemed no one wanted these heads and there was no formality or completeness to their display. Adickes was a man with a dream. He built a park near Williamsburg. Mr. Adickes is now 87 years old and as long as he's alive, he plans to make future heads when new Presidents are elected. (He's yet to do President Obama.) The park opened in 2004, but then closed in 2010. Adickes defaulted on the $3.3-million loan used to create the park. The property was put up for auction in 2012. Today, Rutherford B. Hayes' bust and all the others have been sent to a local farm.
Posted by Jim Lane at 12:01 AM