Archive for the ‘ Obscure Historical Information ’ Category

Etymology, A Real Buzz!!

Getting ready for the weekend?

Planning on opening a bottle of “booze” or two?

Do you know where the word came from?

Neither did I, but once again, reading comes in handy!

In that pesky election of 1840 when Horace Greely said Martin Van Buren was a “groveling demagogue…” who “slimed his way into the Presidency…” one entrepreneur, the E. C. Booz Distillery of Philadelphia, the owner of which was supporting William Henry Harrison, came UP with the idea for Log Cabin shaped whiskey bottles in support of the “Log Cabin” candidate!

If you’ll remember, he wasn’t a log cabin guy!

But, since the bottles not only said “Log Cabin Whiskey” and had E. C. Booz on them…well, it stuck.

Tippecanoe Tobacco didn’t do so well, but that was OK!

All I Said Was…

… “The average American says the word OK seven times a day.”

OK is a relatively young word when one compares it to the span of time.

So, where’d it come from?

It’s political.

During the presidential campaign of 1840, Martin Van Buren was running for re-election and was opposed by William Henry Harrison.

Van Buren, a little remembered President was fighting for his political life in the battle.  His rise to power from Kinderhook in New York State was epic and there are many lessons to be learned from his technique, style, and practices.  Many of the political practices we use today came from Van Buren’s New York machine.

He created a regency in NY, unseated powerful men along the way, and landed in the White House as Andrew Jackson’s anointed successor.

The parallels to current stories are compelling, and his biography in the American President Series is a “can’t putter downer.”

Yeah, yeah, I know, you’re yawning.  But I love this stuff.

Anyway, his opponent, William Henry Harrison was touted as living in a log cabin, being a country boy, drinking hard cider, a real man’s man and a man of the people.

Harrison born on a Plantation along the James River called Berkley, was the son of a slave holder, and a descendent of the first families of Virginia.  He was also a military hero in the vein of Jackson even if his politics were the polar opposite.

He was no country boy.

Van Buren on the other hand, born in a tavern to a working class and often broke family, clawed his way UP to the top of the political podium, and saw his fortunes fall with the panic of 1837.

Imagine politicians being deceitful in self-representation!!

Well I Nevah!

There is a list a mile long of where the term OK possibly came from, but the most accepted one tells us it comes from the time of President Van Buren’s second campaign.

Seems the folks in Boston started using it as a substitute for the slang term oll korrect.

The fad took off in Bean Town around the summer of 1838 where abbreviations were coming into vogue.

NG was no go, GT was gone to Texas, and SP was small potatoes…

..and OK stood in for oll correct.

While William Henry Harrison’s campaign slogan “Tippecanoe and Tyler Too,” stirred the masses and reminded them that Harrison was a great military man and Indian fighter, and referenced his victory over Tecumseh at Tippecanoe,  it also reminded them that Van Buren was a politician from the start and never donned a uniform.

Van Buren’s campaign slogan “Independent Treasury and Liberty,” while full of good ideas, didn’t ring anyone’s bell, so his supporters started telling folks things were “OK with Old Kinderhook” since Van Buren was from Kinderhook, NY.

Things were not OK.

Van Buren raked in 60 electoral votes, Harrison 234.

BTW, the election of 1840 was the first time campaign slogans were used in American politics. Slogans of course have become altogether OK!

My sister, Zola, has been bossing me around since I was born; recently she suggested that I do a series of posts on the Vice Presidents of the United States.

I’m not so sure about that as the one post I did on Levi Morton was a – what’s the word – a bomb.

As in no one cared.

But as she generally gets her way, I am doing some research on the men who held the office and while doing so I found this little story.

Floride Calhoun was the wife of the fiery South Carolinian, John C.Calhoun.  Born in 1792, Floride was the daughter of John E. Colhoun, a US Senator from the Palmetto State.  She married John C. Calhoun (yes the names are spelled differently) who was her first cousin once removed.

Please do not make me go through that once removed bit again.

Shortly after their nuptials, John C. was elected to Congress and headed off to D.C.

Floride was left at home to run the plantation, Fort Hill. (Fort Hill is located in Clemson, SC.)  Over the next 18 years, the couple would have five sons and five daughters.

Apparently, he got home once in a while.

One of the daughters married Thomas Green Clemson a Confederate soldier who would later go on to found Clemson College the campus of which contains the Fort Hill mansion once occupied by John C. and Floride Calhoun.  It’s a great tour, and is one of the few historic homes with more than 85% of its original furnishings. Clemson believed that if the south were to revive, it would be through agriculture and engineering and was forward thinking enough to know education was key.

But, again, shiny object, and I’m off track…

Floride’s claim to fame was not her 10 children, her mansion, plantation, or son-in-law turned educator, it was a Washington D.C. scandal.

Imagine that, a southern belle with an axe to grind…well, bless her heart!

Called the Petticoat Affair, the scandal occurred while her husband was the Vice President during Andrew Jackson’s presidency.

Seems one Peggy Eaton, the wife of the Secretary of War was considered by Floride as a woman of low morals. Floride took the lead in a social sabotage of Peggy when she organized a coalition among the spouses of the Jackson cabinet.

What was so wrong with poor Peggy that Floride felt she must lead the charge against her?

Well, Floride was sure Peggy had committed adultery and was behaving scandalously in DC.

John Marszalek, a historian, puts it this way, “…she did not know her place, she forthrightly spoke UP about anything that came to her mind, even topics of which women were supposed to be ignorant…”

Marszalek goes on to say that Peggy put herself out there in a manner unacceptable for a woman of her day.  Floride, a self appointed self-righteous arbiter of behavioral standards, felt that if society accepted Peggy, then society was in danger of disruption.


In reality, Peggy though educated far beyond most women of her day and musically inclined and trained, was uncouth, probably impure, shockingly outspoken, forward, and worldly; and most assuredly played around on her husband with Eaton and others.

Bring someone like this into the sacred social circle of the cabinet wives, and morality and virtue were out the window.  Society’s defenses would be worthless.

Peggy as a person wasn’t all that important, it was what she represented that was a threat.

Floride felt that “proper” women had no choice but to shun and scorn this woman or morality would be threatened, and possibly destroyed.

In other words, it was the beginning of the end.

It was the beginning of the end of the Jackson-Calhoun friendship, partnership as well, and any chances of Calhoun becoming President.

As the scandal grew, Jackson’s cabinet, led by Calhoun opposed the President, and all but one resigned in 1831.

According to historian David Howe, the assault of Eaton and in reality, the President, led by Mrs. Calhoun was a birthing of feminism.

The cabinet wives insisted that the honor of all women was at stake, and a woman should never “…accord a man sexual favors without the assurance that went with marriage…”

Howe insists that this feminist spirit was essential over the next decade in shaping the woman’s rights movement.

So, what was Peggy’s sin?

She was noted for her beauty, wit, and vivacity.

A popular widow and the owner of a hotel in DC, her marriage to Eaton shortly after her 1st husband’s death was part of the crime.

Seems Floride and her cabinet wife cronies got the idea Peggy’s first husband, John Timberlake, had committed suicide while at sea upon hearing of his wife’s affair with Eaton.

Yes, Floride was convinced Peggy had taken the lid off the cookie jar for the Secretary of War sans the nuptials.

And that, my friends is the scandal.

A rumor, some gossip, no facts, no proof, no validation, and all these lives are altered!

Yes, Floride can be bad for you, it was bad for Peggy, and it was bad for Calhoun’s career.

Who’s That Guy?

Today is Levi P. Morton’s birthday.

Few will care, and most people have never heard of him.

He was the 22nd Vice President of the United States, the first VP to President Benjamin Harrison of Ohio.

Ben had two, more on that in a few…

Born in Vermont, a PK, he grew UP there and planned on a business career.  He started by clerking in stores, relocated to New York City and became a banker.

Politics called.

He was Conkling Crony and was elected to two terms in the US House of Representatives.

In 1880, James A. Garfield pulled a Palin on the Party and tapped him for the second banana slot in an effort to win over the Conkling folks who were still smarting that their choice to lead the party had lost out to Garfield.

Morton declined the offer paving the way for Chester A. Arthur.

After Garfield won, he offered the plum position of Minister Plenipotentiary to France to Morton.  Morton jumped at the chance to spend a few years on the Avenue des Champs-Élysées.

In 1888, Morton accepted the offer for the Veep slot when Benjamin Harrison reached out to him.

They won.

But, all didn’t go well.

His big failure was the Lodge Bill.  The bill was an election law which would enforce the voting rights of African Americans in the South.  Morton was played “like a piano” by the Senate Democrats opposed to black suffrage and seemingly did “…little to support the bill against a Democratic filibuster…”

Harrison was ticked.

Harrison believed Morton showed too much favoritism to the “opposition party” and bumped him from the ticket.

Harrison then tapped Whitelaw Reid to replace Morton and lost to Grover Cleveland making Cleveland the first Democrat to be elected since the end of the Civil War.

Morton became the Governor of New York in 1895.

After his public service he became a real estate investor and got seriously rich!

His claim to fame, other than being booted from the ticket, is that he was the second longest living Vice President; he died on his 96th birthday in 1920.

I could find no surviving quotes.

His legacy is abysmal: there is a town named for him in Illinois.

Seriously, that’s it, well other than those righteous side-burns.