Thursday, September 27, 2012

William Howard Taft 1909 - 1913

Taft's mother told the press, "I do not want my son to be President; he is not my candidate.  His is a judicial mind, and he loves the law."  Taft himself agreed with her, but his wife Nellie had had visions of herself in the White House since childhood.  And she got her way.

Nellie "rehearsed" for her occupancy of the White House by a reign first in the Philippines when Taft was assigned by President McKinley to set up a civil government.  Nellie gloried in the number of srvants, the five carriages, the 13 horses.  When she did get into the White House, she used so many of the furnishings from the Philippines that detractors started calling it "Malacanan Palace."

Taft moved from the Philippines to Secretary of War with Teddy Roosevelt's endorsement.  Roosevelt said of him, "The most lovable personality I have ever come in contact with."  Nellie insisted on riding next to him in the car taking him to his inauguration.  It wouldn't be the last time she broke with precedence. 

She made significant changes inside the White House.  All of the ushers, who had been white men in frock coats, suddenly became black men in blue livery.  Next she ordered that male White House servants were to be clean shaven -- Off with their beards and moustaches!

She not only changed the interior to reflect her love of Philippine ornamentation and furniture, she took her business outdoors to create Potomac Park and planted the famed cherry trees, which were a 2,000 strong gift of Mayor Ukio Ozaki, of Tokyo.

Despite Roosvelt's warning that the public considered it a frivolous past time, Taft insisted on setting the whole afternoon off for golf.    His vast weight (350 lbs.) hampered his swing as may be imagined.  He used extra-long clubs, a "baseball" grip and short, choppy swings. 

He loved traveling for two reasons - it got him away from work AND Nellie's watchful eyes.  Free from supervision, his appetite was sated.  He set a presidential record for taking vacations.  He would leave for his summer home in Beverly, Mass. with this instruction -- do NOT forward any mail to me.

Taft couldn't tie his own shoe laces; that was a job for his valet.  When he got stuck in the bathtub, it took two men to pull him out.  Finally he ordered a new tub that was 7 ft. long, 41 in. wide and weighed 1 ton. 

Nellie did not go to see Woodrow Wilson's inauguration.  Instead, she sadly roamed around the private quarters and at 12 noon exactly, she put on her hat and furs and walked out of the White House without a single word of farewell to anyone.

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