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National Presidential Joke Day: 100 Years of Presidential Jokes

August 11 is a day to recognize and enjoy the wit of our nation’s commander-in-chiefs. Though presidents are usually the butt of jokes and mockery, they occasionally make some wisecracks of their own. National Presidential Joke Day began 32 years ago in 1984 during a sound check for Ronald Reagan’s Saturday evening radio broadcast. Unaware that he was live, Reagan jokingly said, “My fellow Americans, I’m pleased to tell you today that I’ve signed legislation that will outlaw Russia forever. We begin bombing in five minutes.” Though most Americans found the situation hilarious, Soviet officials temporarily put the military on high alert. To celebrate National Presidential Joke Day, we bring you 100 years of presidential jokes, quips and humor.

Victoria Woodhull's Radical Run for President

American Experience intern, Tayla Wilson, did a lot of research on presidential history this semester. Here, she weighs in on her favorite female presidential candidate in U.S. history.

The Women Behind the Woman Who Inspired the Environmental Movement

Nestled beside an ad for mayonnaise in the July 1956 edition of the Woman's Home Companion, ecologist Rachel Carson pens an appeal to mothers to foster an interest of the natural world in their children. She reassures even the most skeptical matriarch that "exploring nature with your child is largely a matter of becoming receptive to what lies all around you." 


John Paul Stapp and the Ghosts that Never Happened

In 1954, Dr. John Paul Stapp--then a brash, celebrity lieutenant-colonel in the United States Air Force--was perusing air crew fatality records when something dawned on him: far more pilots were dying in car crashes on Air Force bases than in airplane crashes. For nearly a decade, Stapp had been conducting exotic and dangerous research into the capacities of human beings to endure extreme dynamic force.


The Front Porch Campaign of 1880

In 1880, the “surprise” presidential nomination of Ohioan James A. Garfield by the Republicans resulted in a campaign that, unlike any before it, regularly brought citizens and the candidate face-to-face. It was conducted on the front porch of Garfield's home.

Prior to 1880, it was considered undignified for anyone to actively seek the presidency. Nominees did not travel from state to state or city to city to tell voters that they had the solutions for the country's problems. Expected to emulate the example of George Washington, they were to remain above the fray. The sitting president, Rutherford B. Hayes, spoke to this tradition when he advised Garfield to "sit cross-legged and look wise until after the election."

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An Uncomfortable History: Coming to Terms with the Mine Wars

My Grandmother hated it when her father-in-law came to visit. Frank Keeney usually came by every other weekend or so, travelling by bus from Charleston to Alum Creek. My father tells me he can still remember seeing the bus pull away to reveal his grandfather standing at the bottom of the hill wearing a suit and lighting a cigarette like it was yesterday.