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Garfield, James Abram (19 November 1831–19 September 1881), twentieth president of the United States, was born in Orange township (now Moreland Hills) in the Western Reserve region of northern Ohio, the son of Abram Garfield and Eliza Ballou, farmers. After his father’s death in 1833, James was brought up amid rural poverty by his strong-willed mother. The hardships of those early years would later provide grist for campaign biographers, including ...

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James A. Garfield. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-13020 DLC).

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Jackson, Andrew (15 March 1767–08 June 1845), soldier and seventh president of the United States, was born in the Waxhaw Settlement, South Carolina, the son of Andrew Jackson and Elizabeth Hutchinson, farmers. Like many other Scotch-Irish at the time, Andrew and Elizabeth Jackson migrated to this country from the port of Carrickfergus in Northern Ireland in 1765, landing most probably in Philadelphia and then journeying southward to join relatives living in the Waxhaw Settlement along the northwestern boundary separating North and South Carolina. They settled with their two sons, Hugh and Robert, on a stretch of land on the south side of Twelve Mile Creek, a branch of the Catawba River, and for two years tried to scratch a living from this acid soil. Then, early in March 1767, Andrew died suddenly. Approximately two weeks later, on 15 March, Elizabeth gave birth to her third son and named him after her deceased husband. Later a dispute arose over the exact location of the birthplace of the future president—whether he was born in North or South Carolina—but Jackson himself always believed and repeatedly stated that he was born in South Carolina....

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Andrew Jackson. From an engraving by James Barton Longacre. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-117120).

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Kennedy, John Fitzgerald (29 May 1917–22 November 1963), thirty-fifth president of the United States, was born in Brookline, Massachusetts, the son of Joseph P. Kennedy, a millionaire businessman and public official, and Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy, daughter of Boston mayor John F. Fitzgerald. John Kennedy’s education stressed preparation for advancement of a Catholic in an Anglo-Saxon, generally anti-Catholic society. He entered Harvard College in 1936. Kennedy, known to his friends and family as Jack, was an indifferent student at first but became more interested in his studies following a European summer vacation after his freshman year. A longer stay in Europe in 1939 led to his senior honors paper, “Appeasement in Munich,” which was published the following year as ...

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John F. Kennedy. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-117124 DLC).

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Lincoln, Abraham (12 February 1809–15 April 1865), sixteenth president of the United States, was born in Hardin County, Kentucky, the son of Thomas Lincoln and Nancy Hanks, farmers. Thomas Lincoln had come to Kentucky from Virginia with his father Abraham in 1782. He acquired only enough literacy to sign his name but gained modest prosperity as a carpenter and farmer on the Kentucky frontier. He married Nancy Hanks, also illiterate, in 1806. Abraham was born in a log cabin on “Sinking Spring Farm” three miles south of Hodgenville. When he was two years old the family moved to another farm on Knob Creek about seven miles northeast of Hodgenville. On this farm of 230 acres (only thirty of which were tillable) Abraham lived for five years, helped his parents with chores, and learned his ABCs by attending school for a few weeks with his older sister Sarah....

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Abraham Lincoln Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-13016 DLC).

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Abraham Lincoln, c. 1846–1847. Daguerreotype attributed to Nicholas H. Shepherd. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZC4-2439).

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McKinley, William (29 January 1843–14 September 1901), twenty-fifth president of the United States, was born in Niles, Ohio, the son of William McKinley and Nancy Allison, both of Scotch-Irish ancestry. McKinley’s father managed charcoal furnaces and manufactured pig iron in a small way. McKinley went to school in Niles and later in Poland, Ohio. At seventeen he entered Allegheny College in Meadville, Pennsylvania, but a brief illness and financial problems forced him to drop out after a single term....