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Great Book about the Presidents but a Lousy Title!

December 22, 2016

A book I highly recommend for those interested in Presidential history is The President is Dead! : The Extraordinary Stories of the Presidential Deaths, Burials, and Beyond by Louis L. Picone. While the book title is appropriate, I did not want to put the first part of the title as the heading of this blog.

Picone covers the deceased presidents in the order of their death with details of how and where they died, the funeral, where they are buried and in some cases post burial intrigue, and also provides visiting details of all the sites he wrote about. The topic might seem morbid, but it is written in an interesting and engaging manner that made me want to keep reading. Some of what he wrote is pretty well known such as the terrible medical care that led to, and possibly contributed to, Washington’s, William Henry Harrison’s and Garfield’s deaths but having all of this in one place sort of ties it together and creates a mosaic of similarities. Another thing I liked is the interweaving of the presidents’ friends that were present when they died or were part of their lives such as General Winifred Scott with James Monroe and Nathaniel Hawthorne with Franklin Pierce.

In addition to the death and burial information there are also details of the plans the presidents personally made for their funerals, post-presidential finances and where they lived and their involvement in politics, and some details about their wives’ lives after the president’s death. In some cases there are family histories, descriptions of how presidential death sites became national treasures and tourist attractions, or not, some pre- and post-Civil War history, election period politics, and pithy words from eulogies by the sitting president. Every page of this big book is an historical treasure trove and for the more recent presidents will elicit many memories of news events the president was a part of and contemporaries that attended the funerals.

If you like American and/or presidential history this books is must read, and despite the topic, a lively page turner.

Louis L. Picone’s first book is Where the Presidents Were Born so he literally covered the presidents from the cradle to the grave. Another great book!

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