Ranked #21: Arthur turned out to be a very thoughtful and uncorruptable president for a guy who spent his life up to that point as a corrupt politician. I give him a lot of credit for thinking of the country first when he had the most power to influence it.
Summary: Arthur was an A-1 classy guy when it came to food, drink, attire and leisure time. He was an easygoing, sweet-talking charmer with a lot of polish. He was an emotional, loyal person who did his best to hide this aspect about himself. He possibly had the best mutton chop sideburns ever. Ever. He certainly had the best of any US President. He was known to have owned up to 80 pairs of pants and would often change them during the course of the day. He was the first president to have a full time valet and was often seen riding in his lavish carriage.
Bio: He was a handsome (as you might have guessed by now) guy who was 6’ 2” with a chubby face. As a young man, he weighed about 170 pounds, but as he grew older he was up to 225 pounds. This was no doubt due to his habit of eating late night feasts. After he became President, his health steadily declined due to Bright’s disease. Arthur liked to hunt and fish. He also liked to stay up late with friends, usually enjoying a drink, until 3 or 4 in the morning. He often did not get his breakfast in until nearly mid day. He was known for eating and drinking excessively.
Arthur entered the White House a widower, since his wife had died just prior. He became President after a deranged person had murdered President Garfield, otherwise he probably would not have been elected on his own merit. This was a complicated matter, since the murderer proclaimed that he did Arthur a big favor by killing Garfield. Arthur did not take this very well and when he was informed that the President had died, he became emotionally unhinged.
One of the first things that Arthur did when he moved in the White House was to proclaim that it was not suitable for him to live in it. He promptly held an auction in front of the White house and sold valuable furniture and priceless presidential artifacts for practically pennies and either didn’t know the value of these items or did not care. This included a pair of trousers owned by Abraham Lincoln and a hat owned by John Quincy Adams. He then renovated the White house to his liking by hiring Louis Comfort Tiffany, who at the time was the most fashionable designer in New York City.
It was said that Arthur never did today what he could put off to tomorrow, (or something close to that). He was known to start work late and leave work early. But before you think he never did much of a job, let me point out a few things. He rebuilt the US Navy, which earned him the unofficial title of “Father of the Steel Navy.” He also reduced tariffs, when he noticed that the US Treasury had a surplus. One of his bravest moves was to reform Civil Service Policies. Before being President, Arthur built his career and wealth on salary kickbacks, taking advantage of something called the “Spoils System,” while he was the Collector of the Port of New York. Needless to say, all his old buddies who benefited from these kickbacks were no doubt cursing his name after the decision the reform the Civil Service Policies.
n some ways, Chester Arthur surprised many people. Not much was expected of him if you consider his personal style and the somewhat corrupt background he came from. However the presidency somehow brought out the best in him, and as a result, I think he turned the corner and became a decent man and protector of the Constitution.
Arthur died roughly eight months after leaving office from Bright’s disease.
Pros: Modernized the American Navy. Defended slaves as a lawyer. Improved relations with Native Americans. Took on corruption in politics.
Cons: Did not put in a lot of hours at the office. Tended to sleep late.
Born: October 5, 1829, Fairfield, Vermont
Died: November 18, 1886 (aged 57) New York City, New York
Term: eptember 20, 1881 to March 3, 1885 (assumed term)
Political Party: Republican
Education: Union College (graduated 1848)
Marriage: October 25, 1859, to Ellen Lewis Herndon (1837–1880)
Children: William Lewis Herndon (1860–1863), Chester Alan (1864–1937), Ellen Herndon (1871–1915)
Vice President: Office Vacant