While Presidents of the United States have received all different kinds of honors and gifts throughout the years, there is one particular 19th century trend of presidential gift-giving that stands out…or maybe stands alone. Giant wheels of cheese have appeared at the White House multiple times in presidential history, starting in 1801 when Thomas Jefferson was gifted the 4 foot-wide, 17 inch-high, 1,235 pound Cheshire “Mammoth” Cheese from the citizens of Cheshire, Massachusetts. Funny enough, Jefferson’s Mammoth Cheese was not the last one to enter the White House. Andrew Jackson received his 1,400 pound New York-made Mammoth Cheese in 1835, and invited all of Washington to a party at the White House two years later to eat it.
Before the days of Half Smokes and Jumbo Slices, D.C.’s collective stomach rumbled for a different delicacy: diamondback terrapin. The native turtle had long fed residents of the Chesapeake but by the 1830s the turtle had become one of the region’s most coveted foodstuffs and by the end of the 19th century, swanky eateries from New York to California featured turtle soup on their menus. While turtles from all over the U.S. were used to prepare this famous dish, the Chesapeake Diamondback was undoubtedly the turtle of choice.
On Memorial Day 1904, a group of civilians led by Alexandria County Attorney General Crandal Mackey boarded a southbound train from their meeting point in Washington to present day Arlington. As they rode over the old Long Bridge, Mackey distributed axes, guns, and hammers to the men who, only moments earlier, had been sworn in as official deputies. For decades, seedy settlements rife with betting houses, bars, and boudoirs prospered in the shadow of the nation’s capital. Gamblers had long sought protection by backing the powers that be in the dominant Democratic Party but Mackey and his supporters were a part of a new movement that claimed to oppose corruption. Mackey’s posse disembarked at the unimaginatively named “South End of Long Bridge Station” and began what would be the first of many raids. Haphazard in their approach, the gang swarmed well-known gambling houses and left smashed-up, burned-out shells in their wake.
As the presidential election of 1828 approached, the nation’s emotions were running high. Andrew Jackson, the former Governor of Tennessee, was to challenge incumbent president John Quincy Adams. This was a partial rematch of the controversial four-way contest of 1824. Jackson won the most popular and electoral votes, but because no candidate won a majority, the election went to the House of Representatives, who chose second-place finisher John Quincy Adams. Jackson and his supporters were furious. Calling it the “Corrupt Bargain,” Jackson’s supporters accused fourth-place candidate Henry Clay of selling his supporters to Adams for the job of Secretary of State. This set the stage for the most vicious campaign ever seen at that point in American history.
You’d better believe there have been "mean girls" since the beginning of time, or at least the early 1800s. Rigid social structures dictated the behavior of Jacksonian high society; it was the height of rudeness, for instance, if a lady did not return your call. However, in a social war that engulfed the beginning of Andrew Jackson’s presidency, society’s rules were discarded and the national government ground to a halt all for one woman: the beautiful and intelligent Margaret “Peggy” O’Neil.