POTUS Fact 21: Last President without a Vice President

Dignified, tall and handsome, clean-shaven with side whiskers, America’s 21st President, Chester Alan Arthur (October 5, 1829 – November 18, 1886) “looked like a President.”

Image of President Chester Alan Arthur
Chester A. Arthur (1829–1886), 21st President of the United States (1881–1885)/Mental Floss.

Arthur was an American attorney and politician who served as the 21st President of the United States from 1881 to 1885; he succeeded James A. Garfield upon the latter’s assassination. He was named for the doctor who delivered him – Chester Abell.

A 24-year-old Arthur, then a junior partner at Culver, Parker and Arthur law firm, successfully represented Lizzie Jennings, who was forcibly removed from a streetcar in 1854 because she was black. The day after a jury awarded Jennings $225.00 in damages, the Third Avenue Railway Company had its streetcars desegregated.

His first son died suddenly when he was only three years old. Two more children – Chester Alan Jr., and Ellen – survived into adulthood.

His wife, Ellen died of pneumonia at the age of 42, the year before he became president. Arthur deeply mourned the death of his wife. After taking office as president, Arthur, who could see St. John’s Episcopal Church from his office, commissioned a stained glass window dedicated to his wife at the church. He had it installed where he could view it at night, as the lights were kept on within the church. Additionally, he ordered fresh flowers placed in front of her portrait at the White House every single day throughout his tenure in office.

As president, Arthur was the most eligible bachelor in Washington D.C. On his last day in office, four young women offered him their hands in marriage. He never remarried.

When his predecessor’s assassin celebrated success by shouting, “I’m a Stalwart of the Stalwarts, Arthur is president now!”, it sparked talk that maybe Arthur’s people had actually hired the assassin themselves.
Garfield lingered for months after he was shot; Arthur kept a low profile to avoid further suspicion.

 At the request of President Arthur, the International Meridian Conference was held in Washington, D.C. in October 1884 to determine the Prime Meridian of the world.  The conference established the Greenwich Meridian and international standardized time, which are both still recognized today.

Image of Mary Arthur McElroy
Mary Arthur McElroy (July 5, 1841–January 8, 1917), President Arthur’s sister acted as First Lady (September 19, 1881-March 4, 1885)/Mr. Nussbaum.

President Arthur ordered fresh flowers to be placed in front of his late wife’s portrait at the White House every single day throughout his tenure in office.

Arthur liked to take friends on late night walks around Washington, D.C., sometimes as late as three or four in the morning. It was rare for him to be in bed before two o’clock.

He had no vice president for his entire four-year term (The last president without a vice president).

Arthur made no inaugural address.

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Arthur was the first president to take the Oath of Office in his own home. He actually took the oath twice. The first time was at his personal residence in New York City where it was given to him just after midnight on September 20, hours after President Garfield died. Arthur took the oath again two days later after returning to Washington. The second oath was performed to clear up any dispute over whether the first oath was official since it was administered by a state, not a federal, official.

He was the first president to have a personal valet, probably due in part to the next fact.

Arthur owned at least 80 pairs of pants, which may not be a lot by today’s presidential standards, it was quite the extravagance back then. Because of this, he was nicknamed, “Gentleman Boss” and “Prince Arthur.”

At the request of President Arthur, the International Meridian Conference was held in Washington, D.C. in October 1884 to determine the Prime Meridian of the world.  The conference established the Greenwich Meridian and international standardized time, which are both still recognized today.

Midway through Chester Alan Arthur’s presidency, he discovered that he had a serious kidney illness called Bright’s disease. He tried his hardest to keep the news secret and did not run for re-election as he believed he only had a short time to live, he saw out his presidency and died eighteen months later.

Be fit for more than the thing you are now doing. Let everyone know that you have a reserve in yourself; that you have more power than you are now using. If you are not too large for the place you occupy, you are too small for it.– Chester  A. Arthur (1829–1886), 21st President of the United States (1881–1885).

Two days before his death, the President had all his personal letters and documents burnt.

On his death bed, he warned his son, Chester Alan Jnr., not to go into politics.

On November 18, 1886, President Chester Arthur died of cerebral hemorrhage at the age of 57.

He was buried beside his wife at Albany, New York. At his funeral, President Grover Cleveland and former President Rutherford B. Hayes were present to pay him their last respects.

Sources

Wikipedia

Mental Floss

Kids Fun Facts

Republican Presidents

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Ayomide Akinbode

Ayomide Akinbode holds a degree in Chemistry but has a passion for History and Classics. When he is not writing, he’s either sleeping or playing Scrabble.

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