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Presidential Doodles:
Two Centuries of Scribbles, Scratches, Squiggles & Scrawls from the Oval Office

Text and introduction by David Greenberg

From the editors of Cabinet Magazine

Basic Books
2006 / hardcover/
ISBN: 0465032664
paperback
ISBN: 0465032672


6" x 8" / 496 pages / History

 

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Featured in The New York Times Book Review, CNN’S Situation Room, CBS Sunday Morning with Charles Osgood, and All Things Considered.

What were the leaders of the free world really doing during all those meetings? As the creators of Cabinet magazine and historian David Greenberg reveal here, they were doodling. Our Founding Fathers doodled, and so did Andrew Jackson. Benjamin Harrison accomplished almost nothing during his time in the White House, but he left behind some impressive doodles. During the twentieth century--as the federal bureaucracy grew and meetings got longer--the presidential doodle came into its own. Theodore Roosevelt doodled animals and children. Dwight Eisenhower doodled weapons and self-portraits. FDR doodled gunboats, and JFK doodled sailboats. Ronald Reagan doodled cowboys and football players and lots of hearts for Nancy. The nation went wild for Herbert Hoover's doodles: A line of children's clothing was patterned on his geometric designs.

The creators of Cabinet magazine have spent years scouring archives and libraries across America. They have unearthed hundreds of presidential doodles, and here they present the finest examples of the genre. David Greenberg sets these images in context and explains what they reveal about the inner lives of our commanders in chief. Are Kennedy's dominoes merely squiggles, or do they reflect deeper anxieties about the Cold War? Why did LBJ and his cabinet spend so much time doodling caricatures of one another? Presidential Doodles offers a glimpse into our presidents’ most unguarded moments.

§ § §

" This book sets a new standard not just for scholarly treatment of presidential doodles, but for Doodle Studies in general. David Greenberg’s introduction is, at one level, a masterpiece of pointless erudition, and, on another level, highly informative and entertaining. If you read only one book on presidential doodles this year, make it this one. "
—Michael Kinsley, founding editor of Slate, columnist for the Washington Post

" President Kennedy was famous for his incessant sketching, but who knew that Andrew Jackson also drew? Sure, he didn’t draw that well, but that he did so at all is a bit of a revelation. And so are the rest of the presidential doodles, idle notes to self, and other scribblings collected here. The book brings White House history alive in sometimes perplexing, sometimes amusing, but always intriguing ways "
—Sean Wilentz, Princeton University, author of The Rise of American Democracy: Jefferson to Lincoln

"Reading presidential doodles is like looking at the private psychological files of our commanders-in-chief. Each doodle is like personally-rendered Rorschach blot—a glimpse into the presidential psyche. And, somewhat surprisingly, I found myself sympathizing with our presidents: How could one person—even a flawed, horrible person—deal with so much?” "
—Jonathan Ames, novelist, author of of Wake up, Sir!, The Extra Man, and I Love You More than You Know

“This provision isn’t in the Constitution but probably ought to be: All tomes by highfalutin presidential scholars shall be sold only as a package with Presidential Doodles”—Neil Genzlinger, New York Times Book Review

“This person who just wrote Presidential Doodles—fascinating topic. I wish I had done it.” – NBC News Anchor Brian Williams, on “The Charlie Rose Show,” November 20, 2006.

“As revealing as the heftiest biography.” – Rupert Cornwell, The Independent

Some are funny. Some are suggestive. Others are downright chilling.” –Gabrielle Glaser, The Oregonian

Cold Fusion: History Suggests an Obama-Clinton Ticket Could Work,” Slate, May 22, 2008 .

Tribe of Scribes.” Review of White House Ghosts: Presidents and Their Speechwriters , by Robert Schlesinger, Washington Post , May 18, 2008 .

The Age of Reagan.” Review of The Age of Reagan: A History, 1974-2008, by Sean Wilentz, Los Angeles Times , May 18, 2008 .

Double Negative: The Return of Doughface Liberalism,” The New Republic, April 9, 2008 .

The Lincoln-Douglas Debates Unplugged.” Review of Lincoln and Douglas: The Debates that Defined America , by Allen C. Guelzo, Slate, April 7, 2008 .

The Long Goodbye: It’s Too Early to Talk About Hillary’s Withdrawal,” Slate, March 5, 2008 .

Zealots of Our Time.” Review of They Knew They Were Right: The Rise of the Neocons, by Jacob Heilbrunn, American Prospect, March, 2008.

Friends, Romans, Countrymen, Lend Me Your Speeches,” New York Times, February 24, 2008 .

Memo to Obama Fans: The Clinton Presidency Was Not a Failure,” Slate, February 12, 2008 .

R, North Carolina.” Review of Righteous Warrior: Jesse Helms and the Rise of Modern Conservatism, by William A. Link, New York Times Book Review, February 10, 2008 .

Why Obamamania? Because He Runs as the Great White Hope,” Washington Post , January 13, 2008 .

More

“Media and Conservative Politics in Postwar America : A Response,” Policy History Conference , St. Louis University , St. Louis , MO , May 30, 2008 .

“Red vs. Blue—or Purple: Is America Really Polarized?,” at the symposium, “ The Hyperpartisan Era in Washington: Can Federal Bipartisanship Be Revived?” The New School, New York , NY , May 28, 2008 .

“Paths out of Dixie: A Response,” comment at the 20 th Century Politics and Society Workshop, Columbia University, New York, NY, April 17, 2008.

“George W. Bush and the War on Expertise,” for the conference “The Presidency of George W. Bush in Historical Perspective,” Princeton University , Princeton , NJ , April 12, 2008 .

“The Spinning of the President, 2008,” keynote address at the conference “Freedom of the Press,” St. Peter’s College, Jersey City , NJ , April 10, 2008 .

“Learning from Presidential Debates,” for the conference “The 2008 Road to the White House,” Hofstra University , Hempstead , NY , April 3, 2008 .

“History on the Internet,” talk at the conference “Comparing, Editing, Translating: Periodicals and Interdisciplinarity Today,” Institute for Comparative Literature and Society Annual Conference , Columbia University, New York, NY, March 28, 2008.

Calvin Coolidge’s Legacy,” National Archives, Washington DC , February 13, 2008 .

History in 1200 Words: Dumbing Down vs. Smarting Up,” American Historical Association Annual Meeting, Washington DC , January 6, 2008 .

Redefining Liberalism in the 1980s,” American Historical Association Annual Meeting, Washington DC , January 4, 2008 .