The Mystery of the Flying Car?

During the 1970s, Williams International built a one-man vertical take-off and landing machine known as “The Flying Pulpit.” This strange flying car stood four feet high and was capable of flying in any direction for as long as 45 minutes. It could speed up, hover in the air, and rotate as well as reach a top speed of 60 mph.

Flying Pulpit – The Mystery of the Flying Car?

The Flying Pulpit bore more than a passing resemblance to the Magnetic Air Car, which was featured in the Dick Tracy comic strip during the 1960s. That should come as no surprise. Dick Tracy’s creator, Chester Gould, was somewhat of a futurist and dotted his famous strip with numerous inventions which have since come to pass, including the 2-way wrist radio and the portable surveillance camera.

So, what happened to these strange flying cars? Well, as best as I can determine, they were constructed for military use. However, the U.S. Army found them wanting in the 1980s. Apparently, the flying cars were consigned to the dustbins of history.

While The Flying Pulpit might’ve made for a poor weapon in the face of other aircraft, I’m a little surprised it was never released for civilian use. Who wouldn’t want a personal flying car? Check out this video to see The Flying Pulpit in action.

The Hunt for the Lost Space Engines?

On July 20, 1969, Apollo 11 landed on the Moon. A short while later, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin emerged, becoming the first humans to ever walk on that rock. Now, billionaire Jeff Bezos is after the original engines from that flight. He’s already located them. But recovering them won’t be easy.

The Hunt for the Lost Apollo 11 Engines?

Bezos’ team will have to descend 14,000 feet into the Atlantic Ocean, confirm they’ve actually got the right engines, and then raise the multi-ton hulks to the surface. No date has been set for the expedition but it promises to be one of the most incredible salvage efforts of all time, ranking up there with Robert E. Peary’s search for “The Tent.” Here’s more on the hunt for the lost Apollo 11 engines from Bezos Expeditions:

The F-1 rocket engine is still a modern wonder — one and a half million pounds of thrust, 32 million horsepower, and burning 6,000 pounds of rocket grade kerosene and liquid oxygen every second. On July 16, 1969, the world watched as five particular F-1 engines fired in concert, beginning the historic Apollo 11 mission. Those five F-1s burned for just a few minutes, and then plunged back to Earth into the Atlantic Ocean, just as NASA planned. A few days later, Neil Armstrong stepped onto the moon.

…I’m excited to report that, using state-of-the-art deep sea sonar, the team has found the Apollo 11 engines lying 14,000 feet below the surface, and we’re making plans to attempt to raise one or more of them from the ocean floor. We don’t know yet what condition these engines might be in – they hit the ocean at high velocity and have been in salt water for more than 40 years. On the other hand, they’re made of tough stuff, so we’ll see…

(See “F-1 Engine Recovery” for more on the hunt for the lost Apollo 11 Space Engines)

Who Killed off all the Buffalo?

Once upon a time, the American buffalo roamed North America in large numbers, perhaps as many as 10-70 million. But by the mid-1880s, its once-vast numbers had been reduced to just a few hundred. Who killed the buffalo? And why?

The Rise of the Buffalo?

Interestingly enough, the rise of the American buffalo may have coincided with the fall of the Native American tribes. According to this theory, put forth by Charles Mann, the Native Americans originally created grasslands for the buffalo population and heavily regulated their activities.

“Hernando De Soto’s expedition staggered through the Southeast for four years in the early 16th century and saw hordes of people but apparently did not see a single bison.” ~ Charles Mann, 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus

When the Europeans first arrived in the New World, they inadvertently brought along diseases with them. Native Americans died off in massive numbers and buffalo herds found themselves free. They began to roam and quickly spread across the land, eventually becoming the most dominant large animal in what is now the United States.

Who Killed the Buffalo?

So, that helps explain the spread of the buffalo. But what about the fall? Well, it appears there are a few culprits here…the Native Americans themselves, commercial hunters, and the U.S. Army.

Native Americans, contrary to popular opinion, were not quite the “noble savages” they are often portrayed to be in modern culture. They hunted buffalo in large numbers, even going so far as to herd them into makeshift chutes and stampede them over cliffs (this took place at the well-named Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump in Alberta, Canada along with many others). The Comanche alone killed more than 280,000 buffalo a year.

“They were killing more than 280,000 bison a year – the maximum loss the herds could sustain without imploding – and at the very time the great drought of 1845-50 was exacerbating the situation.” ~ Frank McLynn, Review of The Comanche Empire by Pekka Hämäläinen

At the same time, commercial hunters sought the buffalo out with relentless ferocity. These hunters were primarily concerned with gathering skins and would often leave rotting carcasses behind. This was a classic example of the Tragedy of the Commons.

“Because buffalo hides could be sold for as much as $3.50 each, an individual hunter would kill more than a hundred a day for as many days as he cared to hunt on the open plain.” ~ Thomas J. DiLorenzo, The Culture of Violence in the American West: Myth versus Reality

And finally, we come to the last prominent killer of the buffalo…the U.S. Army. In 1865, General William Sherman, fresh out of the American Civil War, was put in charge of the Military Division of the Mississippi (later called the Military Division of the Missouri). He proceeded to launch a two and a half decade war against the Plains Indians, as a sort of under the table subsidy to the government-subsidized transcontinental railroad companies. Other generals, most prominently General Phillip Sheridan, received other commands with the same purpose.

The U.S. Army waged total war against the Native Americans, in search of what General Sherman referred to as the “final solution of the Indian problem.” Since the Native Americans depended on the buffalo for food, clothing, and other things, the U.S. Army targeted it for extinction.

“Let them kill, skin, and sell until the buffalo is exterminated, as it is the only way to bring lasting peace and allow civilization to advance.” ~ General Sherman, Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee: An Indian History of the American West by Dee Brown

Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis

By 1884, America’s buffalo population had been decimated. In fact, if it weren’t for the efforts of people like Pete Dupree and James “Scotty” Philip (aka The Man who Saved the Buffalo), it stands to reason they might’ve gone completely extinct.

Since then, the buffalo has undergone somewhat of a resurgence and its numbers have risen well above one hundred thousand. Most of these buffalo are privately owned with the notable exception of the Yellowstone Park bison herd. While its unlikely the buffalo will ever regain its former numbers, we can be thankful that it has recovered from near decimation at the hands of Native Americans, hunters, and the U.S. Army.

 

Guerrilla Explorer’s Man vs. Nature Coverage


Guerrilla Explorer’s Wild West Coverage

Hitler’s American Bunker?

During the 1930s, a strange group of Nazi sympathizers known as the Silver Legion of America built a gigantic, heavily-guarded bunker in Los Angeles. What was the purpose of this bunker? Did they hope to build a Nazi America?

Nazi America – Hitler’s American Bunker?

The members of the Silver Legion of America were known as Silver Shirts. And yes, their bunker was intended to help bring about a Nazi America. Specifically, they planned to ride out World War II within its confines as they waited for Hitler to arrive on American shores.

“This was supposed to be the seat of American fascism from where Hitler would one day run the United States.” ~ Randy Young, Historian

The compound was built by Jessie Murphy, who’d inherited a fortune from family-owned mines. It consisted of a diesel power plant, a concrete water tank, a meat locker, a vegetable garden, 22 bedrooms, and a bomb shelter. It still exists today, although it’s scheduled to be bulldozed in the near future. Here’s more on this strange bunker and its role in the Silver Shirts trying to create a Nazi America from The Daily Mail:

It sounds like the bizzare script of a Hollywood B-movie. In a parallel universe the Nazis have won the war, Adolf Hitler moves to LA where he mingles with the stars of the silver screen while running his evil empire from a luxurious ranch deep in the LA hills.

But during the 1930s, American sympathisers were so confident this exact scenario was actually going happen they spent millions building a deluxe compound ready for their fuhrer’s imminent arrival.

(See The Daily Mail for more on the Nazi America bunker)

Shocking Civil War Photos?

In memory of the 150th anniversary of the American Civil War, The Atlantic is publishing an astounding collection of Civil War photos taken by war correspondents. They are, in a word, shocking.

Shocking Civil War Photos?

My third great grandfather fought for the Union during the Civil War. He was mustered in during 1862, was captured at the Second Battle of Ream’s Station in 1864, and died three years later, presumably from war-related injuries. Even when looking at these photos, it’s hard to fathom the horrors and destruction he must’ve seen during the Civil War years. For some terrific insights on the war and more Civil War photos, check out my friend Sean McLachlan’s blog at Civil War Horror. And here’s more Civil War photos from the Atlantic. Make sure to click on over to check out the rest of these startling photos:

Last year marked the 150th anniversary of the start of the American Civil War…Although photography was still in its infancy, war correspondents produced thousands of images, bringing the harsh realities of the frontlines to those on the home front in a new and visceral way. As brother fought brother and the nation’s future grew uncertain, the public appetite for information was fed by these images from the trenches, rivers, farms, and cities that became fields of battle.

(See The Atlantic for more Civil War photos)

Battle of the Presidents: Obama vs. Hayes?

Who’s the better U.S. President? Barack Obama? Or the little-known Rutherford B. Hayes?

Battle of the Presidents: Barack Obama vs. Rutherford B. Hayes?

In what promises to be the strangest President vs. President battle of 2012, President Obama knocked President Rutherford B. Hayes (1877-1881) yesterday over his apparent dislike of the telephone.

“One of my predecessors, President Rutherford B. Hayes, reportedly said about the telephone: ‘It’s a great invention but who would ever want to use one?’ That’s why he’s not on Mt. Rushmore. He’s looking backwards, he’s not looking forward. He’s explaining why we can’t do something instead of why we can do something.” ~ President Barack Obama

Whew! Pretty low blow there by President Obama, going after someone who can’t exactly defend himself. There’s just one problem…it’s not true. According to Nan Card at the Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Center, there’s no record of Rutherford B. Hayes ever saying that particular quote about the telephone.

“I’ve heard that before, and no one ever knows where it came from, but people just keep repeating it and repeating it, so it’s out there.” ~ Nan Card, Curator of Manuscripts

Furthermore, an article from the June 29, 1877 edition of the Providence Journal records a very different reaction by President Hayes

The President listened carefully while a gradually increasing smile wreathed his lips, and wonder shone in his eyes more and more, until he took the little instrument from his ear, looked at it a moment in surprise, and remarked, “That is wonderful.”

Rutherford B. Hayes – Was he one of America’s Greatest Presidents?

Rutherford B. Hayes was the first president to have a telephone, the first one to use a typewriter, and invited Thomas Edison to the White House to demonstrate the phonograph. Rather than being some kind of technophobe, President Hayes appears to have been the exact opposite.

As for President Obama’s slight about Mount Rushmore, I’d point to Ivan Eland’s excellent work, Recarving Rushmore. According to Eland, the four presidents who should be depicted on Mount Rushmore are John TylerGrover Cleveland, Martin Van Buren, and…you guessed it, Rutherford B. Hayes. In contrast, he ranks Mount Rushmore’s current occupants as follows: George Washington #7, Thomas Jefferson #26, Teddy Roosevelt #21, and Abraham Lincoln #29.

Eland takes a unique approach to evaluating presidents. Instead of ranking them on the usual stuff, he ranks them on how well they achieved peace, prosperity, and liberty. Presidents earn points for avoiding “wars of choice,” pursuing economic freedom, and respecting individual freedoms as well as limits on presidential powers.

Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis

President Hayes resisted going to war with Mexico, pursued anti-inflationary policies, avoided intervening in employer/labor disputes, and advocated for voting rights for African Americans. The biggest knock against him is he continued the U.S. government’s shabby treatment of Native Americans. Still, based on the ideals of peace, prosperity, and liberty, (and contrary to President Obama’s opinion), there is a strong case to be made that President Hayes deserves to be recognized as one of the greatest presidents in American history.

Who Really Discovered America?

More than anyone else, Christopher Columbus is responsible for connecting the Old World to the New World. But he wasn’t the first person to reach America. So, who discovered America?

Who Discovered America?

I’ve long favored the idea that pre-Columbian contact between the “Old World” and “New World” was far more extensive than the history books would have you believe. And given recent evidence, it appears those history books may need to be rewritten. Someday soon, we may actually be able to determine who discovered America. But for now, there’s growing evidence that ancient Europeans once traveled to America. Here’s more on who discovered America from The Telegraph:

In a discovery that could rewrite the history of the Americas, archaeologists have found a number of stone tools dating back between 19,000 and 26,000 years, and bearing remarkable similarities to those made in Europe.

…The tools could reassert the long dismissed and discredited claim that Europeans in the form of Christopher Columbus and his crew were the first to discover the New World…

(See The Telegraph for more on who discovered America)

The Mysterious Decline of U.S. Whaling?

In 1820, the U.S. whaling industry was just a blip, generating about $1 million in revenue per year. Thirty years later, it had grown nearly 1,000%, making the U.S. the global leader in whaling. By 1900, U.S. whaling revenues had declined an astonishing 90%. What happened?

The Mysterious Decline of the U.S. Whaling Industry?

The rise and fall of America’s whaling business is a fascinating tale. It exploded in the mid 1800s thanks to a series of new technologies and rising worker productivity. Almost as immediately as it came together, the U.S. whaling industry fell apart. Many historians blame its fall on lower demand for whale oil (thanks to the rise of petroleum oil) as well as reduced supply (due to fewer whales in the ocean). But the real story behind the decline in the whaling industry is something else entirely. Here’s more on the mysterious decline in U.S. whaling from The Atlantic:

One hundred and fifty years ago, around the time Herman Melville was completing Moby Dick, whaling was a booming worldwide business and the United States was the global behemoth. In 1846, we owned 640 whaling ships, more than the rest of the world put together and tripled. At its height, the whaling industry contributed $10 million (in 1880 dollars) to GDP, enough to make it the fifth largest sector of the economy. Whales contributed oil for illuminants, ambergris for perfumes, and baleen, a bonelike substance extracted from the jaw, for umbrellas.

Fifty years later, the industry was dead. Our active whaling fleet had fallen by 90 percent. The industry’s real output had declined to 1816 levels, completing a century’s symmetry of triumph and decline. What happened? And why does what happened still matter?

…The thesis of Leviathan, the ur-text of whaling economics, is that the source of our dominance in the 19th century will feel familiar to a 21st century audience: a triumph of productivity and technology…The standard explanation for the decline of whaling in the second half of the century is a pat two-parter consisting of falling demand (from alternative sources for energy) and falling supply (from over-hunting). But according to Leviathan, the standard explanation is wrong…

(See The Atlantic for more on the mysterious decline of the U.S. whaling industry)

Teddy Roosevelt vs. Bigfoot?

In 1893, Teddy Roosevelt published The Wilderness Hunter. In that tome, he told a strange story about an encounter with an “unknown beast creature” that walked on two legs. Did Teddy Roosevelt do battle with the mysterious Bigfoot?

Did Teddy Roosevelt Battle Bigfoot?

First, thanks to Sean McLachlan over at Civil War Horror for providing the idea for this piece. Second, sadly, the answer is no. Teddy Roosevelt never battled Bigfoot. But his account (reproduced below) is intriguing all the same. Many of you know we’re pretty skeptical about Bigfoot here at Guerrilla Explorer. If megafauna cryptids exist, they’re far more likely to be in the ocean than on land.

Still, Teddy’s story is one of the earliest accounts of a Bigfoot-like creature recorded by a non-Native American. It was told to Teddy Roosevelt by a mountain hunter named Bauman decades before the famous discovery of large footprints at Bluff Creek, which for all intensive purposes launched Bigfoot into the public eye. According to Bauman, he and a companion were trapping game when they ran into the strange creature. Things got progressively worse until…well, let’s let Teddy Roosevelt tell you in his own words.

Frontiersmen are not, as a rule, apt to be very superstitious. They lead lives too hard and practical, and they have too little imagination in things spiritual and supernatural. I have heard but few ghost stories while living on the frontier, and these few were of a perfectly commonplace and conventional type.

But I once listened to a goblin story which rather impressed me. It was told by a grizzled, weather-beaten old mountain hunter, named Bauman, who was bom and had passed all his life on the frontier. He must have believed what he said, for he could hardly repress a shudder at certain points of the tale; but he was of German ancestry, and in childhood had doubtless been saturated with all kinds of ghost and goblin lore, so that many fearsome superstitions were latent in his mind; besides, he knew well the stories told by the Indian medicine men in their winter camps, of the snow-walkers, and the spectres, and the formless evil beings that haunt the forest depths, and dog and waylay the lonely wanderer who after nightfall passes through the regions where they lurk; and it may be that when overcome by the horror of the fate that befell his friend, and when oppressed by the awful dread of the unknown, he grew to attribute, both at the time and still more in remembrance, weird and elfin traits to what was merely some abnormally wicked and cunning wild beast; but whether this was so or not, no man can say.

When the event occurred Bauman was still a young man, and was trapping with a partner among the mountains dividing the forks of the Salmon from the head of Wisdom River. Not having had much luck, he and his partner determined to go up into a particularly wild and lonely pass through which ran a small stream said to contain many beaver. The pass had an evil reputation because the year before a solitary hunter who had wandered into it was there slain, seemingly by a wild beast, the half-eaten remains being afterwards found by some mining prospectors who had passed his camp only the night before.

The memory of this event, however, weighed very lightly with the two trappers, who were as adventurous and hardy as others of their kind. They took their two lean mountain ponies to the foot of the pass, where they left them in an open beaver meadow, the rocky timber-clad ground being from thence onwards impracticable for horses. They then struck out on foot through the vast, gloomy forest, and in about four hours reached a little open glade where they concluded to camp, as signs of game were plenty.

There was still an hour or two of daylight left, and after building a brush lean-to and throwing down and opening their packs, they started up stream. The country was very dense and hard to travel through, as there was much down timber, although here and there the sombre woodland was broken by small glades of mountain grass.

At dusk they again reached camp. The glade in which it was pitched was not many yards wide, the tall, close-set pines and firs rising round it like a wall. On one side was a little stream, beyond which rose the steep mountain-slopes, covered with the unbroken growth of the evergreen forest.

They were surprised to find that during their short absence something, apparently a bear, had visited camp, and had rummaged about among their things, scattering the contents of their packs, and in sheer wantonness destroying their lean-to. The footprints of the beast were quite plain, but at first they paid no particular heed to them, busying themselves with rebuilding the lean-to, laying out their beds and stores, and lighting the fire.

While Bauman was making ready supper, it being already dark, his companion began to examine the tracks more closely, and soon took a brand from the fire to follow them up, where the intruder had walked along a game trail after leaving the camp. When the brand flickered out, he returned and took another, repeating his inspection of the footprints very closely. Coming back to the fire, he stood by it a minute or two, peering out into the darkness, and suddenly remarked: “Bauman, that bear has been walking on two legs.” Bauman laughed at this, but his partner insisted that he was right, and upon again examining the tracks with a torch, they certainly did seem to be made by but two paws, or feet. However, it was too dark to make sure. After discussing whether the footprints could possibly be those of a human being, and coming to the conclusion that they could not be, the two men rolled up in their blankets, and went to sleep under the lean-to.

At midnight Bauman was awakened by some noise, and sat up in his blankets. As he did so his nostrils were struck by a strong, wild-beast odor, and he caught the loom of a great body in the darkness at the mouth of the lean-to. Grasping his rifle, he fired at the vague, threatening shadow, but must have missed, for immediately afterwards he heard the smashing of the underwood as the thing, whatever it was, rushed off into the impenetrable blackness of the forest and the night.

After this the two men slept but little, sitting up by the rekindled fire, but they heard nothing more. In the morning they started out to look at the few traps they had set the previous evening and to put out new ones. By an unspoken agreement they kept together all day, and returned to camp towards evening.

On nearing it they saw, to their astonishment, that the lean-to had been again torn down. The visitor of the preceding day had returned, and in wanton malice had tossed about their camp kit and bedding, and destroyed the shanty. The ground was marked up by its tracks, and on leaving the camp it had gone along the soft earth by the brook, where the footprints were as plain as if on snow, and, after a careful scrutiny of the trail, it certainly did seem as if, whatever the thing was, it had walked off on but two legs.

The men, thoroughly uneasy, gathered a great heap of dead logs, and kept up a roaring fire throughout the night, one or the other sitting on guard most of the time. About midnight the thing came down through the forest opposite, across the brook, and stayed there on the hillside for nearly an hour. They could hear the branches crackle as it moved about, and several times it uttered a harsh, grating, long-drawn moan, a peculiarly sinister sound. Yet it did not venture near the fire.

In the morning the two trappers, after discussing the strange events of the last thirty-six hours, decided that they would shoulder their packs and leave the valley that afternoon. They were the more ready to do this because in spite of seeing a good deal of game sign they had caught very little fur. However, it was necessary first to go along the line of their traps and gather them, and this they started out to do.

All the morning they kept together, picking up trap after trap, each one empty. On first leaving camp they had the disagreeable sensation of being followed. In the dense spruce thickets they occasionally heard a branch snap after they had passed ; and now and then there were slight rustling noises among the small pines to one side of them.

At noon they were back within a couple of miles of camp. In the high, bright sunlight their fears seemed absurd to the two armed men, accustomed as they were, through long years of lonely wandering in the wilderness, to face every kind of danger from man, brute, or element. There were still three beaver traps to collect from a little pond in a wide ravine near by. Bauman volunteered to gather these and bring them in, while his companion went ahead to camp and made ready the packs.

On reaching the pond Bauman found three beaver in the traps, one of which had been pulled loose and carried into a beaver house. He took several hours in securing and preparing the beaver, and when he started homewards he marked with some uneasiness how low the sun was getting. As he hurried towards camp, under the tall trees, the silence and desolation of the forest weighed on him. His feet made no sound on the pine-needles, and the slanting sun-rays, striking through among the straight trunks, made a gray twilight in which objects at a distance glimmered indistinctly. There was nothing to break the ghostly stillness which, when there is no breeze, always broods over these sombre primeval forests.

At last he came to the edge of the little glade where the camp lay, and shouted as he approached it, but got no answer. The camp-fire had gone out, though the thin blue smoke was still curling upwards. Near it lay the packs, wrapped and arranged. At first Bauman could see nobody; nor did he receive an answer to his call. Stepping forward he again shouted, and as he did so his eye fell on the body of his friend, stretched beside the trunk of a great fallen spruce. Rushing towards it the horrified trapper found that the body was still warm, but that the neck was broken, while there were four great fang-marks in the throat.

The footprints of the unknown beast-creature, printed deep in the soft soil, told the whole story.

The unfortunate man, having finished his packing, had sat down on the spruce log with his face to the fire, and his back to the dense woods, to wait for his companion. While thus waiting, his monstrous assailant, which must have been lurking nearby in the woods, waiting for a chance to catch one of the adventurers unprepared, came silently up from behind, walking with long, noiseless steps, and seemingly still on two legs. Evidently un- heard, it reached the man, and broke his neck by wrenching his head back with its fore paws, while it buried its teeth in his throat. It had not eaten the body, but apparently had romped and gambolled round it in uncouth, ferocious glee, occasionally rolling over and over it; and had then fled back into the soundless depths of the woods.

Bauman, utterly unnerved, and believing that the creature with which he had to deal was something either half human or half devil, some great goblin-beast, abandoned everything but his rifle and struck off at speed down the pass, not halting until he reached the beaver meadows where the hobbled ponies were still grazing. Mounting, he rode onwards through the night, until far beyond the reach of pursuit.

Grover Cleveland: The Greatest President?

Who was the Greatest President in U.S. history? Most historians tend to share common ground when it comes to ranking U.S. presidents. George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, or Franklin Delano Roosevelt receive the top honor in practically every single poll. However, recent attention has fallen to a far more unusual candidate…Grover Cleveland.

Who was Grover Cleveland?

Grover Cleveland was the 22nd and 24th President of the United States, making him the only President to serve nonconsecutive terms. He is largely remembered for the economic meltdown that took place during his second term, including the second-worst depression in U.S. history as well as a series of vicious labor strikes. While not ranking as low as President John Tyler, he fares no better than 19th in Wikipedia’s aggregate of various scholarly polls. Who in the world would possibly consider Grover Cleveland to be the greatest President in history?

Was Grover Cleveland the Greatest President in History?

In his book, Recarving Rushmore, Ivan Eland argues that the reason most historians overlook presidents like John Tyler and Grover Cleveland is because of flawed ranking systems. He points out four particular biases exhibited by historians:

  1. Effectiveness: Scholars tend to focus on a president’s ability to enact an agenda without considering the positive or negative results from that agenda.
  2. Charisma: Historians place undue emphasis on exciting personalities at the expense of dull ones.
  3. Service during a Crisis: Many historians will only rank a president highly if he served during a great war or financial crisis, giving little credit to those who avoided war or kept crises from happening in the first place.
  4. Activism: Presidents who did a lot are ranked higher than those who preferred minimal government.

Eland takes a unique approach to evaluating presidents. Instead of ranking them on the usual stuff, he ranks them on how well they achieved peace, prosperity, and liberty. Presidents earn points for avoiding “wars of choice,” pursuing economic freedom, and respecting individual freedoms as well as limits on presidential powers.

His analysis leads to some interesting conclusions that differ wildly from most polls. George Washington is still fairly high at #7. But he ranks Abraham Lincoln (#29) and FDR (#31) far lower than pretty much any other historian. His top five are John Tyler, Grover Cleveland, Martin Van Buren, Rutherford B. Hayes, and Chester A. Arthur. These presidents are barely remembered by most Americans today which, in a way, is the point. Their terms were boring, thanks to their decisions to avoid wars and pursue policies that led to economic success as well as personal freedom.

Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis

So what about Grover Cleveland? Well, he refused to annex Hawaii and avoided war with Spain over the Cuban rebellion (a policy that would later be reversed by President McKinley). He restored sound currency and avoided the New Deal style programs that lengthened the Great Depression. He was “relatively benevolent” to Native Americans.

As for the depression that marred his second term, it was largely caused by the actions of his predecessor, Benjamin Harrison. During his term of office, President Harrison instituted the McKinley tariff, increased federal spending, and supported the Sherman Silver Purchase Act, which increased the money supply while reducing the government’s gold reserves.

President Grover Cleveland’s record wasn’t perfect. He signed the Interstate Commerce Act which “provided the underpinning of the Progressive movement.” To get lower tariffs, he agreed to bring back the income tax. He also “backed segregation as constitutional.” That being said, in terms of promoting prosperity, peace, and liberty, Grover Cleveland outranks nearly every other President, with the possible exception of John Tyler.

Shortly after his second term ended, the Democratic Party underwent a sea change, abandoning the classical liberal ways of President Grover Cleveland and his fellow Bourbon Democrats. The Bourbons fled the Democratic Party when FDR instituted the New Deal and were eventually absorbed into the Old Right. The Old Right, in turn, largely collapsed in 1952 when Eisenhower effectively stole the Republican nomination from Robert Taft. Since then, President Grover Cleveland’s legacy has appeared all but dead. However, the rising popularity of Dr. Ron Paul – who counts Grover Cleveland among his heroes – seems to be changing that. Will future historians cast a kinder eye on President Grover Cleveland? Only time will tell…

Grover Cleveland was a principled classical liberal. But even while serving as president, his own Democratic Party was deserting him as the forces of statism and unlimited democracy, unleashed by the death of states’ rights in 1865, were beginning to dominate American politics. He was the last American president in the Jefferson/Andrew Jackson/John Tyler tradition, and the last good Democrat to serve in that office. For the most part, his successors (in both parties) have ranged from pathetic panderers to dangerous, megalomaniacal warmongers, or both.” ~ Thomas DiLorenzo, The Last Good Democrat