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The Look-It-Up Book of Presidents    by Wyatt Blassingame order for
Look-It-Up Book of Presidents
by Wyatt Blassingame
Order:  USA  Can
Random House, 2004 (1968)
Hardcover, Softcover

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* * *   Reviewed by J. A. Kaszuba Locke

This admirable historical reference on United States presidents begins with George Washington and continues through the 2004 election of George Walker Bush. It tells us that first President (General) George Washington was born in Virginia and served a ten-year term (1789-1797). His oath of office was administered on the balcony of Federal Hall (on Wall Street) in New York City. Washington shaped the job of President, and the 'future of the new nation'. Elected as third president, Thomas Jefferson is said to have had 'one of the most brilliant minds'. He studied six languages, law, mathematics, science, and philosophy, at a time in history when education was limited. Jefferson - a self-taught architect, musician and inventor - established the American money system. His term established the beginning of the U.S. two-party system. Jefferson is noted for writing the Declaration of Independence.

Sixth President John Quincy Adams (born in Quincy, Massachusetts) was the son of the second president, John Adams. John Quincy was defeated in his run for a second term, but was elected by the Massachusetts constituency to serve as Congressman. Some people thought it a disgrace that a prior president should take a lower level position in government. John Quincy replied 'that no man was disgraced by serving his country' in any capacity. President John F. Kennedy, one of the most well-known, charismatic presidents, served as the 35th from 1961 to 1963. The nation and the world were shocked by Kennedy's assassination in Dallas, Texas. In 2001, George Walker Bush took the oath of office as 43rd President of the United States, after a controversial election in 2000. 'Ground Zero' in Manhattan, New York City, became an immediate issue for Bush and his staff. Remembered as '9/11', the terrorist attack killed approximately three thousand people. Bush was re-elected in 2004.

The biography sketches of 43 presidents are chronologically arranged. A bird's-eye-view follows stating the President's duties, 'Electoral Votes per State', and 'The Presidents At A Glance', which lists their names, years of service, and achievements. Within each biography are campaign slogans and cartoons, photos and sketches - including pioneers and gold miners in California, the depression years, and a cow kept on the White House lawn! Incidental trivia (such as a black and white photograph of George Washington's ivory false teeth) don't diminish the book's value, but I think that a photo of Washington's crossing the Delaware would be more historically appropriate. Readers will find answers to questions such as, 'When and why was the White House set on fire?'; 'Which president's face is on the $5,000 bill?'; and 'Which president served only one month in office?'

Though the book has been updated from its original issue, a correction is needed in the entry with regard to John Quincy Adams being the 'only son of a president' who becomes president. Presidents, 41st & 43rd, George Bush (1989-1993) and George Walker Bush (2001-present) are the second father and son to gain that notation. This inexpensive but quality, oversize paperback was first published in 1968, and has sustained the test of time as a reliable source of informative profiles of United States presidents. An added feature in the 2004 edition is a concluding chapter discussing the contentious election of 2000.

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