Monday, October 27, 2008

When Did Presidents Start Smiling? - Part 2

Searching the archives of Presidential images in the continuing quest to find the first consistent portraiture of a "smiling" Commander-in-Chief . . .

Part 2
Woodrow Wilson

President Wilson is the bitterest looking President of the Twentieth Century. Maybe the bitterest looking president ever. If Charles Dickens had written a story about a grumpy president, he would look like Wilson. Notice the famous photo of Wilson at his desk in the Oval Office. He seems perturbed. We've interrupted him while he is busy signing the Treaty of Versailles. Or maybe he was busy calling up folks and asking them to join the League of Nations. That would make anyone bitter.

Personally, it reminds me of being called into the principal's office. I feel like a freckle-faced ruffian who's been caught shooting spitwads on the bus. I can imagine Principal Wilson saying, "What do you have to say for yourself you unrepentant scalawag? Tell me why I should not give you a thrashing young man!"

"Forgive me guv'nor," says I, "'twas just a 'armless spitwad! 'Twern't like I shot the Archduke Ferdinand or 'nuffin."

Yet, there is another side of Woody. He becomes a rather jaunty fellow out on the campaign trail. He's sporting a big grin. This urged me to search for more pictures of Wilson and I think I have found a common thread in quite a many Smilin' Wilson images: Wilson smiles when he's wearing a top hat.

All it takes is the top hat and he magically becomes the cheeriest president we've ever known. Maybe Frosty the Snowman's magic top came from Wilson? That magic hat changes Woodrow the Woodman into Woody the Ritzy Prez! The clue is in the song: "There must have been some magic in that old silk hat they found, for when they placed it on his head, he began to dance around."

He does look like he's about to dance, don't you think? He looks like the singing frog from the Warner Bros. cartoon. "Hello my baby! Hello my darlin'!"

However, upon further research, I found that in a few instances other hats also make the Woodster smile a mile. Here he is at a baseball game. Maybe he's just smiling because he's enjoying America's favorite past time? Maybe he found a lick and stick tatoo in his box of Cracker Jack? But notice that he is wearing a hat that isn't top. I suppose it was considered bad form to wear a top hat to a baseball game.

His official portraiture is too grim and serious for him to be considered the first Smiling Prez. After all, he is the World War I leader of the U.S. That's not the sort of thing to smile about. But Wilson does seem to understand that when one is campaigning it is good to smile for the camera! We're getting closer.
The quest will continue . . .

1 comment:

Kristina said...

It is apparent to me that he simply had to the sense of #2, perhaps 3