As a kid, I loved baseball and cherished my collection of player cards. I had hundreds of them, including, I’m pretty sure, a rare Mickey Mantle rookie card, now worth millions. When I was about eight or nine, my dad gave me an old set of U.S. President cards, with photos and vital stats on the front and detailed info on the back.
The cards were smaller than the typical 2.5” x 3.5” baseball cards I loved. But I was fascinated by the presidents. The set had been published a couple of decades earlier. It covered all the presidents from GW to FDR. It stated that Roosevelt’s Term of Office was “1933 – “ so the cards were published some time during his twelve-year tenure.
For some reason, the Millard Fillmore card was missing from the set. Nevertheless, I became that annoying kid who could and would recite the list of presidents in order, at the drop of a hat.
I was entranced by Washington in particular, both the city and the man. As a teenager, I enjoyed staying with family in D.C. and touring the White House, the Capitol, the FBI, and the monuments on my own. As a junior in high school, I read and loved The American Presidency, by Cornell Professor Clinton Rossiter. I mailed him a copy of a school paper I wrote, based partially on his book and received a gracious note in return.
I went on to major in Government at Dartmouth, and, decades later, shot interviews with Presidents Clinton, Ford, and Carter for a West Wing documentary about what it’s like to work in the White House.
(All in all, I’ve met six presidents and shot five of them … but that’s another story.)
George had long since become my touchstone for trying to understand the alluring technology of my mid-century boyhood: aviation, photography, trains, cars, rockets, satellites, television, movies. How would I explain this to George Washington, if he were to come back to life right here, right now?
A few years ago, I decided to bring George back, albeit in unfamiliar surroundings. This book is the result. Enjoy.
My card collection languished in my parents’ attic after I left the East Coast, and years ago, my mom gave them all away — or threw them away, she wasn’t sure — including my Mickey Mantle rookie card. If I really did own one.
I remembered those early president cards when I started writing Finding George Washington and found a set on eBay that I would pay too much for. They are even smaller than I remembered, and a bit stained and yellowed, but I’m thrilled to have them.