The Saturday Evening Post has featured many U.S. presidents on its cover in its nearly 200-year history. Here is a gallery of the men who have helped shape our nation.
Fifteen years after his death and 23 years after leaving office, Grant appeared on the cover of the Post, in one of a series of articles by Colonel A. K. McClure on “How We Make Presidents.” Grant oversaw the elimination of Confederate nationalism and slavery, protected African-American citizenship, and supported industrial expansion.
The election of 1876 was one of the most contentious in U. S. history. It was one of only five elections in which the person who won the most popular votes did not win the election. At one point, Tilden had 19 more electoral votes than Hayes. But a deal was brokered in which 20 disputed electoral votes were awarded to Hayes in exchange for withdrawal of federal troops from the South, putting Hayes in the White House by one vote.
As he was handing over the reins of the presidency to his successor, John Adams, Washington wrote, “I hold the maxim no less applicable to public than to private affairs, that honesty is always the best policy.”
Grover Cleveland was only U. S. President to serve two non-consecutive terms in office. He appeared on seven Saturday Evening Post covers and wrote several articles for the magazine on hunting, fishing, and the plight of democracy (not necessarily in that order of importance). He is remembered for being the only president to marry while in the White House, and for his deathless statement, “What is the use of being elected or re-elected unless you stand for something?”
An article in this issue of the Post proclaimed Taft to be “the heaviest President, the most traveled President, the best-natured President and the first golf player to occupy the White House.” He was among the most amiable and least ambitious men to be elected to the office. He continued most of the policies of his predecessor and friend, Teddy Roosevelt, but the two became estranged and ran against each other in 1912.
All his life, Taft tried in vain to reduce his weight. He reached 355 pounds while he served unhappily as president. He was also the only president to also serve as a justice on the Supreme Court, where he was far happier.
The Post was fascinated and charmed by Theodore Roosevelt, an energetic, progressive, young president who interrupted the long line of serious old men in the White House. Post editorials applauded his campaigns against “malefactors of great wealth” and his enthusiasm for making the U.S. a global power. Coming to the presidency in 1901 after President McKinley was shot, he was elected to a full term in 1904. He stepped aside in 1908 to let his friend, William H. Taft, successfully run for office. But in 1912, when this boy carved his pumpkin with TR’s toothy grimace and pince nez glasses, he was trying unsuccessfully for another term.
In 1862, with the country at the end of a Civil War, Lincoln called on Americans to face the challenges ahead without looking backward. He also reminded members of Congress that they would all be remembered for what they did in those perilous times:
“The dogmas of the quiet past, are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise — with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew, and act anew. We must disenthrall ourselves, and then we shall save our country.
“Fellow-citizens, we cannot escape history. We of this Congress and this administration, will be remembered in spite of ourselves. No personal significance, or insignificance, can spare one or another of us. The fiery trial through which we pass, will light us down, in honor or dishonor, to the latest generation.”
This photograph of former President Truman was taken in front of his Independence, Missouri home. In an article that Truman wrote for the Post, the 80-year-old looked back over his controversial career and explained the principles that guided him in making the most difficult decisions of his Administration — including the “firing” of Douglas MacArthur.
The Post hadn’t featured a sitting president on its cover since Taft’s appearance in 1909. A popular president, Eisenhower authorized the establishment of NASA, invoked executive privilege to help end McCarthyism, expanded social security, launched the interstate highway system, and established the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency which led to the development of computer networking and graphical user interfaces.
Among his many better known accomplishments, Kennedy also won a Pulitzer Prize (for “Profiles in Courage”), was awarded a Purple Heart, and donated his salary to charity. He represented the new generation of politicians: he was young, good-looking, smart, and funny, and drew international admiration. Kennedy spoke of idealism at a time when the country wanted to move on to new horizons, but his aggressive stance against communism brought the country close to one war and involved it in another, in Vietnam.
This Rockwell portrait appeared a second time when the Post ran its memorial issue after Kennedy’s assassination.
President Johnson was a politician’s politician, and he was a paradox. He was cynical and calculating enough to be a powerful force in Washington, but also a champion of the poor and the man who launched a “War on Poverty. Johnson signed several civil rights bills that banned racial discrimination in public facilities, interstate commerce, the workplace, and housing. He signed the Voting Rights Act and the Immigration and Nationality Act into law. When he came to the White House after Kennedy’s assassination, he enjoyed a long honeymoon period with the press. But he lost the support of the media, and many Americans, with his determination to continue sending American soldiers to Vietnam.
President Nixon is best remembered for the Watergate scandal and his subsequent resignation, but he also opened diplomatic relations with China, initiated détente with the Soviet Union, and established the Environmental Protection Agency. He ended U.S. involvement in Vietnam, and supported the Equal Rights Amendment, affirmative action, and the food stamp program. It was ironic that a man who rose in politics through his anti-communist stance made such significant progress with the communist governments of Russia and China.
Rockwell painted this portrait of candidate Nixon nine years before Nixon won the presidency.
In this feature in the Post, “astrologer to the stars” Carroll Righter analyzed President Ford’s astrological profile, terming him a Moonchild. Ford has the distinction of being the only person to have served as both Vice President and President of the United States without being elected to either office. It has not been determined if the alignment of the stars or planets was a factor.
Entering the White House abruptly when President Nixon resigned, he drew broad support by pardoning the men who’d avoided serving in Vietnam by illegally dodging the draft. But much of his popularity melted away when he also pardoned Nixon, sparing the nation a long, rancorous, divisive spectacle of a trial.
Once a Democrat, Reagan switched to the Republican party as his views became more conservative. As president, he supported Afghan rebels opposing Russia’s invasion of their land and pushed for a space-based missile system to protect America from a nuclear attack. In the end, though, he was the president whose policies and tactful diplomacy with Russian leaders would end the Cold War.
George H. W. Bush appeared on the Post cover when he was still vice president, but was poised to win the presidential election, held a month later. He is the oldest living former president and vice president.
Bush continued many of Reagan’s policies, but he bridled when journalists compared him unfavorably to the charismatic Reagan. He was portrayed by some as being weak, sheltered, and a wimp. Yet it was Bush, not Reagan, who served in World War II and survived being shot down as a Navy pilot. His single term was noted for his authorization of the military overthrow of a corrupt dictator in Panama and the smashing of Iraq’s force in Kuwait though Operation Desert Storm.