Trivia question: What Vice President of the United States never set foot in Washington, D.C. during his tenure in office? The answer is not John Adams. Anne Goalwin’s guess is Thomas Jefferson, the Vice President in the administration of President John Adams. Adams arrived in DC on November 1, 1800 near the close of his tenure. Jefferson was already in the new Capital. Barry Schwenk, one of our heroes, wrote from Baghdad. His guess was Thomas Hendricks, the Vice President during the first administration of Grover Cleveland. Hendricks is the only Vice President (who did not also serve as President) whose portrait appears on U.S. paper money. He was in office for only a few months, but he took the oath at the U.S. Capitol. Todd Asti’s guess is William Henry Harrison, but he was President, not Vice President. He occupied the White House for just a month.
The winners of the trivia contest are Donna French and Tracy Wong. They correctly identified Vice President William Rufus King who served during the administration of President Franklin Pierce. King was suffering from tuberculosis. He took the oath in Cuba and arrived back in Alabama for only one day before his death on April 18, 1853. He was in office for just 45 days. The prize is a basketful of kittens which Donna and Tracy will have to share.
King’s personal life is the subject of a chapter in James Loewen’s book, “Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong” (Simon & Schuster, 1996). The author says: “The preponderance of the evidence clearly shows that James Buchanan had a long-term homosexual relationship with William Rufus King. Historians or sociologists are allowed to go with “a preponderance of the evidence,” since we are not convicting anyone of a crime in a court of law. The evidence that President Buchanan was heterosexual is thin indeed. He might of course have been asexual, but that’s tricky to prove, since absence of evidence (of sexuality in this case) is not evidence of absence.” Another interesting question is why did Buchanan tolerate slavery? Books have also been written on that topic.