FRANKLIN PIERCE (1804-1869)
For most Americans, when we think of President Franklin Pierce, we draw a blank. Pierce simply wasn’t that memorable, especially compared to our many high-profile leaders. Perhaps that is because our 14th President was most notable as a contrarian and for the tragic loss of his children.
Some historians consider Franklin Pierce the worst president the United States has ever had. He served just one term, from 1853 to 1857, yet he managed to accomplish two “firsts” with that. He was nominated as the first-ever presidential “dark horse” candidate in American history. Pierce was more or less a political unknown at the time and won the nomination only after Democratic Party representatives went through four dozen ballots unable to agree on anyone better known.
Pierce’s political failures while in office caused his fellow Democrats to turn their backs on him four years later. Although he wanted to serve a second term, they refused him another nomination. Franklin Pierce became the first sitting president to suffer that insult.
FROM THE COLLECTION OF RALEIGH DeGEER AMYX: AN INTRICATE PLATE FROM THE FRANKLIN PIERCE OFFICIAL WHITE HOUSE CHINA - IMPORTED AND DECORATED BY HAUGHWOT & DAILY, NEW YORK. THIS WAS THE FIRST AMERICAN DECORATED CHINA SERVICE EVER PURCHASED BY THE U.S. GOVERNMENT FOR THE WHITE HOUSE.
Born in New Hampshire, Franklin Pierce gained notoriety as a Northerner with a Southern attitude toward slavery. Pierce was an expansionist and dedicated considerable effort to adding territory. However, because of his stance in favor of slavery, many saw these efforts as a covert ploy to expand the practice. So instead of quietly maintaining the peace between pro- and anti-slavery factors – the nation’s expectation of his presidency – Pierce’s actions fanned the flames of controversy.
Pierce continued to argue in favor of slavery after he left office, and was an overt opponent of Abraham Lincoln.
He went against the grain in other ways, too. At his inauguration, he merely affirmed his oath of office by placing his hand on one of his law books rather than swearing on a Bible. Interestingly, he gave his entire inaugural speech – 3,319 words’ worth -- from memory. Pierce punctuated that by cancelling his inaugural ball.
FORMER FIRST LADY JANE PIERCE (1806-1863) WITH THEIR ELDEST SON BENNIE WHO TRAGICALLY DIED IN A TRAIN WRECK AT AGE 11
Pierce’s wife Jane suffered from frail health and depression throughout her life, and the couple’s three sons all perished before the age of 12. Franklin, Jr. died just three days after his birth in 1836. Frank Robert was born in 1839 but died four years later during a typhoid epidemic. And Benjamin, known affectionately to his parents as “Bennie,” died horribly in a train wreck just two months before his father took office as President. Bennie, 11 years old at the time, was the only person to die in the accident.
For much of his life, Franklin Pierce vacillated between alcoholism and advocating temperance. His wife was devoutly religious, and it was through her he first became active in the temperance movement. But his dependence on alcohol during trying times became more prominent as he aged, and ultimately he died of cirrhosis of the liver in 1869.
FRANKLIN PIERCE BEGAN THE TRADITION OF DISPLAYING A CHRISTMAS TREE IN THE WHITE HOUSE.
There was, however, one bright note in Pierce’s presidency: he was the first President to put up a Christmas tree in the White House.
World renowned collector Raleigh DeGeer Amyx has acquired a remarkable number of scarce or rare pieces of official White House China. Mr. Amyx’s passion for American historical artifacts has been his sole focus for more than 35 years. Mr. Amyx's collection is the largest privately-owned collection of extremely high-quality, as well as the rarest, Official White House China and Presidential China in the world. If you would like to engage in a discussion with Mr. Amyx about White House China, please contact him through the button below.