21 Presidential Doodles

For as long as boring meetings and pens have been around, man has doodled—and the bigwigs in the White House aren’t immune. Although we’d like to think that presidential meetings are grave and focused, the folks in charge of the Big Red Button are just as likely as we are to scribble the day away.

But according to a study in the Journal of Applied Cognitive Psychology, doodlers have an easier time recalling dull information than non-doodlers. (Actually, they remember 29 percent more information!) Researchers believe it’s because non-doodlers are more likely to daydream, which is a lot more taxing on the brain that you may think. Doodling, in comparison, doesn’t require as much mental effort. As John Cloud at TIME puts it, “Doodling forces your brain to expend just enough energy to stop it from daydreaming but not so much that you don’t pay attention.”

1. Thomas Jefferson

Macaroni was all the rage in 1780s Europe. When Jefferson visited Paris as the minister to France, he fell in love with the cuisine and commissioned his secretary to buy a macaroni machine in Italy. In 1787, he sketched the above design for a “maccaroni” machine.

2. Andrew Jackson

The 7th president passed the time by scribbling alligators and turtles.

3. James Garfield

We can only imagine President Garfield worked out his genealogy with hotdog art.

4. Theodore Roosevelt

This technically isn’t a doodle. Roosevelt wrote hundreds of letters to his children, and he liked adding pictures to the mix. In this he writes, “Ethel administers necessary discipline to Archie and Quentin.”

5. and 6. Warren G. Harding

Harding’s doodle reflect the times—it’s kind of art deco.

Traditionally ranked the worst president of all time, the least Harding could do was scratch out a peacock.

7. Calvin Coolidge

Abstract expressionism didn’t exist when Coolidge was around, but if it had, he might have been a fan.

8. Herbert Hoover

Hoover was a chronic doodler, and most of them were geometrical. A line of children’s clothing was actually patterned after some of his sketches.

9. and 10. Dwight D. Eisenhower

A sword splits the hilt of a knife.

Ike was a decent painter, and his sketches aren’t too shabby either (although he may have exaggerated his biceps here). Guatemala was clearly on his mind. The day before, the CIA deposed Guatemala’s president in the 1954 coup d’état.

11. and 12. John F. Kennedy

One thing was on JFK’s mind that day—Vietnam.

Kennedy rarely drew pictures, so the boat above is a gem. He usually inked words and repeated them over and over until there wasn’t any room left on the page. His last doodle reportedly was smothered with the word “poverty.” (Although some were more random. While at a cabinet meeting, he obsessively penned the words “unemployment,” “communism,” and “cheese.”)

13., 14., 15., and 16. Lyndon B. Johnson

Here’s a challenge, guys. In the comments, try to come up with the best title for all of LBJ’s pieces. Here the devil that breathes fire and destroys a UFO. In the background, a three-headed monster in a dress cheers it on.

Does anyone else think Johnson would have gotten along with Salvador Dali?

A smoking three-eyed octopus missing one tentacle (and wearing, it appears, a necklace.)

We give up. For more LBJ art, here’s an unflattering portrait of Bobby Kennedy.

17. and 18. Richard Nixon

Nixon had a thing for triangles. He scribbled the bottom doodle during his last year.

19. Ronald Reagan

Babies! Horses! Football players! Cowboys! At the bottom, Reagan wrote to Nancy, “There I was doodling away—then I began to think about you. Soooooo….”

20. Bill Clinton

Dammit, Bill.

21. Barack Obama

While Obama was a senator, he scribbled Harry Reid, Dianne Feinstein, Chuck Schumer and Ted Kennedy. But it was for a good cause. Part of “National Doodle Day,” the drawing sold for $2000 and raised money for a neurofibromatosis charity.

For more executive sketches, check out David Greenberg’s book Presidential Doodles: Two Centuries of Scribbles, Scratches, Squiggles, and Scrawls from the Oval Office.

Museum of the City of New York
New York City Exhibition Celebrates the Rebellious Victorian-Era Women Who Made History
Museum of the City of New York
Museum of the City of New York

At a time when women wore corsets and hooped skirts, the American Jewish actress Adah Isaacs Menken caused quite a stir when she appeared onstage in men’s clothing. It was the early 1860s, and her portrayal of a man in the play Mazeppa saw her ride into the theater on a horse while wearing a flesh-colored body stocking. Critics were shocked, but Menken paid no mind. Both on stage and in her daily life, she continued to disregard the norms of that era by cutting her hair short and smoking cigarettes in public.

Menken is just one of the daring women featured in a new exhibition at the Museum of the City of New York. Rebel Women: Defying Victorianism celebrates the New York women who challenged the rigid expectations of the Victorian era, and includes a collection of photographs, clothes, and prints from the period.

A caricatures of the "Grecian bend"
Museum of the City of New York

The 19th century was a period of constraints for women. "During this era, a woman could be considered a rebel simply by speaking in public, working outside the home, or disregarding middle‐class morality or decorum," according to a museum statement. “Yet 19th‐century New York City was full of women who defied those expectations in both overt and subtle ways.”

The exhibit highlights the accomplishments of historic figures who contributed to the advancement of women’s rights, like Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, but it also casts a light on lesser-known figures—many of whom history was unkind to.

A photo of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony
Museum of the City of New York

An illustration of women voting
Museum of the City of New York

There’s Ann Trow Lohman, also known as “Madame Restell,” who was dubbed “The Wickedest Woman in New York” for providing birth control to women. Similarly, Hetty Green earned the moniker “The Witch of Wall Street” for her successful career as a stock broker.

Visitors will also learn about a predecessor to Rosa Parks: Elizabeth Jennings Graham, a black New Yorker who refused to get off of a segregated street car in 1854.

Not all of the women had such noble goals, though, and the exhibition shows that men didn’t have a monopoly on crime. Notorious pickpocket and con-woman Sophie Lyons used her smarts and beauty to steal from wealthy men and earned a reputation as "the most notorious confidence woman America has ever produced."

The exhibition will be on view until January 6, 2019, and tickets can be purchased online.

Marshall McLuhan, the Man Who Predicted the Internet in 1962

Futurists of the 20th century were prone to some highly optimistic predictions. Theorists thought we might be extending our life spans to 150, working fewer hours, and operating private aircrafts from our homes. No one seemed to imagine we’d be communicating with smiley faces and poop emojis in place of words.

Marshall McLuhan didn’t call that either, but he did come closer than most to imagining our current technology-led environment. In 1962, the author and media theorist, predicted we’d have an internet.

That was the year McLuhan, a professor of English born in Edmonton, Canada on this day in 1911, wrote a book called The Gutenberg Galaxy. In it, he observed that human history could be partitioned into four distinct chapters: The acoustic age, the literary age, the print age, and the then-emerging electronic age. McLuhan believed this new frontier would be home to what he dubbed a “global village”—a space where technology spread information to anyone and everyone.

Computers, McLuhan said, “could enhance retrieval, obsolesce mass library organization,” and offer “speedily tailored data.”

McLuhan elaborated on the idea in his 1962 book, Understanding Media, writing:

"Since the inception of the telegraph and radio, the globe has contracted, spatially, into a single large village. Tribalism is our only resource since the electro-magnetic discovery. Moving from print to electronic media we have given up an eye for an ear."

But McLuhan didn’t concern himself solely with the advantages of a network. He cautioned that a surrender to “private manipulation” would limit the scope of our information based on what advertisers and others choose for users to see.

Marshall McLuhan died on December 31, 1980, several years before he was able to witness first-hand how his predictions were coming to fruition.


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