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Rebecca O'Connell // istock (background) / getty images (obama)
Rebecca O'Connell // istock (background) / getty images (obama)

How Many Presidents Visited All 50 States Before Leaving Office?

Rebecca O'Connell // istock (background) / getty images (obama)
Rebecca O'Connell // istock (background) / getty images (obama)

As you may have read, President Obama raised some eyebrows earlier this month when it was reported that he has only visited 49 out of 50 states since his first term began. The lone outlier? South Dakota.

“We’d always love to have him,” said ex-senator Tom Daschle, who suggested one of the state’s nine Indian reservations for a stop on Obama’s next road trip. Back in 2013, South Dakota’s department of tourism officially invited him over, noting “your wife and daughters have visited Mount Rushmore … now it is your turn.” And don’t miss John Oliver’s brilliant take on Obama’s neglect of South Dakota (complete with a phony, somewhat NSFW ad).

A little over a week after the comedian’s bit aired, Obama announced that he would indeed be dropping by Watertown, S.D., where he’ll deliver a commencement address at Lake Area Technical Institute. By exploring the great states of South Dakota, North Carolina, Idaho, and Utah this year, Obama will soon become only the fourth sitting president in U.S. history to have set foot in all 50 states.

WHERE THE OTHER PRESIDENTS STAND

FDR would be on this exclusive list, if it weren’t for the fact that Alaska and Hawaii didn’t become states until 1959. Fittingly, the longest-serving POTUS managed to explore—or at the very least pass through—those two territories and all 48 extant states during his twelve-year stint in the White House. 

“Unfortunately,” says archive specialist Jim Armistead of the Harry S. Truman Library and Museum, “no one has compiled a list of all the states which President Truman visited while he was in office.” Still, his public papers reveal that at least 40 hosted him at one point during his two terms. Furthermore, Armistead notes that before Hawaii joined the union, Truman stopped there “on his way to Wake Island for a conference with General Douglas MacArthur in 1950.” As for America’s other soon-to-be state, he considered taking an Alaskan vacation during the summer of ‘46, but ultimately opted for a New England getaway instead.

Dwight Eisenhower was technically the first president to serve all 50 states—under his watch, two new stars were added to our flag after Alaska and Hawaii joined the union. But despite that—as well as Eisenhower’s part in the creation of America’s interstate highway system—there were a few states that the 34th president never got around to seeing before he left D.C.

For example, Idaho, which got snubbed by Ike and his successor. In John F. Kennedy’s defense, he did manage a visit to every single state at some point (just not during his tragically-short administration). Next up was Lyndon Johnson, who made time for Idaho as chief executive, but neglected places like North Dakota.

Then came Richard Nixon. One day in 1971, “Tricky Dick” met with Republican fundraisers at a Delaware estate. As unassuming as this little foray was, it capped a remarkable accomplishment. By crossing Delaware off his list, Nixon had done something that no previous president had—he’d checked out all 50 states while in office, and did so in less than three years.

According to his press secretary Ronald L. Ziegler, Nixon firmly believed in getting out and meeting everyday people—as his travels purportedly demonstrated. “He has done that,” said Ziegler. “I think he will continue to do that.” 

Unfortunately, Nixon’s sudden, scandalous departure didn’t give Gerald Ford much time to work with, and he couldn’t keep the fifty-state visitation streak alive. (Just like Johnson, North Dakota was among those Ford missed). Jimmy Carter also fell short during his one-term presidency, failing to reach such states as South Dakota and Vermont.

Let’s pause here for a moment, because the syrup-scented home of Ben & Jerry’s really deserves a shout-out. Historically, presidential visits to Vermont have been quite scarce. Before Obama was sworn in, three of the previous five commanders-in-chief never came calling on the New England gem. After Carter overlooked it, Vermont went on to become one of only four states that Ronald Reagan passed over (along with Maine, Rhode Island, and Delaware). Even so, the whole quartet voted for him in 1984—and all but Rhode Island had done so in 1980.

George H.W. Bush did in a single term what Reagan couldn’t in two, becoming the first president since Nixon to see every state. Bill Clinton then followed suit, squeezing in his final state just under the wire.

While Clinton was in office, GOP leaders in Nebraska began taking pride in an odd piece of trivia. “We have the distinction,” Governor Mike Johanns gloated at the Republican National Convention in 2000, “of being the only state in the union, I repeat the ONLY state in the union, never visited by Bill Clinton since he’s been president.” Naturally, the conservative crowd went wild. Four months later, Clinton finally showed and shook hands with Johanns himself when Air Force One touched down at the Kearney Municipal Airport.

George W. Bush spent time in a grand total of 49 states before calling it quits. Care to guess which one he spurned? (We’ll give you a hint: it starts with a “V” and rhymes with “croissant.”)

To say that the 43rd president wasn’t a popular guy in Vermont would be a serious understatement. After all, in 2008, two Vermont towns—Brattleboro and Marlboro—approved a nonbinding measure supposedly requiring local police officers to arrest Bush and then-VP Dick Cheney on sight. Perhaps it was for the best that the head of state kept his distance.

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The Lincoln Library May Have to Sell the President's Hat and Blood-Stained Gloves to Pay Off a Loan
Alexander Gardner, U.S. Library of Congress/Getty Images
Alexander Gardner, U.S. Library of Congress/Getty Images

Two of the most valuable artifacts in the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum may be shut away from the public for good if the institution can't pay off its debt. As the Chicago Tribune reports, the presidential library's foundation took out a $23 million loan in 2007 to acquire a collection of items that once belonged to the 16th president. Over a decade later, the Springfield, Illinois institution has yet to pay back the entirety of the loan—and it may have to auction off some of the very items it was used to purchase to do so.

The 2007 loan paid for most of the $25 million Barry and Louise Taper Collection, which before moving to the library was the largest private collection of Lincoln memorabilia compiled in the last half-century. It features 1500 items, including many of Lincoln's personal belongings and writings.

The foundation still owes $9.7 million on the loan, which comes up for renewal in October 2019. In order to avoid financial trouble and retain the majority of the artifacts, the foundation is considering auctioning off two of the most valuable pieces in the collection: A stovetop hat thought to have belonged to Lincoln and the blood-stained gloves he wore on the night of his assassination.

As long as they're in the museum's possession, the artifacts are available for the public to view and researchers to study. If they end up on the auction block they will likely go home with a private buyer and become inaccessible for the indefinite future.

While the Lincoln library is run by the Illinois government, the foundation is privately funded and run independently. The foundation appealed to Governor Bruce Rauner for financial assistance earlier this month with no success. Springfield-area Representative Sara Wojcicki Jimenez, however, tells the Chicago Tribune that she is looking into ways to relieve the museum's financial burden.

If the state doesn't follow through with funding, the foundation does have a backup plan. The Barry and Louise Taper Collection also includes a handful of Marilyn Monroe artifacts sprinkled in with the Lincoln memorabilia and some of those items are going up for auction in Las Vegas on June 23. Revenue from a dress worn by Monroe, pictures of her taken by photographer Arnold Newman, and a bust of poet Carl Sandburg that once belonged to the icon will hopefully offer some relief to the foundation's outstanding debt.

[h/t The Chicago Tribune]

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10 Things You Might Not Know About Jimmy Carter
Central Press/Getty Images
Central Press/Getty Images

Bridging the gap between the often-maligned Gerald Ford and the drug-busting Ronald Reagan was Jimmy Carter, the 39th president of the United States and one of the most esteemed humanitarians ever to hold the office. Carter is 93, and while a nearly-century-long life is hard to summarize, we’ve assembled a few things that may surprise you about one of our most fondly-remembered elected officials.

1. HIS CHILDHOOD DIDN’T INVOLVE MANY AMENITIES.

Born in Plains, Georgia on October 1, 1924, James Earl Carter’s early years didn’t involve a lot of the rapid technological progressions that were taking place around the country. His family relocated to Archery, Georgia—a town that relied chiefly on mule-drawn wagons for transportation—when Carter was 4. Indoor plumbing and electricity were rare. To pass time, Carter typically listened to entertainment shows on a battery-operated radio with his father.

2. HE DREW CRITICISM FOR REJECTING RACIST BELIEFS.

After graduating from the U.S. Naval Academy, Carter served in the military, during which time he married and had three sons. (A fourth child, daughter Amy, was born in 1967.) After his father died in 1953, Carter was honorably discharged and settled on the family peanut farm in Plains, where he found that the South’s deeply-rooted racial biases were in direct conflict with his own progressive views of integration. When Plains residents assembled a “White Citizens’ Council” to combat anti-discrimination laws, Carter refused membership. Soon, signs were pasted on his front door full of racist remarks. But Carter held to his views: By the 1960s, voters were ready to embrace a politician without biases, and Carter was elected to the Georgia State Senate.

Unfortunately, Carter found that his liberal views could only take him so far in the state. When he ran for governor in 1970, he backed off on many of his previously-publicized views on racial equality, leading some to declare him bigoted. Once in office, however, Carter restored many of his endorsements to end segregation.

3. HE CAUSED A STIR BY DOING THE PLAYBOY INTERVIEW.

Few, if any, presidential candidates have attempted to stir up support by submitting to an intensive interview in the pages of Playboy, but Carter’s 1976 bid was an exception. Just weeks before he won the election, Carter admitted to having “committed adultery in my heart” many times and that he “looked on a lot of women with lust.”

4. HE NEVER LIKED THE PAGEANTRY OF THE PRESIDENCY.

When Carter entered the office of the presidency in 1977, he made it clear that he considered himself no more elevated in status than his voters simply because of political power. He sold the presidential yacht, thinking it a symbol of excess; he also carried his own briefcase and banned workers from playing “Hail to the Chief” during appearances.

5. HE MAY HAVE SEEN A UFO.

Prior to taking office, Carter filed an interesting report with the National Investigations Committee on Aerial Phenomena, or NICAP. In 1969, Carter wrote, he spotted a strange aircraft in the sky over Leary, Georgia. It appeared to hover 30 degrees above the horizon before disappearing. Carter promised to release every sealed document the government had collected about UFOs if elected, but later walked back on the promise, citing national security concerns.

6. HE INSTALLED SOLAR PANELS AT THE WHITE HOUSE.

Carter spent considerable time and effort promoting renewable energy sources as the world struggled with an ongoing fuel crisis. To demonstrate his commitment, Carter ordered that solar panels be installed on White House grounds in 1979, decades before such a practice became commonplace. The panels were used to heat water on the property. Ronald Reagan had the panels removed in 1986 during a roof renovation.

7. HE WATCHED OVER 400 MOVIES WHILE IN OFFICE.

Carter was a movie buff who, as president, enjoyed early access to many films—and he averaged a couple of movies a week while in office. Among those viewed: 1969’s Midnight Cowboy, 1976’s All the President’s Men, and 1980’s Caddyshack. Carter also screened 1977’s Star Wars with Egyptian president Anwar Sadat.

8. HE BOYCOTTED THE 1980 OLYMPICS.

After Soviet forces failed to heed Carter’s mandate to pull their troops out of Afghanistan, Carter committed to a radical step: He prevented American athletes from competing in the 1980 Games in Moscow, the first time the nation had failed to appear in the competition. Canada, West Germany, Japan, and around 50 other countries followed Carter’s lead. When the Games moved to Los Angeles in 1984, it was the Soviet Union's turn to refuse to appear.

9. HE WAS ATTACKED BY A RABBIT.

Before running for (and losing) re-election in 1980, Carter decided to take a little time for himself and go fishing near his home in Plains. While in his boat, a wild rabbit that was being chased by hounds jumped into the water and swam toward the boat. Carter shooed the animal away with a paddle. Although it was a minor incident, a photo snapped of Carter flailing at the bunny and numerous editorial cartoons gave some voters the perception he was a less-than-ideal adversary for the powerful Soviet Union and may have led to an image of Carter as ineffectual.

10. HE WON THE NOBEL PEACE PRIZE IN 2002.

After decades of philanthropic work, including a longstanding association with Habitat for Humanity, Carter was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2002. It was actually a quarter-century overdue: The Nobel committee wanted to award him the prize in 1978 after he helped broker peace talks between Israel and Egypt, but no one had nominated him before the official deadline had closed.

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