Presidents Day 2020 comes during a presidential election that is full of images of countless fans shaking hands with Democratic candidates and stadiums overflowing with tens of thousands of red-hatted Trump fans.
How did fans interact with George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, the presidents most celebrated on Presidents Day? While not gathering in stadiums, supporters creatively expressed their enthusiasm. Their fandom gives us a fun look at these presidents this Presidents Day.
Washington’s first fangirl
“I was struck with General Washington. You had prepared me to entertain a favorable opinion of him, but I thought the one half was not told me,” Abigail Adams swooned to her short, peevish husband, John Adams, in July 1775. She was blown away after meeting the towering, charismatic Washington for the first time in Massachusetts. Away in Philadelphia, John had nominated Washington for the commander-in-chief of the Continental Army.
“Dignity with ease, and complacency, the gentleman and soldier look agreeably blended in him,” she continued. “Modesty marks every line and feature of his face.”
She didn’t stop there. “Mark his majestic fabric! He’s a temple. Sacred by birth and built by hands divine. His soul’s the deity that lodges there.”
Abigail was also notable. Her call to her husband to remember the ladies launched a long quest that culminated in all women winning the right to vote in 1920, which celebrates its 100th anniversary this year.
Most of Washington’s fans started out liking someone else.
Washington’s Crossover Fans
“O may your sceptre num’rous nations sway, and all with love and readiness obey!” Phillis Wheatley praised King George III in 1768 in one of her many published poems, a first for an African-American. She is often remembered during February’s Black History Month.
“Proceed, great chief, with virtue on thy side, Thy ev’ry action let the goddess guide. A crown, a mansion, and a throne that shine, with gold unfading, Washington! Be thine.”
Not only that but this crossover fan also boldly sent him her poem. “The fame of your virtues, excite sensations not easy to suppress,” Phillis confessed in her letter.
How did he respond? Washington wrote her back: “The style and manner exhibit a striking proof of your great poetical talents.” While an aide published it in a magazine, Washington issued an invitation. “If you should ever come to Cambridge, or near headquarters, I shall be happy to see a person so favored by the muses.”