The More You Know

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The More You Know of the Day: President Obama apparently decided that today, being the Ides of March and all, would be a good day take a stab at knocking beloved American president Rutherford B. Hayes down a peg or two.

While discussing the need to develop alternative energy sources in Largo, Maryland, today, Obama told the crowd: "One of my predecessors, President Rutherford B. Hayes, reportedly said about the telephone: 'It’s a great invention but who would ever want to use one?' That's why he's not on Mt. Rushmore."

Ouch. Except that, one phone call to the the Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Center in Fremont, Ohio, proved that the president was perpetuating a long-debunked myth about the 19th commander-in-chief. He actually loved phones!

"I've heard that before, and no one ever knows where it came from," the center's Curator of Manuscripts, Nan Card, told New York Magazine's Dan Amira. Card pulled a June 1877 article from the Providence Journal, which recounts Hayes's first experience with the telecommunications device.

"A gradually increasing smile wreathe[d] his lips and wonder shone in his eyes more and more," Card read aloud to Amira. Hayes "looked at [the phone] a moment in surprise and remarked, 'That is wonderful.'"

Card went on to remind Amira that Hayes, more than the first president to install an official White House phone, was also the first to use a typewriter. It's also worth noting, as author John Bartlett, that, prior to Obama, Hayes was the last president to call Harvard Law School his alma mater.

So much for veritas, eh?

[politico / nymag / atlantic.]