It's easy to forget that historical US presidents are anything more than names in history books and pictures on money. After all, so many of them have been elevated to near-mythical status – for better or worse – and in school, you only really ever learn about them in the context of what they did, not who they were. But nothing is so telling about a historical figure's personality as what they keep on their desk or in their home, or even on themselves.
There are plenty of presidential artifacts out and about, ranging from the mundane – like glasses and china – to completely out of left field, like the ever-surprising coconut from among JFK's artifacts. Regardless of what managed to survive to the present day, it's always a treat seeing items touched by history. And it's even more of a treat seeing the downright weird stuff that's hung out in the president's house.
Before his presidency, JFK served in the US Navy during World War II. A Japanese destroyer rammed the boat he was on during a patrol, and he just barely got a fellow crewmember and himself to safety on a desert island before the remaining survivors followed.
When two men rowed by, Kennedy gave them a coconut carved with their location to pass on to the nearest US Navy base, and a rescue team followed shortly after. When he came home, Kennedy had the coconut encased in plastic, and it sat on his desk throughout his presidency.Cool artifact?
During his presidential campaign in 1912, Theodore Roosevelt was shot in the chest by a would-be assassin. The bullet was slowed by this speech and steel glasses case, and he still gave his speech before going to the hospital.Cool artifact?
- Photo: Library of Congress, Rare Book and Special Collections Division, Alfred Whital Stern Collection of Lincolniana / Library of Congress / No known copyright restrictions
Abraham Lincoln's glasses, held together with twine after losing the screw at some point, were one of nine things the 16th president had in his pocket the night of his assassination.Cool artifact?
Washington personally purchased this set of china to be used in his presidential mansions, and it came from the first American merchant ship to do trade in the East.Cool artifact?