Happy Birthday, Milly!

January 7, 2010

Millard Fillmore was born January 7, 1800. Had he lived, Millard Fillmore would be 210 years old today, and probably very cranky, and looking for a good book to read.

Millard Fillmore (unknown artist, circa 1840) - National Portrait Gallery

Millard Fillmore (unknown artist, circa 1840) - National Portrait Gallery

Would you blame him for being cranky?  He opened Japan to trade.  He got from Mexico the land necessary to make Los Angeles a great world city and the Southern Pacific a great railroad, without firing a shot.  Fillmore promoted economic development of the Mississippi River.  He managed to keep a fractious nation together despite itself for another three years.  Fillmore let end the practice of presidents using slaves to staff the White House (then called “the President’s Mansion”).

Then in 1852 his own party refused to nominate him for a full term, making him the last Whig to be president.  And to add insult to ignominy, H. L. Mencken falsely accused him of being known only for adding a bathtub to the White House, something he didn’t do.

As Antony said of Caesar, the good was interred with his bones — but Millard Fillmore doesn’t even get credit for whatever evil he might have done:  Fillmore is remembered most for being the butt of a hoax gone awry, committed years after his death.  Or worse, he’s misremembered for what the hoax alleged he did.

Even beneficiaries of his help promoting the Mississippi River have taken his name off their annual celebration of the eventFillmore has been eclipsed, even in mediocrity (is there still a Millard Fillmore Society in Washington?).

Happy birthday, Millard Fillmore.

Millard Fillmore was a man of great civic spirit, a man who answered the call to serve even when most others couldn’t hear it at all.  He was a successful lawyer, despite having had only six months of formal education (a tribute to non-high school graduates and lifelong learning).  Unable to save the Union, he established the University of Buffalo and the Buffalo and Erie County Historical Society.  And, it is said of him, that Queen Victoria said he was the most handsome man she had ever met.

A guy like that deserves a toast, don’t you think?


Are you ready? Millard Fillmore’s birthday, January 7

January 6, 2010

Millard Fillmore turns 210 tomorrow.

Millard Fillmore in the 1850s, NY Times image, Wikimedia

Millard Fillmore in the 1850s, wondering about that birthday cake. Wikimedia, via New York Times image

How do you plan to celebrate?

Some are planning big fetes:

From 10:00AM to 3:00PM on Sun Jan 10, 2010.

Save the date! Cayuga-Owasco Lakes Historical Society will once again host a birthday party for Millard Fillmore on Sunday, January 10 from 10:00am to 3pm. The history museum at 14 West Cayuga Street will be open for visitors and will serve refreshments in honor of our 13th President’s birthday. This will be the last official function until March, 2010. Throughout December the house will be open on Mondays 9:00 am until noon. If you have not visited lately, the recently refurbished Fillmore Room features a timeline of his life and presidency as well as photos and memorabilia.  (From Auburnpub.com)

Tradition is on a glide path at the University of Buffalo, a school founded by Millard Fillmore; from the UB Media Center:

Media Advisory: UB to Commemorate 210th Birthday of Millard Fillmore

Release Date: January 6, 2010

BUFFALO, N.Y. — The University at Buffalo will uphold a longstanding winter tradition as it celebrates the 210th anniversary of the birth of Millard Fillmore, UB’s first chancellor and the 13th president of the United States, at a ceremony to be held at 10 a.m. Jan. 7 at Fillmore’s gravesite in Forest Lawn Cemetery.

The outdoor ceremony marking the 210th anniversary of Fillmore’s birth on Jan. 7, 1800, is hosted by UB, the Forest Lawn Group and the Buffalo Club. It is free and open to the public.

The commemoration address will be delivered by James A. Willis, UB executive vice president for university support services. Wreaths will be presented by Col. Timothy G. Vaughn, 107th Mission Support Group Commander, New York Air National Guard, representing the White House; Marc Adler, adjunct professor in Millard Fillmore College and immediate past president of the UB Alumni Association, representing UB; Charles M. Mitschow, president of the Buffalo Club; and Dean H. Jewett, chairman of the board of the Forest Lawn Group.

The invocation will be presented by The Rev. Joel Miller, minister of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Buffalo. The UB Police Color Guard will present the flags, and West Richter, a UB student and member of the UB Marching Band, will play taps.

A reception with refreshments will immediately follow in the Forest Lawn Chapel.

Fillmore helped establish UB, serving as its first chancellor from 1847 until his death in 1874. He also was instrumental in framing the charter transforming the Village of Buffalo into the City of Buffalo. He helped establish Buffalo General Hospital, the SPCA, the Buffalo Historical Society, the Fine Arts Academy, Buffalo Savings Bank, Buffalo’s public library system and the Buffalo Club. As a congressman, he secured funding to enlarge the Buffalo Harbor and expand the Erie Canal. Fillmore served as president from 1850 to 1853.

This year marks the 45th anniversary of UB’s stewardship of Fillmore’s service, but the tradition to honor Fillmore dates back to 1937. From 1937 until 1965, the ceremonies were staged by the City of Buffalo and the Buffalo Board of Education. The events were administered by Irving R. Templeton, a 1909 graduate of UB, who scheduled two programs annually on or near Jan. 7, one in City Hall and one in Forest Lawn.

The responsibility shifted to UB when Templeton died in 1965. Although UB participated in the Fillmore birthday commemoration during Templeton’s stewardship, the university took over the ceremonies and made it a community event starting in 1966.

Media arrangements: Charles Anzalone onsite at 440-8824.

According to Buffalo Rising!, tradition wins out at Forest Lawn, New York, too:

By Sandy Starks

Okay… the frenzy of holiday visits and activities are past, the decorations are put away, and the final game in regular season football has been played. The winter doldrums are about to set in, and what are we to do?

The Forest Lawn Cemetery Heritage Foundation has come up with programming that will help you get over the inevitable winter blues. We all love the Summer in the Cemetery tours the cemetery offered each year, so in 2010 the folks at Forest Lawn have decided to celebrate the winter season by hosting a four-part series of concerts and lectures to be held at the historic chapel, located in the heart of the cemetery.

On the second Sunday of each month, January through April, at 2PM, programs will include a mini concert, followed by a lecture on a topic related to Forest Lawn and the History of Buffalo. This Sunday January 10th, the topic will be The History of Music in Buffalo.

Music Librarian, Raya Lee, teams up with one of Buffalo’s favorite musical talents, Bruce Woody, to discuss how music evolved in Buffalo. The lecture includes information about the opening of the first music store in 1827, the first performance of super-star Jenny Lind in 1851, an overview featuring the greatest musical artists of the day, their stories, and the birth of the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra.

People featured in the lecture include Millard Fillmore, James P. Sheppard, owner of the first music store in Buffalo; Marian de Forest, Zorah Berry, and conductors John Lund and Charles Kuhn. Tunes, some we are familiar with such as “Shuffle off to Buffalo,” “Buffalo Gals,” and “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” (Harold Arlen), will be played throughout the lecture.

The series continues with a program on February 14th, with The Entertainers and Writers of Forest Lawn, presented by: Forest Lawn researcher, Patrick Kavanagh with a musical presentation performed by Buffalo musicians Billy McEwen and Joe Head.

Many of us know about Darwin Martin of the Larkin Soap Company but there is much to know about John Larkin and the company itself. The March 14th program, A Review of the Larkin Soap Company – A Man and His Products will familiarize us the dynamic Buffalo business. Larkin Enthusiast Jerry Puma will talk about the Larkin Soap Company and bring some of his Larkin collection for you to view. A musical presentation by The Docenko Brothers rounds out this fun yet informative day.

The series concludes on April 11th, with a talk by Author Laura Pederson (if you haven’t read the book Buffalo Gal yet, that is another way to beat the winter blues), talking about Smokestacks & Skyscrapers: A Lighthearted History of Buffalo. The musical presentation will be by Grace Stumberg, a rising Buffalo musical talent and student at Villa Maria College.

Admission is $15. Tickets may be purchased at Forest Lawn’s administration office, 1411 Delaware Avenue or by calling 716.885.1600. Ask about the discount that is available for all four programs.

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