Flash mob honored Millard Fillmore’s 211th birthday in Moravia, New York

January 7, 2013

Jeff Kramer, who usually is a a humor columnist, in the Syracuse, New York, Post-Standard:

Millard Fillmore flash mob commemorating birthday is a snow-smashing success

Published: Monday, January 10, 2011, 6:00 AM

Kramer sisters lead flash mob dance in honor of Millard Fillmore's 211th Birthday, Moravia, New York

Peter Chen / The Post-Standard More than 50 people followed the dance moves of the Kramer sisters, Miranda, 10, and Lily, 8, Friday at a flash mob in the parking lot of Moravia’s Modern Market. They danced to “Birthday” by the Beatles to celebrate former US President Millard Fillmore’s birthday, which was on Jan. 7, 1800. Fillmore was born in Moravia. The girls are the daughters of The Post-Standard humor columnist Jeff Kramer.

Moravia, NY — You know your legacy is in trouble when your biggest claim to fame is having a bathtub installed in the White House, and even that’s a lie.

So it has always been with Millard Fillmore. Americans remember their 13th president as mediocre, wishy-washy and fat — if they remember him at all.

Still, a president is a president, and for a few minutes this past Friday, even Millard found his posthumous mojo. At least 50 people gathered in his hometown of Moravia for a flash mob birthday boogie choreographed and led by my daughters Miranda, 10, and Lily, 8. The event was organized by me as part of my New Year’s resolution to reach out to techno-savvy young people before one of them remotely shuts off my oxygen.

Everyone was in a great mood. “Happy Birthday, Millard!” the crowd shouted after churning up the slush in the parking lot of Modern Market with a dazzling display of grapevines, sprinklers, funky chickens and more.

Among the celebrants was Mr. Jan Hunsinger, a history/government teacher at Moravia High School. He brought a group of students to be part of the gala, plying them with extra credit.

“Thanks for doing this,” Hunsinger said to me. At least I think he said it. Truth is I didn’t take notes. Note-taking is Old Media (lame) and poor flash mob etiquette. The whole point of a flash mob is to convene en masse as directed by viral media, commit a planned public act and disperse. The last thing you want is some mainstream media dork asking questions like “Can you spell your name for me again?” and “How does this flash mob change your perceptions of Millard Fillmore?”

I also learned that Millard took Peru’s side when American entrepreneurs were stealing that country’s bird droppings for fertilizer. Instead of coming to the aid of the American businessmen, Fillmore insisted that no one should take Peru’s bird turds without Peru’s permission. Peru was deeply grateful, and America gained international cred. A statue of Fillmore was erected in Peru. Predictably, it became obscured by the very substance he had helped to protect.

Moravia High School Students at Millard Fillmore's 211th birthday bash in Moravia, New York, - Syracuse Post-Standard

Caption from the Syracuse Post-Standard; photo by Peter Chen / The Post-Standard – Moravia High School students (left to right) Amy Richards, 16, a junior; Melinda Heath, 16, a junior; Gabrielle Amos, 17, a junior; and Mattea Hilliard, 16, a sophomore, took part in a flash mob in the parking lot of Moravia’s Modern Market on Friday.

That’s all I have to say about Fillmore for now. I’m grateful to him, Moravia, my girls, the nice lady who bought them flowers and to everyone who made the flash mob rock. I’ll close with Fillmore’s inspiring last words, uttered as he was being fed soup.

“The nourishment is palatable,” he said. Then he died.

Here’s hoping that somewhere up there in that great bathtub in the sky, Millard — happily stuffed with palatable nourishment — was looking down on us last Friday and smiling.

Jeff Kramer’s humor column runs Mondays in CNY. E-mail him at jeffmkramer@gmail.com.


Fillmore wasn’t a total washout as President, contrary to his reputation.  Among other things, he was the guy who dispatched Commodore Perry to Japan, to open that reclusive nation to trade, and to stop them from executing random sailors from America washed up on their shores.  In a direct way, we might say Fillmore was responsible for World War II in the Pacific — once awakened to the thrills and advantages of international trade, Japan went after it with a vengeance, and then after empire.  That is to say the opening of Japan was momentous; history and commerce would never be the same again, in the Pacific.

And that quote, “The nourishment is palatable.”  Fillmore probably didn’t say that.  Even in death his words get little respect.  The story of Fillmore’s death in the New York Times mentioned that he had been ill, and that at what turned out to be his last meal, some soup, Fillmore had said it was okay.  The paper reported that Fillmore had said that the nourishment was palatable.  Someone, later, put quotes around the reporter’s words, and made them Fillmore’s.  You’d think someone would remember him for the Peruvian guano remarks instead, no?  (Gee, I’m not sure Mr. Kramer described that episode accurately.)

Reaction to the Millard Fillmore dollar

February 20, 2010

Millard Fillmore’s dollar got a bit of coverage — well, more than the dollar for Zachary Taylor, so far as I can tell.  It was not a big story.

The Wall Street Journal carried a page 1 feature. Some of the most fun coverage came out of local newspapers in Buffalo and Moravia, New York.

From the Berkshire-Hathaway-owned Buffalo News:

MORAVIA — When the U.S. Mint wanted to unveil a new $1 Millard Fillmore coin, it went to the 13th president’s birthplace to do the honors.

That’s this town of 4,000 in the Finger Lakes, where about a quarter of the population turned out Thursday to pay tribute to their favorite son.

But what about Buffalo, where he served as the University of Buffalo’s first chancellor and helped found a historical society and a hospital?

No problem. The same U.S. Mint official came to Buffalo to hold a second unveiling in Fillmore’s adopted hometown, where about three dozen people showed up at City Hall.

And in the Auburn, New York, Citizen, a story of a crowd much larger than anticipated:

MORAVIA – With close to 1,000 witnesses watching, a young Millard Fillmore impersonator and his equally sprite make-believe wife Abigail poured from a wooden bucket a stream of coins bearing the face of the 13th president and Moravia native.

The United States Mint Thursday released its 13th presidential dollar coin, honoring Millard Fillmore, at a ceremony in the Moravia Junior Senior School cafeteria, which was not large enough to accommodate the crowd of community members who had come to celebrate a president whose national legacy is not legendary, but whose roots are their roots.

“This is a grand, grand event,” Moravia Mayor Gary Mulvaney said, as he waited in a line that started at the cafeteria doors and wound through the school.

James P. McCoy’s photos of the unveiling and the large mockup of the dollar itself are good (you could steal them for a PowerPoint in your classroom), but I especially enjoyed the pictures in the Auburn paper, by Sam Tenney.  Two middle school students played Abigail and Millard Fillmore at the ceremony in Moravia.

Eleanor Younger, 10, and Colton Langtry, 12, portraying Abigail Powers Fillmore and Millard Fillmore, help Andy Brunhart, deputy director of the United States Mint, pour a bucket of $1 coins - Sam Tenney photo, Auburn, NY Citizen

Caption from the Auburn, New York, Citizen: "Eleanor Younger, 10, and Colton Langtry, 12, portraying Abigail Powers Fillmore and Millard Fillmore, help Andy Brunhart, deputy director of the United States Mint, pour a bucket of $1 coins bearing Fillmore's likeness during a ceremony celebrating the release of the coin Thursday morning at Moravia High School. The Fillmore coin is the 13th in a series honoring past presidents." Photo by Sam Tenney, Auburn, NY, Citizen

Uncharacteristically, the U.S. Mint offered some of the $1.00 coins to students for free — perhaps the only recorded time that the Mint has handed out money for free.

Looks like they had a good time.

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