Wednesday, March 8, 2017
Vice President's Museum
THE QUAYLE VICE PRESIDENTIAL LEARNING CENTER: HUNTINGTON, IN
The Dan Quayle Vice Presidents Museum in Huntington, Indiana
When we were near the Quayle Vice Presidential Learning Center in Huntington, IN., we decided to drop in, as we are fascinated by any "one of a kind" museum. This is the only attraction that covers the services of all of our 47 vice presidents up to early 2017--many times involving acid-tongued comments and playful jokes.
James Danforth Quayle, Vice President for George Bush (1989-93), made some attempt to continue in politics after his term, but soon fell from view.
Daniel Johns, the Executive Director, met us at the museum entrance. Originally the Quayle Museum started with a some of Quayle's personal items, but Johns decided to expand the museum into a place that included activities for students in the surrounding school districts so they could learn about the constitution and presidential campaigns.
To make it more interesting for students they often are put on scavenger hunts to find answers to questions such as: Who was the only Native American vice president? How many vice presidents died in office? Which vice presidents became president of the United States?
The museum, that is on two floors, presents the story of the vice presidents with the memorabilia from their lives, in sequence from John Adams, George Washington's Vice President.
The museum stresses that five vice presidents and three losing vice presidential candidates were from Indiana. Johns said this was because at one time Indiana had been a swing state. Our most recent vice president, Mike Pence is from Columbus, IN.
We were astonished to find how little was known about many of the 19th century vice presidents who seemed to be very mediocre people with little qualification to be president if the opportunity arose.
Johns has had trouble finding anything to display about them, since many had no posters, no newspaper stories and few personal artifacts.
Qualifications of candidates for the office improved in the latter half the 20th century when out of the 13 vice presidents, four became president and two almost became president. This may be because later presidents wanted vice presidents they could give more responsibilities to.
Johns noted how Theodor Roosevelt had been made Vice President because it was a useless position with no power and the power men of the time feared what Roosevelt might do to the monopolies they controlled if he was given power.
When President William McKinley was assassinated, Roosevelt fulfilled their fears by putting limits on monopolies. The powerful business leaders then attempted to control the situation after he was election to his own term by giving him (who was from Indiana) as a vice president expecting that Fairbanks would control Roosevelt's progressive programs. While the vice president failed to put controls on Roosevelt, congress did block many of his programs.
Later more newspapers and magazines gave more coverage to vice presidents. Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Vice President John Nance Garner said, "The Vice Presidency isn't worth a pitcher of warm spit." Garner also called himself the president's "spare tire."
Roosevelt's next Vice President Henry Wallace, however, went on to be a globe-trotting ambassador for the wheelchair-bound President.
At one display we were struck with how ridicule may have led to Vice President Hubert Humphrey defeat by Richard Nixon when he was shown in a poster on President Johnson's knee being used as a puppet.
Life and status have improved markedly in recent years for the vice presidents. They are now furnished fine housing, a large staff, big SUVs with drivers and a good salary.
Johns also makes visits to schools, concentrating on fourth, fifth and eighth graders. He began his career as an actor and enjoys developing programs that get students involved by using interactive activities.
The second floor has a large conference room where Johns can have the students (who range from first graders to sophomores in high school) re-enact a presidential primarily so they can learn how presidential candidates are chosen.