Presidential Birthplaces

On July 3, 2014 · 4 Comments

I’m not sure why I began to think about the birthplaces of every President of the United States. Maybe this might interest people, I considered. I wasn’t fooling myself though — I did it for me. Theoretically I could pass through one of these areas someday in the future and I might want to stop if it were close enough to my intended track. So I created a map.



View Presidential Birthplaces in a larger map

I gathered all of the locations in a shared spreadsheet. Twelve Mile Circle readers should feel free to consult the spreadsheet for exact latitude/longitude coordinates and links to additional information about each site. This could be a handy little reference for anyone wishing to visit these birthplaces — and there are people who do that! I don’t know why I’m surprised. After all, it’s not that much different from my county counting.

Trends began to reveal themselves as I plotted each location. For instance, notice the concentration of sites in the eastern half of the United States, particularly the northeast. That would be expected to a degree because of population and settlement patterns. However I didn’t expect it to be quite that stark. Nixon and Obama(¹) stood far apart as obvious outliers, considerably removed from everyone else.


The Adams Family


John Adams' Birthplace
John Adams' Birthplace by James Walsh, on Flickr
via Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC 2.0) license

The original father-son presidential duo, John Adams and John Quincy Adams should win an award for proximity. They were born in adjacent houses (map) in the north precinct of Braintree, now Quincy, Massachusetts. Both are open the public as part of the Adams National Historical Park. That would be an easy visit.

The National Park Service estimated the distance between birthplaces at 75 feet (23 metres).


Clusters



James Monroe Birthplace, Monroe Hall, Westmoreland Co., Virginia

I noticed a couple of particularly tight birthplace clusters, one in Virginia and one in Ohio. These two states dominated presidential politics during different eras, creating opportunities for statistical anomalies. The Virginia cluster occurred on the Northern Neck with the births of some of the earliest presidents and "founding fathers," George Washington, James Madison and James Monroe.

Ohio dominated the presidency in the late 19th and early 20th centuries with a string of Republican victories. As explained by the Columbus Dispatch,

Ohio’s dominance of the presidency around the time the 19th century became the 20th was no accident: Ohio was the third-largest state, behind New York and Pennsylvania, and it was the economic engine of America. Ohioans were the inventors and operators of the industrial age. With economic might came political power, including dominant influence in the political parties, especially the GOP, from whence seven of Ohio’s eight presidents came.

A particularly remarkable clustering centered near Cincinnati, with the birthplaces of Ulysses Grant, Benjamin Harrison and William Taft.


Close to the Border


Chester Alan Arthur State Historic Site - Vermont
Chester Alan Arthur State Historic Site – Vermont by Doug Kerr, on Flickr
via Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0) license

The Chester Arthur birthplace in Fairfield, Vermont fell remarkably close to Canada, about 20 miles (32 kilometres) from the border (map). His father immigrated from Ireland to Canada, settling in Dunham, Lower Canada, which is now part of Québec. His mother was an American born in Vermont. The couple wed in Canada and their first child was born in Canada. Arthur was born in the United States. The family moved regularly as Chester’s father taught at various schools and later served as a minister of the Free Will Baptist church.

Article 2, Section 1 of the Constitution of the United States said,

No Person except a natural born Citizen, or a Citizen of the United States, at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the Office of President

Arthur’s political opponents conducted a smear campaign focused on the Constitution’s natural-born-citizen clause. His father’s immigration to Canada, his birth near the border, and his family’s frequent relocation were all used as "evidence" of non-citizenship in an attempt to disqualify Arthur from office.


Hospital Births



Bill Clinton Birthplace, Hope, Arkansas

Most presidential birthplaces earned landmark status. Many can be visited by the public. That might not be possible for future presidents. Increasingly, the more recent presidents traced their births to hospitals. Jimmy Carter came first, then Bill Clinton, then George W. Bush and most recently Barack Obama.

Bill Clinton provided a case in point in Hope Arkansas. The Julia Chester Hospital of his birth no longer existed. It was torn down. The Brazzel-Oakcrest Funeral Home occupies its former site. In commemoration the funeral home placed a flagpole and a marker to signify Clinton’s birthplace. Street View provided decent coverage although a view from inside of the funeral home actually offered a better image. In addition his childhood home became a museum. Likely, that’s what will happen in the future. The hospital might deserve a simple plaque while the president’s initial home will replace the typical "birthplace" museum of the past.


Odd Men Out

I won’t bother to discuss all of the presidential birth sites. Maybe I’ll provide more information if I ever visit them. I’ll wrap this up with two more examples.

Andrew Jackson’s birthplace remained an historical mystery. It was somewhere in the Waxhaws Region:

Andrew Jackson, Sr., died in late February, 1767. Betty traveled south to the Old Waxhaw Presbyterian Church to bury her husband. On the return trip, she gave birth to Andrew Jackson, the future president of the United States. Although stories abound as to the events surrounding the birth, as of yet no definitive evidence has arisen to authenticate the exact location of Andrew Jackson’s birth on March 15, 1767.

He may have been born in North Carolina. He may have been born in South Carolina. Both have claimed him.

Finally, pity poor Warren Harding. Many historians considered Harding the worst or amongst the worst of all U.S. presidents. Nobody built a Warren Harding Birthplace museum. He barely earned a marker.


Foreshadowing Alert

Watch @TheReal12MC Twitter account over the next few days and you might be able to figure out the topic of several upcoming articles


(¹) I’ve listed Obama’s birthplace as Kapi’olani Maternity & Gynecological Hospital, Honolulu, Hawaii. I don’t put much credence in Birther conspiracies. I don’t think Donald Trump reads 12MC so we’re probably fine.

On July 3, 2014 · 4 Comments

4 Responses to “Presidential Birthplaces”

  1. If you move two steps forward out the door on the funeral home business view, you can almost read the inscription on Bill Clinton’s commemorative plaque. Also somehow fitting is that there’s a Domino’s Pizza directly across the street. Makes me think of this SNL sketch (dating myself again).

  2. Peter says:

    If Ted Cruz runs for president in 2016 there might be an eligibility issue that’s basically the reverse of what Chester Arthur faced. He was born in Canada and lived there until age 12 or 13, but qualified as a U.S. citizen at birth under federal law because his mother was a native-born citizen who had lived in the United States for over ten consecutive years (his Cuban-born father only became a U.S. citizen a decade ago).

  3. katey says:

    There is actually a long-standing scholastic debate over whether Virginia or Ohio can claim the most presidents. http://www.factcheck.org/2008/02/home-to-more-presidents-ohio-or-virginia/

  4. TB says:

    Not one president born in the Mountain Time Zone and only one in the Pacific. Strange that it’ll likely stay that way too until at least 2020. (Unless I’m missing someone out of the Hillary/Biden/Paul/Cruz/Rubio/Jeb Bush scenario.)

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