I first “discovered” Chet (as he was known to friends, and therefore to me) around ninth grade, when I read an article about him in a book of miscellaneous trivia. The piece talked about how Chet is a fine example of someone who now belongs to the “dustbin of history”—where historical figures go after they’re forgotten. This didn’t sit well. Here was a man who was President of the United States, for christsakes, and who did a halfway decent job of it, and yet many Americans have never even head of him. (This is true: spend 10 minutes standing next to Chet’s portrait at the White House or National Portrait Gallery and the overheard audience commentary will be abysmal.)
Chester Arthur has had a surprisingly large impact on my life for someone who died 100 years before my birth. He played a not-insubstantial role in getting me admitted to Stanford, I’ve written essays and a short play about him, and I have a small collection of books and memorabilia dedicated to him.
So today, please take a moment to help me pay tribute to our 21st president on what would have been his 182nd birthday. And to celebrate, I present: the official premiere of the…
Chester Arthur Trivia Quiz!
Ten questions follow, and a bonus round. Submit your answers in comments or just keep score at home. I may even award a genuine Chet-related prize to whomever scores highest! So no cheating. And those of you who have played the oral version of this with me may be handicapped.
In any case, it’s clear who the real winner here will be: Chester Alan Arthur, whom we’ll all be learning about together! Let’s start. Each question is worth 5 points.
1. Chet was actually born in 1829 and died in 1886. However, there has been some confusion in the historical record. Which of the following is true?
a. Chet told people he was born in 1825—perhaps because he wanted to seem older and more mature when he began his political career.
b. Chet told people he was born in 1830—perhaps because his wife was younger than him and he wanted to seem more youthful.
c. Many people thought Chet actually died in 1885—because he was known to be in poor health and then wasn’t present at the inauguration of his successor, President Cleveland.
d. Chet never knew for certain what day he was born—October 5 or 6—because of a lost birth certificate and confusion in his large family.
2. Chet’s father had which of the following occupations?
d. Local, elected politician
3. Which of the following positions did Chet himself NEVER hold?
c. Local, elected politician
4. In 1859, Chester married Ellen “Nell” Herndon. Although they had two children, and although Chet was crushed by her death from pneumonia in 1881, their marriage was troubled at times. What was perhaps the biggest source of conflict?
a. Whether Chester Jr. would follow his father into politics or not.
b. Money, thanks to extravagant spending by both parties on clothes and entertainment.
c. Slavery, since Chet was a staunch abolitionist and Nell was a Southerner.
d. Slavery, since Nell was a staunch abolitionist and Chet was a Southerner.
5. Which of the following can best be described as an enemy of Chet’s?
a. President Ulysses Grant
b. President Rutherford B. Hayes
c. President James Garfield
d. President Grover Cleveland
6. Chet was included as the vice-presidential candidate for the 1880 election as a compromise to keep various political factions happy. Which was Chet’s political faction?
a. Stalwart (Republican)
b. Mugwump (Republican)
c. Half-Breed (Republican)
d. Republican (unaffiliated)
7. After Garfield was assassinated in 1881, Chet became president. Which of the following did Chet accomplish while in office?
a. The Pendleton Civil Service Act, reforming the excesses of the spoils system and providing the basis for the Office of Personnel Management
b. The opening of the Brooklyn Bridge
c. The Chinese Exclusion Act (which Congress passed over Chet’s veto)
d. The beginning of the creation of a modern navy
e. Discovering the young Louis Comfort Tiffany and hiring him to redecorate the White House
f. All of the above!
8. After leaving office in 1884, Chet did not actively seek reelection due, in part, to failing health. Which of the following was the cause of death?
a. Heart disease
b. Kidney failure
c. Liver failure
9. Which of the following has NEVER been a nickname for Chester Arthur?
a. The Man About Town
b. The Gentleman Boss
c. The Dude
d. Elegant Arthur
10. Chester Arthur made the news briefly in 2008. Why?
a. Because of comparisons with Obama’s ACORN controversy.
b. Because Chet’s father’s family and Obama’s mother’s family are from the same Irish town.
c. Because both attended Harvard Law.
d. Because of comparisons with Obama’s “birther” naturalization controversy.
BONUS ROUND: Name as many as you can of Chet’s passions, pastimes, hobbies, and extracurricular activities. Each correct answer is worth one additional point.
Thanks for playing! I’ll post answers/explanations and winners (if applicable) in 2-3 days, so get answers in the comments section soon!