Celebrating Chester Arthur: Quiz Answers

Thanks for playing, all! The official winner is Matthew, with a stunning 9/10 correct plus 4 additional bonus points. However, since I would expect nothing less from a member of my immediate family, I also award victory to Kelsey, with 6 correct plus 3 bonus answers. Nice work, all. Look forward to your prize—A BRAND NEW CHESTER ARTHUR GOLDEN DOLLAR COIN—being awarded when it is issued in early 2012!!!

On to the answers, so that we can all keep learning together about the legacy of Chet Arthur.

1. Chet was actually born in 1829 and died in 1886. However, there is some confusion in the historical record. Which of the following is true?

b. Chet told people he was born in 1830—perhaps because his wife was a bit younger than him and he wanted to seem more youthful.

It’s unclear why this confusion exists, but many contemporary and later secondary sources report 1830 as Chet’s birthday. The explanation is my own theory.

2. Chet’s father had which of the following occupations?

a. Preacher

Chet was born in Vermont, but his family moved frequently while Chet was growing up due to his fathers work as a traveling Baptist minister.

3. Which of the following positions did Chet himself NEVER hold?

c. Local, elected politician

After graduating from Union College in Schenectady, NY, Chet became a teacher and later served as a principal. He then went into law, which became his lifelong career. Chet never ran for any elected office besides Vice-President.

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 the biggest source of conflict?

c. Slavery, since Chet was a staunch abolitionist and Nell was a Southerner.

Thanks to his liberal upbringing with his minister father, Chet was an abolitionist before this was a popular position. Nell, as a member of a prominent Virginia family, took a different position, and this caused a rift.

5. Which of the following can best be described as an enemy of Chet’s?

b. President Rutherford B. Hayes

The spoils system and the machine politics of Gilded Age New York were good to Chet, and he was a favorite of party boss and senator Roscoe Conkling. Conkling helped Chet rise in the party, and Chet was given the prestigious and rewarding position of Collector of the Port of New York in 1871. When the reform-minded President Hayes came to office in 1876 (after that whole sketchy Compromise of 1877 thing)), he wanted to strike a blow to the cronyism of machine politics and the spoils system and he made an example of Chet by having him dismissed from his position.

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)

At the 1880 Republican Convention, the leading candidates for president included Ulysses Grant, who had already served from 1869 and was seeking an unusual third term election with the support of the Stalwart faction. The Stalwarts were also Chet’s group, and this group was aligned with the political machine and spoils systems. Another leading candidate, James G. Blaine, represented the Half-Breeds (opponents of political patronage), and while John Sherman was not affiliated with any group. Many ballots were taken, but no single candidate prevailed. After 35 ballots, Blaine and Sherman compromised by switching their support to a “dark horse candidate,” Ohioan James Garfield. To appease Roscoe Conkling’s slighted Stalwart faction and to balance out the geography of the ticket, the vice-presidential nomination was offered up and accepted by a delighted Chet Arthur. Mugwumps were Republicans who supported Democratic candidate Grover Cleveland in the 1884 election.

7. After Garfield was assassinated in 1881, Chet became president. Which of the following did Chet accomplish while in office?

f. All of the above!

Of course! Chet may not have accomplished a huge amount during his three years as President, but he rose above the petty party politics of his age, and which had helped make him, and proved to be a strong bipartisan leader.

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?

b. Kidney failure

Chet died of Bright’s Disease, a then-fatal kidney ailment now known as nephritis.

9. Which of the following has NEVER been a nickname for Chester Arthur?

a. The Man About Town

All others were contemporary nicknames sometimes found in the press.

10. Chester Arthur made the news briefly in 2008. Why?

d. Because of comparisons with Obama’s “birther” naturalization controversy.

Chet’s father was born in Ireland and immigrated to Canada before the US, becoming a naturalized US citizen in 1843—well after Chet’s birth. Although Mrs. Arthur was a US citizen born in Vermont, her family had emigrated to Canada, which is where she met her husband. Although the family were said to have moved back to Vermont by the time of Chet’s birth, there were rumors that the child had actually been born at his mother’s family’s home in Canada. The family lived in Vermont until the time that Chet was six years old. Official documentation of Chet having been born in EITHER Vermont or Canada has never been found. The story of Chet’s unfitness for the presidency based on foreign citizenship was circulated first in 1880 and then in a book published in 1884.

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.

I would have accepted many answers on this, but a few are specifically worth noting: dancing, drinking, fishing, throwing parties, fashion, gambling, dining at Delmonico’s, sleeping in, interior design, and Tiffany lamps. If you named Chet’s most important hobby—changing his clothes multiple times per day to show off his 80 reported pairs of pants—you got an additional point.

Now, don’t you feel better enlightened?


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