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General Grant Smiles

You’ve never seen Ulysses S. Grant smile.  In not a single image of U.S. Grant does the man seem to be cheerful.  The hundreds of deadpan photos and paintings of the General – including his dour portrait on the $50 bill – suggest he had no sense of humor.  But he did. It was a gentle, self-deprecating humor, and Grant Cottage tour guide Steve Trimm will share examples of the stories and incidents Grant found amusing.  Many of these accounts were preserved and cherished by members of the Grant family. By way of contrast, Steve will also share samples of the more devilish humor of Grant’s friend, W.J. Arkell.  Arkell helped bring the General to Mount McGregor, was with the hero nearly every day during his final weeks, and was later instrumental in preserving Grant Cottage. Famed in his time as a businessman, W.J. was also known as one of America’s foremost funny men.  Most of the examples of his humor and satire are excerpted from Old Friends and Some Acquaintances, a book W.J. wrote in 1927 at age 67. (If laughter is truly the best medicine, Mr. Arkell might have done almost as much to mitigate the General’s suffering as his doctors did.)

The suggested donation for Grant Cottage Porch Programs is $5 per person. These programs are made possible thanks to a grant from the Adirondack Trust Community Fund. Our events are supported with funding from the New York State Park and Trail Partnership Program (NYSPTPP) and New York’s Environmental Protection Fund. The NYSPTPP is administered by Parks & Trails New York, in partnership with the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation.