Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Library and Museums
Rutherford B. Hayes Museum Entrance
Rutherford B. Hayes House
This carriage, purchased by Rutherford B. Hayes, was made by the company that eventually turned into Rolls Royce.
If there is one thing Ohio has a surplus of, it’s presidents. It has produced eight chief executives: William Henry Harrison, Ulysses S. Grant, Rutherford B. Hayes, James A. Garfield, Benjamin Harrison, William McKinley, William H. Taft, and Warren G. Harding. William Henry Harrison is a bit iffy because he was born in Virginia but lived in Ohio when he became president, and had also served the state as a congressman and senator. Of those eight, the most well known is by far Ulysses S. Grant, and the least Benjamin Harrison, who was William Henry’s grandson. Interestingly, half of them died in office. Pneumonia took William Henry Harrison, bullets killed Garfield and McKinley, and either heart failure or a stroke got Harding.
History has not treated Rutherford B. Hayes kindly. Most school textbooks remember for losing the election of 1876 to Samuel J. Tilden but ultimately wrested it away from him in the House of Representatives in exchange for ending Reconstruction. He served just one term which, according to the Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Library and Museums, was quite the success. He ended the corruption that had plagued the Grant Administration, and under his watch the economy fully recovered from the Panic of 1873 (an economic depression of epic proportions only outdone by the Great Depression).
Like any person, Hayes was not perfect and the museum did a good job of showing that. One information sign said as a lawyer he “developed a reputation as a dogged defender of the indigent and the insane.” In 1852 he successfully convinced an appeals court that Nancy Farrar, who had poisoned her family with arsenic, should not have been sentenced to death but rather to a lifetime in an asylum (though considering the state of those in the nineteenth century, it wasn’t much better than the alternative). He also vehemently opposed the death penalty, a rarity in that era.