tv American Artifacts Presidents Heads CSPAN February 20, 2021 10:00am-10:31am EST
attics. not as in a home addict, but ad i c k e s. and he if he's still alive is probably in his early 90s. he was a painter. from an artist based out of houston who was visiting friends in canada? and it was coming home by way of mount rushmore. and became so inspired by what he saw that he wanted to recreate. the president's albeit on a smaller scale and he ended up creating three sets of them one of which went to a little town in, south dakota. to a park that is also now abandoned he has a set himself in his now. i believe defunct studio in houston. and this was the third set that was in president's park and is now here in the little town of kroger. and here we are. you know nine years later and
you can see that all of them have experienced. a significant amount of decay and as a result of that they've kind of become this. internet sensation i'm not going to say they have become this popular primarily because they're falling apart, but i suspect that has something to do with it. so here they sit all 42 of them in this field. and we now have hundreds of people per month that come down here to to see them because mr. hankins has been so generous in allowing us that opportunity. they were off limits for a number of years when they originally were moved here. he wanted the people the public to enjoy them so he actually kept it open for everybody to come down the problem with that. is there were young children climbing on? these 18 foot tall statues and the liability was immense, so
justifiably so it became completely private and the only people that were getting back here were trespassers. so i propose something to him. that allowed him or allow the public to enjoy him. that would protect him legally in the form of a waiver form. a modest entrance fee for the walking tour, which is getting ready to occur here in about an hour and then we also have separate evening photo shoots designed for intermediate and advanced photographers where we come in here at night and shoot them under the stars. and and it's been a wonderful thing so far and that's kind of we're at a standstill now until we figure out. what the future of these heads are going to be they were originally slated to go somewhere in the northeast that has temporarily been put on hold. and there's all kinds of other proposals on the table for people that either want to buy them.
move them or possibly even create like a studio here. but until that happens and until there's some clarity to that situation. on random weekends. i conduct tours down here. so people are able to enjoy anyone why they call them old hickory? because he was tough as old hickory. he was one bad, dude. the interesting thing was it was kind of an engineering feat as to how he moved them because despite the fact that these are hollow they are also anywhere between 17,000 and 22,000 pounds. and not that many people would find that, you know, very easy to transport these i'll be at only for 12 miles. so what he ended up doing? you'll see that everyone of
these presidents has has a whole intentionally put and the top of their head the purpose of that was to expose the steel endoskeleton that allowed one of mr. hankins excavators. to gain enough purchase of lift to be able to put it onto a flat bed. full of tires and then they strapped them down and moved them here one by one now the interesting thing about that. is not all of these sculptures are the same size. there's 42 of them here despite the fact that there are 43 presidents represented. that's because grover cleveland served twice unsuccessively. but the sculptor decided that he wanted to make seven of them. grander than the remaining 35 and that was because he thought that it would be neat to
recognize the quote unquote. vip presidents in a larger format so seven of the presidents including george andrew abe. both roosevelt's woodrow wilson and then actually thomas jefferson who's in the back are the seven presidents? whom he identified through interviewing historians. presidential experts academic history teachers and such professors who they thought were the seven most influential presidents. so that's why they are 25% larger than the remaining 35. so it was pretty easy for him to take the 35 smaller ones first and move them here and stack them in rows of 11. for some reason thomas jefferson who in my opinion deserves to be upfront with george and abe? i got stuck in the back and that
is for reasons that are unbeknownst to me. he is the only vip president who isn't. in the front row. all the other ones were stacked because his excavator had the capacity to lift each and every one of them based on its max capacity of lift the problem he encountered was when he got to the larger presidents one excavator one work so he had to use two. and was able to successfully then start stacking the larger presidents in front starting with woodrow wilson teddy roosevelt fdr but then he realized that if he took the final three. washington jackson and lincoln that it would be obscurative to the remaining ones so he had to pick and choose which three he wanted to come up front. and these are the three.
that he chose and we're going to talk about why. in a moment, so that that is kind of how the schematic and the order of them occurred. it's not chronologic. it's fairly random, but you see most of the smaller ones are set back and the larger ones are are up front. george is one of the favorites and he obviously was born he was born. i think around 95 miles from here in a little place called pope's creek, virginia in westmoreland county. and he was an a redhead a lot of people think that he wore a wig. he actually didn't he powdered his hair. he was a distiller of whiskey. and what he called the father of the american foxhound he at any given point up to 30 different foxhounds two of which were
named drunkard and tipsy. and he had an intense fear of being buried alive. which believe it or not was not terribly uncommon back in the 1700s people were dying of things like smallpox and cholera. and rather people suspected that those that had passed were actually catatonic from their diseases and were sometimes prematurely buried. so he lived with an intense fear of being buried alive. he is will never be outranked militarily. he has his own. military ranking above and beyond a five-star general that forces him to never be outranked and he was also the only president to never live in the white house, it wasn't until john adams came around to where he began to occupy. the white house he did die from i believe like a throat infection or tracheal inflammation or something and he was being they called it
bloodletting where they were. bloodletting him in his last words to the world were. tis well andrew although it's tough to see from here. he had some actual. he's the only sculpture here. that mr. hankins attempted to clean up and coincidentally. he was trying to clean up some decay on his cheeks. oddly enough andrew jackson spent most of his life with a scar on his cheek. because when he was a young man, i believe for the tennessee militia. he took a sword to the face from a soldier. after president jackson refused to shine his boots. he died. i believe with a couple bullets in his chest not from being shot. but had engaged several others
and gun duels and his nickname was old hickory because people said he was tough as old hickory. the other interesting fact about president jackson is that he apparently taught his parrot his pet parrot how to swear. and that's sometimes became problematic in the white house for some of his guests. so people often ask me on tours when i would deliver it. they understand why abraham lincoln and george washington are up front, but they questioned why andrew jackson is front and center. all three of these are on bills dollar bills monetary american currency but people suspect rightfully so that thomas jefferson. and/or fdr should probably be up here front and center with the big three and i don't disagree with that. so i finally asked the owner why andrew jackson ended up here front and center. and his response to me was very
interesting. he said well, that's simple. he's got really pretty hair and i like his epaulettes. so anyhow, and he does he's got nice hair and great epileps. i started doing these tours and talking about legitimate presidential accomplishments. and nobody cared people weren't entertained then i started saying how andrew jackson's parents sweared and people love this stuff. people want to hear the silly odd stuff. president lincoln the tallest of all of the presidents at six foot four, which was pretty darn tall for back in the day. contrary to that the shortest president was a president. james madison who was a full foot shorter than that. he was five foot four and 99 pounds president lincoln. obviously assassinated in the ford theater. and he he actually predicted his death from a dream. they'd had the night before
ulyssesa says s. grant was supposed to have been his guest that night. who had to bail at the last minute? and on president lincoln's desk in the oval office the night he was assassinated. was legislation to create the secret service albeit, not for presidential protection primarily for counterfeiting purpose, but i thought that was kind of ironic. he was also a world-class wrestler. and supposedly wrestled in more than 300 matches losing only one of them someone's told me that he is enshrined in the like the world wrestling hall of fame, which i thought was interesting. finally, i want to show you something over here. of all 42 sculptures the only one to take a spill off of the flat bed. was abe.
that hole in the back of his head. was not intentional the one on the top was that occurred when he fell off of the flatbed which i thought was pretty ironic. so that's a little something about these three. the remaining 39 statues are kind of clustered together and this patch of grass. in this in the summertime, you can't even see the whole right side of this entire cluster because it's so overgrown and basically what becomes a forest. at first i had a problem with that because it was obscurative to a lot of the presidents but then we kind of realized that it made for neat photography. and almost like this creepy cool haunted forest that you can walk through all of these leaves and bushes and look up. at these presidents that are kind of you know and shrouded in the shrubbery, but it finally
became so overwhelming that the groundskeeper came and took it all down, but it's beginning to kind of grow back right now as you can see. some of the presidents here are obscured by you know weeds and and other dead grass that's growing up. this is james buchanan. who is the only one of all the presidents to kind of be staring down if you look at the orientation of all their heads most all of them are staring? straight at you. he has this look. where the angle of his head is looking right down at you? and whether it's in the day or at night kind of imparts the super creepy feeling that makes me uneasy. someone else also once told me that he was the only of all of the presidents to never marry, which i thought was an interesting fact. the bearded presidents haze
grant garfield they all to me look kind of similar you can tell that all of the neck wear from every sculptor is time specific, which is neat. you can see here that there's some military garb with grant where he's got some stars on his shoulders. and if you go down to george bush jr. you'll notice that he's got some elephants on his tie, which i thought was interesting. james garfield from what i've read? had an interesting talent where he could write a sentence. with one hand in latin while simultaneously writing another sentence with his other hand in greek. which i thought was fascinating. bill clinton is sometimes difficult for people to
recognize? i don't know why i think he's pretty true to form but he sits there in the back and he looks fairly young. gerald ford is right next to him over here. and the interesting thing about gerald ford is he was the most difficult of all of the sculptures? took for mr. attucks to create because his features are so unpronounced contrary president lincoln was the easiest for him to make because his features are so pronounced which i thought was interesting. thomas jefferson as you can see is probably the third most decayed president here if you see that he's starting to fall apart pretty bad. and he died. so i've heard on the same day as john adams four hours apart.
albeit on july the 4th, which i thought is an interesting. a piece of history on dry days in the summer often. we allow our guests to walk through here, but you can see that this area is pretty wet. we've had some significant weather here lately. we've never seen snakes back here, but it looks like it's an area that is completely conducive to snakes. so i always make sure that my guests are. are mindful of that as they're walking through here. there's all kinds of different weather where we'll conduct these tours. the neatest thing i've seen is a bald eagle circling george's head. we've been out here in electrical thunderstorms at night where it looks like there's these crawler lightning strikes that are coming out of fdr's mouth. um, i've not been back here in the winter time, but i know there's a lot of people that would absolutely die to
photograph or these in the snow. so that'll be that'll be very exciting. and then fog fog would be the perfect element to to see these and experience them. come on over here. this is one of my my personal favorites. this is fdr who died in his fourth term the the hole on the top of his head? is pretty pronounced relative to the holes on the rest of their heads? i don't know why but you can kind of see the steel infrastructure coming out of the top of it. he supposedly was a victim of polio. and i've read somewhere that. some current physicians nowadays aren't absolutely convinced that he had polio rather a disorder called gian beret syndrome. regardless of the authenticity of that claim the interesting thing about it is because he
either was a victim of polio or purportedly had polio that the because he was such a high profile individual a lot of people say thousands of lives were saved because of the acceleration of the timeline and the appropriation of the funds that ultimately ended up in the vaccine created by jonas salk, which i thought was an interesting tidbit of information. this is george bush jr. who is also? highly decayed if you can zoom in on his tie, you can see where he's got his elephants a lot of people love seeing that. the most decayed president is woodrow wilson pretty much looks like he has a leprosy. and the question always comes up. is there a rhyme or a reason as to why these guys are? decaying at a faster rate than
the remaining and i just don't understand or know if there is any reason behind it. perhaps he's in a wind pattern or a rain pattern that makes him more susceptible to cracking. i just don't know. but what i do know is if you come look pretty closely. at this president who was one of eight virginia native presidents born and raised in stanton. look in his right? eyeball but that is a wasp's nest, which is not uncommon often. you'll see them in the nostrils of the sculptures as well. a few of them are starting to miss some parts. lyndon. johnson is starting. to lose the end of his nose. ronald reagan was one of them that was struck by lightning a few years back, but he's been success successively cleaned up since and probably the most difficult of all of the presidents to identify.
is back here behind president reagan? no one's ever gotten this right as a matter of fact. i had to really study him hard to figure out who that was. that is warren harding. and behind him is john adams who is tough to see because of all of the overgrowth the neatest fact that i've come across through a lot of my research is ronald reagan when he was asked what his? proudest accomplishment in life was it had nothing to do with his presidency. nor his acting career. proudest accomplishment in life is that he claims to have saved 77 lives. from when he was a young man. as a lifeguard and i thought that was very interesting. the question always comes up. will obama ever be here or was he ever here? the answer to that question is
the goal for the original park. was every time a president was to come into office that a two foot tall prototype. was going to be made. as a sample. approved upon and then brought full scale so when obama was coming into office. they approached the owner of the park at the time and who i think had already recognized the financial difficulties that were going on declined for financial reasons to go full scale on the obama. so they just kept the little miniature obama who lived? in this green shipping container along with a miniature white house. many many years unbeknownst to me one of my photography students that was here for a night workshop decided that when i left. he came back. and stole them took them. so that didn't go over very well at all.
fortunately this whole place is rigged with security cameras. we figured out who it was. he claimed to have had a weak moment and not to be kleptomaniacal but ended up basically bringing baby obama back. so we now keep him lock and key and have only brought him out. five times sometimes with security guards because he is very important and we don't want them to get stolen again. is there a trump? no, there is not although the owner has bought a little baby one about this big. the reason i got involved with this is by secondary profession. i am a photographer and i specialize in basically abandoned structures. i love everything about abandoned photography homes churches schools hospitals diners you name it if it's decaying to me. it's interesting that hobby turned into a sizable instagram following and that turned into a coffee table book. called a beautifully broken virginia that coffee table book
started going viral in the virginia museum of fine arts gift shop. so they ended up putting me on faculty as an adjunct speaker and when i've got free time on the weekends, they send me around the state to storytell. because all of these beautiful places in virginia have stories behind them much like you've just heard. a lot of the public really enjoys hearing the backstory. they love the pictures, but they want to know. there's no closure until they get the backstory. so i started doing that for the museum recognized how much the public loved that and then started doing professional storytelling of abandoned virginia on my own. that started in libraries at escalated into theaters. and now i do those at the actual abandoned places themselves. so i'd approached the owner about that told him that i could protect him legally. make him some money to go back into his foundation and then allow the public to come back here to enjoy these.
so he allowed me to do that and it's just kind of blossomed ever since here and in other places. this is by far the most spectacular though. you guys have been great any questions? thank you. all right. i'm gonna check on my wife and then come on back you guys have until 4 o'clock. yeah, why are you attracted to abandoned in decaying places? two reasons number one. i love the texture. i love the mood. i love the mystery. that's just something from a photographic perspective that i absolutely love but i'm also a type a personality love the social part about it and to me the challenge of going out into the community knocking on doors walking into fire stations interviewing loggers hanging out in diners loitering at gas stations all in the spirit of meeting fell over virginians to me. is enjoyable i love it. i absolutely love it. so what started as a simple? hobby to grow an instagram
historians here at the national world war ii museum in new orleans today. i'm going to be talking about speaking about atomic veterans. which when i first came across the term, i had never heard of it before which surprised me because i study military history, but i'd kind of touched on everything at least a little bit. so i was researching