Bird Presidents #14: Penguin Pierce

Penguin Pierce

And now war! war, in its direst shape — war, on a scale of a million birds in arms — rages in several States of the Union…
~ Penguin Pierce

Franklin Pierce; the penguin, of which this is a king rather than an emperor, not that that’s any less problematically monarchistic for an ostensibly presidential bird.

Franklin Pierce manages somehow to be the president who is worse than Fillmore, which is something I guess; it may be that he was just the wrong president at a very difficult time in presidential history (and it does feel a bit like everybody leading up to Lincoln was in the difficult place of being Not Lincoln, especially as seen from the long late view where Lincoln himself is held in such high general esteem as a mythic presidential figure), but in any case nobody seems to remember him and those who do don’t seem to have a lot of praise for his administrative legacy. A legacy defined in significant part by functionally pro-Confederacy, pro-slavery politics? Fun.

But he was also allegedly a nice enough guy as just a guy, and he struggled with alcoholism and that maybe ruined his marriage and also all of his kids died young, which is pretty terrible stuff to have to deal with so, hmm. Historical figures I’m not deeply familiar with: they’re complicated.

Don’t feel like I did a great job of communicating the specular highlighting on his back and the top of his wing — my tendency with pen strokes and hatching seems to run kind of counter to that sort of effect. Have to think about how to approach that sort of thing, or maybe avoid wet black birds.

Also I accidentally threw an apostrophe on a possessive its and smudged the ink near the feet a little bit when trying to erase some pencil marks. It’s hard out there for a bird presidentizer.

Author: Josh Millard

I manage and help moderate the community website MetaFilter, where I go by "cortex"; in my spare time I get up to all sorts of creative nerdery on the internet and in Portland, Oregon.

5 thoughts on “Bird Presidents #14: Penguin Pierce”

  1. Greetings! There’s a lot to say, so I’ll break it into several messages that your ‘Reply’ function can handle. I’m a semi-descendant of Penguin Pierce. His brother was my great-great-great-somedamnthingorother grandfather, so ‘ol Pengy would be my great-great-great-maybenotsogreat-grand uncle. I think the fact that he wasn’t exactly one of our greatest presidents had to do, in large part, with the times he lived in, and the fact that Lincoln was more forceful with his decisions as well as being the Shiniest Prez The World Had Ever Seen up to that date. Pengy does seem to have been, as other prezzes before Lincoln seem to have also been, a sort of Presidential Placeholder until the really sparkly, publicly salable one got there. Also, Lincoln was a teetotaler, I believe.

  2. I must note that back in those times, the countryside (at least, all the Eastern States) were simply crawling with politically inclined Pierces. Considering this high density of Political Pierces, it would only seem natural that eventually one of them would trip and fall into the White House. Basically, it just happened to be Pengy.

  3. Ha, neat! Thanks for the personal connection. And yeah, your assessment on the Placeholder issue feels pretty sensible as a way of looking at the weird arc of presidential enthusiasm for that period. I wonder if just presiding finally over the end of the long build-up of the Civil War wouldn’t have given just about any president a big bump in the historical standing column regardless of how good their oration was.

  4. I think you’re probably right. After all, everyone remembers Truman and Roosevelt which probably would not have been the case had WWII not ended when it did. And from what I’ve heard, Truman wasn’t exactly flashy or a great orator. And hardly anyone remembers what else Truman did during his term.

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