Bird Presidents #6: John Quail Adams

John Quail Adams

To believe all birds honest would be folly. To believe none so is something worse.
~ John Quail Adams

John Quincy Adams; the quail, who is no Jack Kennedy, Senator.

J. Q. (can I call you J. Q.?) was the son of previous POTUS John Adams, and apparently felt pretty strongly that slavery was, you know, pretty much terrible. So go him! That’s a pretty good position to be taking. From what I could tell while reading biographic notes and hunting for quotes, he seemed to be trying to be a pretty model Christian in the old-fashioned “somebody who seems to have understood and agreed with all that crazy humanist stuff about loving your fellow man and treating ’em good that Christ was always talking about” sense of the word.

How a guan begat a quail may forever remain a mystery of bird sociopolitics.

Bird Presidents #5: James Macaw

James Macaw

A little flattery will support a bird through great fatigue.
~ James Macaw

James Monroe; the macaw, a New World parrot not as far I know known for any particular doctrines. But you could probably train it to repeat one.

Trying a couple things with this one: a big close-up instead of a full-bird shot (because the head markings were the most interesting thing about this guy, to me), and letting the text overlap with the image. I’m not totally satisfied with how either worked out; the text is not as cleanly readable as I’d like, and while I like the bird head composition in general I’m not happy with how the beak came out. It looks an awful lot to me like me trying to fake beak texture badly. I’ll have to revisit that idea at some point.

Now, the quote here took a little digging; the only thing anyone seems to want to quote Monroe on that has an obvious paper trail is the inaugural address in which he outlined what became known as the Monroe Doctrine, and that’s a dull and wordy pile of language any single notable sentence from which would fill one of my cards all by itself, and mostly without any chance for an avian twist in any case.

The alternative: google “monroe quotes” and then try and suss out whether any given quote is (a) something Monroe definitely said, (b) something someone other than Monroe definitely said but which has been provably misattributed, (c) something Monroe might have said or some random dude on the internet might have invented during a gun control argument but there’s no proof either way, or (d) something only attributed to Monroe without first-hand evidence, but in a historically interesting way.

Basically, google is a terrible way to find quotes if you’re not careful. One person attributes a quote to someone on one of a hundred crappy work-alike quote sites, then all the other ones copy it and perpetuate the error. The result is something like a set of competing maps where all of the maps consist more or less entirely of trap streets. Madness.

Wikiquote at least has the good sense to mark unattributed quotes as being just that, though that doesn’t help with the attribution process particulary; it just tells me I still have to do the work myself.

So the quote here is of that last type, (d), above: Google Books (which has been enormously helpful for tracking down quote attributions the last few days) made it clear after some searching that the original quote was attributed to Monroe in print at least as early as the 1873, in a book by Mary Clemmer Ames called “Ten Years in Washington – Life and Scenes in the National Capital, as a woman sees them“. The book is a collection of observations and anecdotes circa Monroe’s presidency, and the quoted phrase is relayed as having been uttered as part of a quippy response at a house party, though without any more specific citation.

So it remains possible that it’s just a bit of bullshit or l’esprit de l’escalier passed on after the fact from one storyteller to the next, but if that’s the case it is at least very old bullshit delivered in a straightfaced context. If anybody can track it down further (“man”, not “bird”, of course), let me know.

Bird Presidents #4: James Manakin

James Manakin

If birds were angels, no government would be necessary.
~ James Manakin

James Madison; the manakin (a male wire-tailed, in this case), which does not ordinarily have a widow’s peak like James Madison’s, though some varieties have other fairly exciting bits of head or neck feathering (helmeted, golden-collared).

Given all the big black area on this one, I deviated from my “nothing but a Micron .005” policy on the first few to do some fill-in with a .05. This seems not to have destroyed the universe, so I’ll keep that in mind for future drawings.

Bird Presidents #3: Ptarmigan Jefferson

03 Ptarmigan Jefferson

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all birds are created equal…
~ Ptarmigan Jefferson

Thomas Jefferson; the ptarmigan, which shows very different coloration from season to season, which fact I’m playing with fast and loose here.

Jefferson has famously been suspected of (and boy howdy is this apparently a matter of protracted historiological contention!), as a widower, fathering six children with his slave Sally Hemings; it’s an idea that makes for a strangely appropriate touchstone in the complicated and contradictory fact of a man who wrote the Declaration of Independence nonetheless himself choosing to claim ownership over a great many fellow humans’ lives.

Scanning these has been an okay way to capture the line art but I’m a big fan of the actual texture and shape of these cards, so I’m following my wife’s suggestion and doing this one as a cropped photograph instead of using the scanner.

Bird Presidents #2: Guan Adams

Guan Adams

No bird who ever held the office of President would congratulate a friend on obtaining it.
~ Guan Adams

John Adams; the guan. Beware the horned guan, he’s a big faker.

Guan Adams is the second Bird President of the United States of, I dunno, Birdmerica? Need to think about that further.

Adams had some pretty crazy hair in some of his later portraits, so I tried to get a little of that going on on this guan though I’m not sure anyone’s buying it.

Bird Presidents #1: Grebe Washington

Grebe Washington

Liberty, when it begins to take wing, is a bird of rapid flight.
~ Grebe Washington

George Washington; the Grebe, which is apparently possibly related to the flamingo.

Drawing loosely modeled on Emanuel Leutze’s Washington Crossing the Deleware.

So after doing up Theodore Crowsevelt earlier, I got to thinking about other presidential bird names, and pretty soon I was crossreferencing wikipedia lists and to sort of sum up the situation is that

1. I have a spreadsheet now titled Bird Presidents and

2. I think I’ll keep doing these.

I don’t know much about birds or presidents and I can always use an excuse to try and work on my drawing, so it seems like a good little side project.

Bird Presidents #27: Theodore Crowsevelt

Theodore Crowsevelt

We must treat each bird on his merit and worth as a bird.
~ Theodore Crowsevelt

Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt; the crow, in this case I think specifically the American Crow though no known species actually have mustaches or wear tiny spectacles.

The first bird president I drew, and so posted out of order. Also I believe I accidentally transposed “merit” and “worth” from the actual quote.

Just a little experiment this morning after I got the name “Crowsevelt” stuck in my brain for some reason.

In retrospect it’s hard to put a mustache on a bird; if I were to do this again I’d probably push the perspective to bring the face forward in the composition and give myself some more room to work with in caricature. But I’m also just not totally sure how to bridge the gap between Teddy and a crow, physiologically speaking, so hey.

Will now spend the rest of the day trying to think of other Presidential bird puns.