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5:40am — Another Obscure President’s Birthday

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Chester Alan Arthur was born on Oct. 5, 1830.

Personal disclaimer: A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, we learned to drive in the Albany Rural Cemetery, the final resting place of the 21st President of the United States, Chester Alan Arthur.

It’s only a miracle that the sarcophagus that contained the remains of the late president, his wife and many of his ancestors was unscathed as we went careening around the cemetery roads.

This is the second in our series of Happy Birthday messages to presidents you never heard of.

As it happens, the chief executive whose birthday we celebrated yesterday — Rutherford B. Hayes — fired Arthur as Collector of the Port of New York for incompetence and corruption.

Arthur became vice president under Hayes’ successor James A. Garfield, but rose to the presidency when Garfield was assassinated by a bitter job-seeker.


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As a further irony, Arthur presided over the Pendleton Civil Service Reform Act (1883), the first serious effort to curb the spoils system and the old-boy corruption of hiring cronies for government service.

Arthur was the only U.S. president to wear mutton-chop whiskers and was known as "the Gentleman Boss" for his dandified dress and courtly manners, according to the online encyclopedia Wikipedia.

So far as we know, no middle school in Albuquerque has been named in his honor.

Among the significant events that happened on his watch (1881-1885), there was that monument to American bigotry, the Chinese Exclusion Act, that barred all immigration from China for 10 years.

The Standard Oil Trust (a trust to beat all trusts) was founded in 1882 by John D. Rockefeller and his partners. And we all know how well that worked out.