August 2017 —In Memoriam: Author Tom Fleming Provided Insight Into “The Intimate Lives of the Founding Fathers”
"How do you write a book?" 24-year-old Thomas Fleming asked best-selling writer Fulton Oursler in 1951.
"Write four pages a day," Oursler said. "Every day except Sunday. Whether you feel like it or not. Inspiration consists of putting the seat of your pants on the chair at your desk."
Fleming followed that advice in the more than 50 books he wrote throughout his life.
The writer of great histories, novels, and a true gentleman of the 20th and 21st centuries died at his home in New York City on July 23, 2017. He was 90.
His book, “The Intimate Lives of the Founding Fathers,” was his 50th published work. Twenty-three of his books were novels. He was also the only writer in the history of the Book of the Month Club to have had main selections in fiction and in nonfiction. And, he won prizes.
Fleming told David Bruce Smith, founder of the Grateful American™ Foundation, that he sees "Intimate Lives" as a perfect combination of his double talent as a novelist and historian.
"Novelists focus on the intimate side of life," said Fleming, who was born in Jersey City, the son of a powerful local politician. "This is the first time anyone has looked at the intimate side of the lives of these famous Americans with a historian's eyes."
It was a pleasure to meet and interview Fleming in May 2014. We filmed the video on location at Alexander Hamilton’s home, The Grange, in New York City. We hope you’ll enjoy watching it as much as we did filming it.
Click here to watch the interview, in which Fleming answers these questions:
- What were the lives of the great figures in American history really like — including George Washington, Ben Franklin, John Adams, Alexander Hamilton, and James Madison?
- What role did the Founding Mothers play in the lives of these famous men — such as George Washington's mother, Mary Ball Washington, who was known to be not particularly affectionate?
- How do the customs of the 18th century differ from today's, including those related to courting, medicine, and hygiene?
- What makes it so important that their stories live on — especially in the minds of kids?
- And how can parents help their kids develop a passion for history?
Scroll down for a dozen fascinating facts about the founding era of our country.
Here’s to bringing American history to life, for kids and adults! — David Bruce Smith, founder, and Hope Katz Gibbs, executive producer, GratefulAmericanFoundation.com / GratefulAmericanKids.com
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What were the lives of the great figures in American history really like — including George Washington, Ben Franklin, John Adams, Alexander Hamilton, and James Madison? What role did the Founding Mothers play in the lives of these famous men — such as George Washington's mother, Mary Ball Washington, who was known to be not particularly affectionate? Don’t miss this fascinating interview with historian and best-selling novelist Thomas Fleming.
- Of the Founding Fathers who became president, only George Washington did not go to college. John Adams graduated from Harvard; James Madison from Princeton; and Thomas Jefferson attended the College of William and Mary.
- Benjamin Franklin never attended college or university. After attending the Boston Latin School for two years, his formal education ended at 10 years old, but Franklin pursued self-education for the rest of his life and became a renowned scientist, inventor, and political theorist.
- John Adams was the first president to live in the White House, moving in during November of 1800. He only lived there for four months, however, since he lost that year's election to Thomas Jefferson.
- On March 4, 1793, George Washington delivered the shortest inauguration speech in American history: 133 words.
- William Henry Harrison gave the longest inauguration speech — 8,443 words — on March 4, 1841. The day was a cold, blustery one, and Harrison caught a chill, causing his death a month later.
- Author Washington Irving described James Madison as "a withered little apple-john," and his wife, Dolley, as a "fine, portly, buxom dame."
- John Adams was the only president to be the father of a future president — John Quincy Adams — until George W. Bush, son of George H.W. Bush, became president in 2000.
- Thomas Jefferson often spent $50 a day (about $1,000 in 2017 dollars) on groceries for lavish entertaining. The wine bill for his eight-year presidency was $11,000 (equivalent to almost $225,000 in 2017 dollars).
- The Marquis de Lafayette thought so highly of George Washington that he named his son George Washington Lafayette. Over the years, Washington developed tremendous affection for Lafayette, referring to him as "my French son."
- Originally, George Washington was to be buried in the U.S. Capitol, but he died before the Rotunda was finished. He and his wife, Martha, are interred at Mount Vernon in Virginia.
- Although George Washington called for the emancipation of his slaves in his Last Will and Testament, it was his wife, Martha, who freed the slaves Washington owned. She was unable to free hers. Under the terms of her first husband's will, these slaves — about half of those living at Mount Vernon — belonged to her children and grandchildren.
- Thomas Jefferson and John Adams died on the same day: July 4, 1826, exactly 50 years after the signing of the Declaration of Independence. James Monroe died July 4, 1831.
What was the U.S. population in the first census of 1790?
August 2, 1790 — The first U.S. census was conducted, indicating there were about 3.9 million people living in the country. While great measures were taken to find credible results, George Washington and Thomas Jefferson expressed skepticism over the final count.
Nonetheless, Congress realized the country's capacity for growth, and raised the number of seats in the House of Representatives from 69 to 105.
The law required that every household be visited and each person accounted for. Categories included: free white males of 16 years and older (to assess the country's industrial and military potential); free white males under 16 years; free white females; all other free persons; and slaves.
“The Intimate Lives of the Founding Fathers,” by Thomas Fleming
Review by Erin Carlson Mast
CEO and Executive Director, President Lincoln's Cottage, Washington, DC
Exposing your private life to scrutiny is the price you pay for political power in America. And, what we demand from our leaders and what we excuse them for says as much about our national ideals as it does about our personal politics and beliefs.
Such are the lessons in Thomas Fleming's, "The Intimate Lives of the Founding Fathers," in which the author assesses academic and popular views of the personal lives of George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and James Madison. Fleming's goal is to put 21st-century hand-wringing over too much invasion in private lives of public officials in historical context.
In order to do that, Fleming states, "I decided to explore the roles of women in the lives of the first group of American politicians to win fame."