The 5 Most Unintentionally Creepy Gifts Given to Presidents
The president of the United States of America has everything he could ever want: a big house, a fancy car, a private plane and a legacy secured for all time. So what do you get the man who has everything? The answer to that question is usually something lame like "a poem," or "a song," or "a heartfelt macaroni portrait." But sometimes it's something awesome like "furniture made from super-predators" or "all the cheese."
Badass Chairs Made from Wild Animals
Here, have this guy:
Finally, a use for that monofilament weed whacker.
And don't say we never gave you nothin'.
Look at that magnificent bastard: He's like somebody crossbred Will Forte with a bushel of hay.
That's Seth Kinman, an early Californian settler and professional hunter, but he wasn't what you'd probably think, judging by that photograph alone.
He's actually -- inexplicably, impossibly -- even crazier than he looks.
For example: Seth's specialty was making elaborate chairs out of the carcasses of wild animals, then taking pictures of himself just sitting in them, psychobillying out.
Here he is, captaining a Bear Chair, working the imaginary gears with his machete stick shift.
That distorted nightmare mockery of a chair up there was made especially for and presented to then-president Andrew Johnson. It was fashioned from a single wild bear that Kinman hunted, shot and opted to fashion into a throne for the leader of his country, like a totally reasonable person would think to do. It wasn't a practice exclusive to Johnson, either: Every time a new president was elected, Kinsman built him a Savage Throne from which to rule. Here's Rutherford B. Hayes, who certainly doesn't seem to be sitting in that chair against his will, held hostage by a man carrying a gun the size of himself.
"It's been three days, can I please move?"
And some photographs from one of Kinman's earlier attempts at presidential chair-making, intended for Abraham Lincoln:
Finally, a chair capable of scratching your balls and tickling your prostate at the same time.
While Abe Lincoln said that he would "rather eat his elk-horn chair, antlers and all" than sit in it, the other presidents just loved that power-mad symbolism: James Buchanan, the first to be presented with a corpse throne, was so pleased by it that he immediately bought Kinman a fancy rifle in return. Andrew Johnson loved his grizzly bearecliner so much that he kept it in the White House library all throughout his time in office. Rutherford Hayes' elk-horn chair is even now on display in the Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Center in Ohio, where visitors can come gaze upon its terrible visage, and despair. No word on whether they let you sit in it and laugh maniacally, but Jesus, they have to, right? What would be the point to that whole place if not?
The Blueberry Jelly Bean Flavor and a Jelly Bean Portrait
Love him or hate him, there's one thing you can't take away from Ronald Reagan: That dude was crazy about jelly beans, and it was adorable. During his presidency, he made it mandatory for jelly beans to be served in the Oval Office and on Air Force One. There was even a custom-designed holder for Air Force One so the jelly beans wouldn't spill if the plane encountered turbulence during a flight. That's a real thing that real Air Force dollars were really devoted to designing (we assume it cost six billion dollars and the lives of several brave test eaters). His obsession was so great that Jelly Belly actually created their classic blueberry flavor solely for Ronald Reagan's presidential inauguration in 1981, just so he could have red, white and blue candies with him there. Isn't that precious? That's like something a 6-year-old would write in his dream journal.
"There's no time to make them in the shape of ponies, sir. You have a speech to give."
But that wasn't the only candy-themed gift that this man -- a grown-ass adult and leader of the free world, you'll recall -- received. U.S. artist Peter Rocha also shared Ronald Reagan's love and passion for jelly beans, so he spent more than six months painstakingly placing 10,000 little beans in a frame to make this:
More dignified than the Marlon Brando made of Dorito crumbs.
Ronald Reagan obviously adored it, and it still hangs today in the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California. Rumor has it that if you can eat the whole thing, you'll gain all of Reagan's powers.
Portrait on a Carpet
In 1997, when President Heydar Aliyev of Azerbaijan was visiting the United States, he decided to commission a traditional piece of their folk art for the U.S. president. The most popular form of Azerbaijani folk art is hand-woven carpets, and that's cool: We've seen some pretty hot rugs in our time, if you know what we mean (those ones with pumas on them that they sell at swap meets; Jesus, get your head out of the gutter). But "a generally really awesome carpet" is not the direction they opted for; no, they figured to make it truly personal, truly special, this had to be a carpet portrait (yes, that is a thing). And for a presidential gift, of course, you want only your absolute best carpet portrait guy (yes, there are many) on the job. That was master weaver Kamil Aliyev. The man was already pretty famous for his carpet portrayals of many different leaders of many countries (seriously, this is a thing that has happened more than once, no matter how many times your brain straight up rejects that concept), so they entrusted him with the portrait of Bill and Hillary Clinton.
"I love having sex on top of my face, how did you know?"
This was actually a big achievement in the world of "rugs with political leaders' faces on them," because up until then, Kamil Aliyev had never attempted a double portrait before. He chose to depict man and wife this time, in his own words, because "I wanted to convey their lives as one beating heart." Which really just goes to show that the guy did not know his Bill Clinton. However, he did employ 12 (presumably nubile) young women to actually complete the rug portrait with their strong little hands, which sounds a bit more up Bill Clinton's proverbial alley.
"No, Mr. President, they were clothed during production. Why do you ask?"
Two Grizzly Bear Cubs
Right after the Louisiana Purchase, Thomas Jefferson began sending expeditions out West in earnest, to explore and bring back samples of that exotic, unknown land. Sure, plenty of explorers brought back boring stuff like maps or plant specimens, but not Captain Zebulon Pike, who decided to pick up two actual grizzly bear cubs.
Some men bring bottles of wine to a housewarming party; Zebulon brings assorted super-predators.
That's right: His "gift" to the president of the United States was two of the deadliest wild animals on the planet. Jesus, if Kinman's odd, serial-killer-esque arts 'n' crafts warranted a bit of concern, Zebulon's gifts should count as actual war crimes. And it's not like he was unaware of the danger or anything. He knew from the start that these were different from East Coast and European bears: In his letter, he stated that they were "considered by the natives of that country as the most ferocious animals of the continent." Out of sheer politeness, Jefferson kept the bears at the White House for two months while finding them a more permanent home in the Peale Museum. Well, either "politeness" or "fear of displeasing a man with a name as awesome as Captain Zebulon Pike who gives apex predators instead of cheese plates."
"Oh, thanks. Did ... did I do something to piss you off?"
It was the summer of 1801, and John Leland of Cheshire, Massachusetts, wanted to give his president an appropriate gift of his esteem. So, as anyone in their right mind would obviously do in such a situation, Leland persuaded his entire town to chip in with him and make a 1,235-pound cheese, and then transport it to the White House. That president? Why, Thomas Jefferson, of course.
Man, there's just something about that guy's face that apparently makes you want to give him crazy crap.
"Think he'd like an overcoat made out of interlocking mummified human hands? Let's get on that!"
All that milk (allegedly from over 900 different cows) was molded in a local cider press to make the final result: a 4-foot, 4 1/2-inch diameter and 15-inch thick cheese wheel fit for a president. There may have been an ulterior motive for the gift, though, seeing as how Leland specified, upon handing it over to the president, that it was made entirely without slave labor. It also bore the somewhat ominous motto "Rebellion to tyrants is obedience to God." That, uh ... that seems like an awful lot of effort just to send a passive-aggressive note to a guy, but then, this was before the invention of Post-it notes and Twitter.
Thomas Jefferson, presumably while frantically motioning for somebody -- anybody -- to please come and take the furious cheese-monger activist away from him, cut out a large hunk and handed it to onlookers.
"Hey, if you have time, could you make us a couple of tons of crackers?"
And, in possibly the greatest instance of "pretending to like a gift" in history, Jefferson kept the cheese at the White House for more than two years. It was even served in a few congressional dinners, up until 1803, when the last of it was eaten with the "mammoth loaf," an equally absurdly large loaf of bread baked for him by the United States Navy. And then, by all accounts, everybody there got hammered on what we are going to assume were comically oversized beers.
Incidentally, the word "bro" was born that night.
Julien Blower also writes for the parody news site The Leaky Wiki.
For more presidential insanity, check out 7 Badass Animals Presidents Have Kept As Pets and 6 Presidential Secrets Your History Teacher Didn't Mention.