The more I learn about former President Dwight Eisenhower, the more I like him.
After visiting his adult home in Gettysburg last Summer, I knew a stop at his Presidential library and museum in Kansas was a must. It’s easy to get to if you’re already traveling across the state and a perfect place to stretch your legs and get your latest dose of American history.
One thing I always enjoy about Presidential museums and libraries is that you’re bound to find lots of stuff that’s cool to see no matter what your political leanings may be. The Eisenhower Presidential Library has the added bonus of being directly next to his childhood home. Also located on the property is the final resting place of Dwight & Mamie Eisenhower. The graves are inside a beautiful, somber mini-sanctuary with great stained glass windows. The former President designed it himself and wanted visitors to be able to reflect during their visit.
People often ask me why they call these places Presidential “libraries”. While most visitors will only see the museum – each Presidential Library is in fact a research center where documents related to each President’s time in office are stored and organized as part of the National Archives. The Eisenhower Library for example has a whopping 26 million pages of material. As documents become declassified, the collection grows even bigger.
During my visit to Abilene, Kansas I asked museum curator William Snyder what people come to research, considering Eisenhower hasn’t been President in more than 50 years. “People are always writing new books and learning from all sorts of things that happened during his time in office. One recent example – researchers wanted to learn more about a cancer scare related to cranberries . Turns out, one year during the President’s time in office – cranberries were banned from store shelves during Thanksgiving because of concerns they were causing cancer.”
Each Presidential library has one of a kind items that you won’t see anywhere else. Whether it’s the microphone Eisenhower used at press conferences or the Presidential podium that traveled with him on official trips or an engagement ring he gave to the former First Lady.
Kids will be stunned to learn what “modern technology” looked like during the years Ike was in office. In the late 50’s – a state-of-the-art communications phone looks like something you’d see today for $2.00 at an estate sale. Typewriters? What are those? History buffs will be intrigued by stationary that belonged to none other than Adolf Hitler and the actual D-Day planning table. Car lovers will get a kick out of the 1914 electric Rauch and Lang automobile that the Eisenhower’s drove that once belonged to Mamie’s mother.
Another unique aspect of the Eisenhower site is the collection of things from his days as a General. In fact, after leaving The White House – it’s widely known that instead of “President” – he instead preferred to be addressed as “General”.
Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it. – President Dwight Eisenhower
The former First Lady is also featured in the museum with everything from her wedding dress to campaign buttons that highlight how popular she was with voters.
Outside between the museum and library is a statue of the former President and General that stands eleven feet tall. A lasting memorial to a great American hero and one of the most popular and well-respected leaders in history.
The Eisenhower Presidential Library, Museum & Childhood Home are open to the public every day of the year except for major holidays in Abilene, Kansas.
You can connect with them on all of the popular social media channels: @IkeLibrary