Great Americans You’ve Never Heard Of: John Hay

By: Andy Crawford

When you think of Abraham Lincoln, what probably comes to mind is the Civil War, the Emancipation Proclamation, and a country still struggling to find its identity. When you think of Teddy Roosevelt (other than his badass escapades), we think of an emerging world power with colonies in the Philippines and Cuba, which was carving a canal between two oceans in Panama, and establishing national parks to preserve the frontier it had conquered.

The eras of Lincoln and Roosevelt, two of the greatest presidents in American history, seem light-years apart. If they could witness the country each led, neither would recognize it. In fact, their presidencies really only have one thing in common.

His name is John Hay.

Hay was raised in the backwater town of Warsaw, Illinois. He was an extremely bright youth, and managed to escape the obscurity of pioneer life and moved to Providence, where he attended Brown University. Upon graduation in 1858, he moved back to Illinois to study law with a law firm in Springfield. It was there that he met a local attorney, Abraham Lincoln.

Hay became a passionate supporter for Lincoln in the 1860 presidential campaign, and helped handle Lincoln’s correspondence with his other secretary, John Nicolay.

Upon Lincoln’s election, Hay and Nicolay moved into the White House with Lincoln’s family. They shared a bedroom across the hall from the executive office (this was before the White House had the West Wing and Oval Office), where they worked 18 hour days, 7 days a week, throughout the war. He hardly ever left Lincolon’s side. He was even present for the Gettysburg Address, which Hay misjudged at the time as “inadequate” for the occasion.

Lincoln with John Nicolay (L) and John Hay (R).

Lincoln with John Nicolay (L) and John Hay (R).

There was no one’s counsel Lincoln trusted more than Hay and Nicolay, as he shared some of his greatest anxieties and hardest decisions with them. It was generally remarked Lincoln loved the young man as a son. Hay recorded how one evening Lincoln “read Shakespeare to me, the end of Henry V and the beginning of Richard III, till my heavy eyelids caught his considerate notice, and he sent me to bed.”

Another time, Hay recorded how after midnight Lincoln burst into the office wearing only his pajamas to share a joke in a book he was reading. However, Lincoln was “seemingly utterly unconscious that he, with his short shirt hanging about his long legs, and setting out behind like the tail feathers of an enormous ostrich, was infinitely funnier than anything in the book he was laughing at.”

John Hay was with Lincoln’s only biological son to reach adulthood, Robert, when news came that the President had been shot at Ford’s Theatre. The two rushed from the White House, and were present at the Petersen House when Lincoln died hours later.

Unfortunately, this would not be the last President that Hay would see die from an assassin’s bullet. After decades of serving as an American diplomat and ambassador to Great Britain, he was appointed Secretary of State by President McKinley in 1899. Hay had been with McKinley after he was shot, and informed the young Vice President Teddy Roosevelt that McKinley had died and that he was now President.

This is a picture of Lincoln's funeral procession in New York City. It's also the only picture of both Lincoln and Roosevelt. The house on the left was Roosevelt's grandfsther's home, and two boys can be seen looking out of the second floor window. Most historians agree this is Teddy and his brother Elliot.

This is a picture of Lincoln’s funeral procession in New York City. It’s also the only picture of both Lincoln and Roosevelt. The house on the left was Roosevelt’s grandfather’s home, and two boys can be seen looking out of the second floor window. Most historians agree this is Teddy and his brother Elliot.

By the time Roosevelt was President, Hay was an elder statesman and the last relic of the Lincoln administration. As such, Roosevelt treated him with a great deal of respect and relied on him heavily in foreign affairs.

Hay’s most monumental achievement was the Panama Canal. For years, Hay negotiated with the French, Colombians, and Panamanians to obtain the rights for America to build the canal. While this is often cited as the greatest achievement of Roosevelt’s presidency, it was Hay’s expert diplomacy that led to the signing of the treaty creating the canal in 1903. (It was called the Hay-Bunau-Varilla Treaty.)

By 1905, Hay was in poor health and, at the advice of his best friend Charles Adams, he tendered his resignation. Only a few months later, the man who was with Lincoln in Gettysburg and Roosevelt in Panama, who counseled the former during the throes of the Civil War and the latter through the tumultuous days following the assassination of his predecessor, died.

He served his country for almost fifty years, and was a giant of the late 19th century. A little boy from southern Illinois grew up to be the trusted counselor of arguably America’s two greatest Presidents.

That’s pretty cool. And that’s why John Hay is worth remembering.

Andy probably finds John Hay more interesting than most people. Maybe it is because they share the same birthday, October 8th.

How to Plan a Bachelor Party

By: Alan Meincke

Editor’s Note: this article is not going to cover the typical bro’d-out bachelor party of borderline sexual harassment at bars and hitting up strip clubs. That’s not how BBT rolls.

Now that I’m in my late 20s, almost all of my friends are married. More importantly, I’ve had the life experience to go to and help plan a variety of bachelor parties. A few years ago, two other BBT contributors and I all got married in the span of six months. A certain other BBT contributor, who shall remain nameless, had the audacity to throw a three-day hiatus for the first lucky bachelor. This trip threw down the gauntlet of all prior bachelor parties among our group of friends.

bachelor 2 Now that all attendees were out of school and making real money, we stepped up and planned a three-day gallivant to a little place known as Bourbon Country in Kentucky. This extended weekend trip included visits to all the distilleries on the Bourbon Trial, numerous samples, and a near takeover of a random bar in Louisville, Kentucky for the inaugural Georgia/Missouri game.

Naturally, once one of us was the recipient of the ultimate bachelor party, the remaining two had to get similar treatment (including yours truly). A few months later, we all suffered for the cause on two more bachelor weekends to Chattanooga/Nashville and Panama City. Good times were had by all (except maybe the wives, at the time).

So, now that you’ve been tapped as a Best Man for your buddy’s wedding, the planning should begin. Here are a few recommended steps towards planning the celebration of your buddy’s upcoming marriage:

Give some thought to what the Bachelor likes to do. If your buddy hates the outdoors, you probably shouldn’t plan a weekend hiking into the middle of nowhere. Think–good food, good drinks, good entertainment. What’s a relatively close and affordable location where there are decent things to do during the day and at night? For those living in the South, I’d suggest a few of the more regional cities that are within a few hours’ drive – Savannah, Charleston, Jacksonville, Panama City/Destin, Chattanooga, Nashville, Knoxville, Asheville, Charlotte, etc. Most of those places will have a variety of things to see and do.

Decide your budget. Not all bachelor parties will go to the extent of what was described above (although plenty will go far and away beyond it, I’m sure). Certainly, you and the other groomsmen should discuss what’s within your collective budget. In college, I attended bachelor parties as simple as a nice home-cooked dinner with other groomsmen and the groom’s other lifelong friends all the way to a weekend stay at a cabin in the mountains (side note: if there is ever a time in life when it’s acceptable–nay, imperative–to have a mustache, it’s on a bachelor party/weekend).

Activities. Trip Advisor, Yelp, and other various travel sites are your best friend. Is there a concert, beach, ski slope, tour, casino, museum, distillery, brewery, firing range, bar-with-a-mechanical-bull, or airbrush t-shirt spot the bachelor would love to visit? Now’s the time to figure out those options. There’s a fine art to striking balance between downtime and time for other activities. If the group is fairly tight-knit, don’t stress the details. If the attendees are not a group of friends, you might opt for a shorter trip and less “unstructured” time.

Transportation. If the trip involves a lot of guys, renting a van Old School style is always an option. Nothing says “baller” like 6+ dudes in a van. Also, if you’re going to be drinking, don’t be stupid. Plan for designated drivers.


Food, glorious food. When I planned a bachelor party to Nashville, I bookmarked several of the potential restaurant options in Yelp for quick reference. Depending on whether you’re full-on OCD or not, this may seem like overkill, but it helps quell those where-are-we-gonna-eat moments of indecision. There’s always room to deviate from that spots you’ve scoped out, but this can help prevent headache later.


Accommodations. Usually, there is an entire range of hotel options available. Use online review sites to figure out what’s in your budget that isn’t total garbage. Remember, hotels can potentially eat up a large portion of your budget (unless someone’s been hoarding hotel points). Airbnb might be a decent alternative if you can rent an entire place and not destroy it.


At the end of the day, a bachelor party is an opportunity to celebrate your friend and it can be a time to relive college for a few days with your best buddies. Enjoy the weekend. It may be one of the last times you spend with all the guys.

Have you ever planned a bachelor party/weekend? What did you do?

- Alan promised his wife writing this article didn’t make him miss his bachelor days.

Is this the Real ‘Golden Era’ of Television?

By: Jason Smith

There’s a conversation my wife and I have almost constantly these days.

It goes something like this: “Me: Wanna go to the movies? Wife: What’s on? Me: [lists movies] Wife: I’d rather just binge-watch [insert whatever series we're into right now]. Me: Yup, me too.”

Sure, we go to whatever we deem to be a “must-see” movie: whatever Christopher Nolan or Wes Anderson are directing, Marvel movies, Oscar nominees, etc.

But what we really love is to sit down around 5 PM and go through as much of a great TV series as we can before we go to bed. The funny thing is that this is not entirely a product of the “Netflix era,” I seem to remember many a 24 marathon back in college that were done entirely via DVD. If anything, Netflix capitalized on this boom in great television.

If you can’t tell already I think the answer to the title question of this post is “Yes.” In fact, TV has gotten so good we’ve basically stopped asking this question as if it is a serious question at all. The only things we have left to fight about are the details.


For example, “When did this New Golden Era (what I’d call the “REAL Golden Era”) begin?” You could fight for days about this one. The most obvious answer is simple: The day the Sopranos first aired.

That answer is not as simple as it seems though. The Sopranos first aired in 1999. That same year two other drama series debuted on network TV—back when the Networks still remembered how to make good TV—the West Wing and Freaks & Geeks. As a sidebar, plenty of people consider themselves big TV fans but have never watched Freaks & Geeks. People….there are only two seasons and the show is unbelievable.

Anyways, it seems that 1999 is the beginning.

The Canon

Now, every major shift in the arts has to have a canon—a particular set of works from that era that define what made that era so damn good. In short, it needs a “top list” that you can give to people if they want to understand that period of time.

Figuring out a canon for the New Golden Age is a tricky area. Mostly because there are just so many damn awesome shows from 1999 to the present. Also, because—and this is just plain maddening—a canon has to be limited. We’re not talking about “underrated” shows or “cult” shows or “shows you’ve never heard of.” We’re talking the pure gold that defined a movement of culture that came to change everything we knew a particular medium could do.

What’s the canon? Well, let’s say you had to limit it to 15 shows. 15 shows from 1999 until right now. Here’s my best shot:

The Canon that Will Piss Everyone Off

The Sopranos

The West Wing

The Wire


House of Cards

Orange is the New Black

Arrested Development

The Office

Game of Thrones

Freaks & Geeks

Mad Men

Breaking Bad



True Detective

This canon is obviously not perfect. There are big problems particularly with regards to shows that give some real attention to female-centered narratives. My wife was sure to remind me of this as she read over this list, and she’s right. She suggested shows like Sex and the City or Big Love. Confession: I’ve never seen Big Love, and while Sex and the City—the real and UNEDITED original version—is a damn good show it doesn’t quite have the gravitas as some of the other shows listed above.

There are also some other gems that I know I’ve left out for the sole reason that I haven’t seen them and can’t really comment on how great they are. [Note: I haven't seen Mad Men or Breaking Bad either, but those two shows are such watershed moments in the "New Golden Era" that you can't not include them.] Those no-shows include but are not limited to: Deadwood, Friday Night Lights, Big Love, Veep, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and Entourage.

Also of note is the incredible work that has been done on the TV Mini-series front. The biggest no-show from our “canon” is obviously Sherlock. I think this show is absolutely incredible television. But I count it as a mini-series. It is essential viewing, don’t get it twisted, but still not quite a real set of TV seasons. Even though I hope that this “mini-series” keeps going forever and ever. The work of HBO in the mini-series department is pretty extraordinary. The two you have to watch from them are Band of Brothers and John Adams. I’ve also heard History Channel’s (WTF?!) Hatfields and McCoys is great.


It seems fitting that this New Golden Era has found it difficult to do anything in-between when it comes to ending such great shows. The finales from this Golden Age have either been complete, utter dumpster fires or works of such staggering beauty that they will come to define who Millennials imagine themselves to be for years to come.

A conversation about endings was what prompted this article. Like any true millennial, this discussion on art happened over Twitter.


There’s really nothing I’d change about the finale of the West Wing, save it’s Episode Title and the final line of the show. That got me thinking, though, what are the best and worst endings of this great Golden Era?

LOST takes a ton of crap for its finale—in fact, for its final season—and even though I think that crap is warranted I don’t think anyone can criticize the final seconds of lost. The bookend of the opening images of the show just killed me when I saw it the first time (no pun intended).

The Wire obviously has an exceptional finale as it does pretty much everything exceptionally.

When it comes to final lines I’d say that the final lines of True Detective and Band of Brothers made me lose my shit in a way I hadn’t since seeing Gravity in theaters.

I don’t tend to hate on finales, but I will say that the finale of How I Met Your Mother basically ruined the entire show for me.

The question of endings brings up a deeper question: when will the Golden Era of TV end? What will be the thing that brings it to an end? Will Sit-coms come back? Will a new mode of consuming media bring TV back down to Earth? Will the Rom-Com ever recover and bring the majority of people back to the movies again?

I don’t really see any of that happening, which begs a further question: is this just the beginning of a new normal? It really might be the case that our greatest works of art—literally novels that take place right before our eyes—are still ahead of us. We are witnessing a veritable arms race the likes of which probably hasn’t happened since movies studios began to race for the best content in the Talkie era.

And as Netflix and AMC and HBO fight to get richer and richer, all of us are the ones who really benefit. Long live the New Golden Age!




–Jason is a grad student living in Nashville. He is currently binge watching Sex and the City with his wife because she said it would really suck me in and it totally has and I’m not ashamed.–