WHAT IF John Quincy Adams……?

John Quincy Adams Smiling

WHAT IF John Quincy Adams……

Had hair!

I love playing around with Photoshop, and while reconstructing life masks, I decided to see how my favorite president, John Quincy Adams, might have appeared had he never lost his hair or perhaps visited Bosley. Some said that he was quite handsome when he was younger, and with a little hair, he still doesn’t look half bad later in life, especially with the mutton chops. Throughout Adams’ life, he felt inadequate and socially awkward because of his depression and was constantly bothered by his physical appearance.1

Adams’ life mask was cast in 1825 at the age of 58. Adams was president at that time, had brown hair, and did not have his mutton chops.

John Quincy Adams Life Masks
1) Original Life Mask, 2) Adams at age 58, 3) Adams later in life with mutton chops and gray hair, 4) Adams has he might have appeared with hair.

WHAT IF John Quincy Adams……

Had a cheerful personality!

If Adams were not a man of reserved, cold, austere, and forbidding manners, perhaps his portrait would look like the one on the right, below.

John Quincy Adams Smiling
Left: Official Portrait of President John Quincy Adams by George P.A. Healy, 1858 Right: Same portrait, digitally altered.

“Because Adams was both introspective and uncommonly candid in admitting his own shortcomings, Adams remained the best source for a description of his personality. “I am a man of reserved, cold, austere and forbidding manners,” he confided to his diary, “my political adversaries say, a gloomy misanthropist, and my personal enemies, an unsocial savage. With a knowledge of the actual defect in my character, I have not the pliability to reform it.” In a letter to his wife he admitted, “I never was and never shall be what is commonly termed a popular man, being as little qualified by nature, education, or habit for the arts of a courtier as I am desirous of being courted by others…I am certainly not intentionally repulsive in my manners and deportment, and in my public station I never made myself inaccessible to any human being. But I have no powers of fascination; none of the honey which the profligate proverb says is the true fly-catcher.”2

From the Washington Post Presidential Podcast…..3

LILLIAN CUNNINGHAM: OK, so if John Quincy Adams is one of the grand strategists in American history, why do you think it is that so many Americans don’t think of him as one of our great presidents or, you know, probably don’t even really know much about him?John Quincy Adams Meme

CHARLES EDEL: A couple of different reasons. First of all, he’s not a founder per se. John Adams, people remember. John Quincy Adams, a little bit less. Second, maybe we don’t like political dynasties. So, that’s a little bit of a point why there. But then, I think more importantly, is he’s a one-term president. He’s the only one-term president other than his dad until you get to Martin Van Buren much later on. And I would go further and say that his presidency is more or less a failure. I mean, almost every single policy that he rolls out and advances as president fails. So, that’s one real reason why most Americans don’t know him. I mean, you know the name. But he’s lower on the list. He’s also not a particularly pleasant personality. And there’s something to be said for that, too. For those people who have read David McCullough’s biography of John Adams or have seen that wonderful HBO series — if you remember John Adams, there a couple of shining characteristics of John Adams. He’s smart. He knew it. He wanted you to know that. And as you might anticipate, he was pretty annoying about that. Well, all these traits are carried out to the nth degree by his son. But he has none of the mellowing and humor that his father has.

LILLIAN CUNNINGHAM: You know him very well. Now would you set him up on a blind date with someone you knew?

CHARLES EDEL: It would depend who I was setting him up on a date with. I don’t know, I like you–I’m not sure that I want to say I would. Maybe? I’ve spent a lot of time with old J.Q.A. and I would say, that look, he doesn’t suffer fools gladly. He’s irascible. He has a very challenging relationship with his wife for the first 30-plus years of their marriage. But he is brilliant. He’s interesting. He’s fascinating to talk to — when he’s not feeling bad for himself, which is often. He is one of the best conversationalists there are.I mean, it’s interesting that when foreign dignitaries come to the United States…and I’m talking about really, the biggies –Charles Dickens, Alexis de Tocqueville, the Marquis de Lafayette. They all make sure that number one on their social agenda is getting together with John Quincy Adams. Not only because he is a great conversationalist,but because his views of the United States and of foreign policy are so expansive and so interesting. I mean, this is a pretty spectacular man that, when you can engage him, those who were close to him–you know, both intellectuals but some politicians too, and also those he advocated on behalf of –thought he was just spectacular. But he was cold. He was remote. His own son said he was impenetrable. And his grandson, the famous historian Henry Adams,said that he had an inner nature so complex that he was an enigma to all of his contemporaries. What that means for your or his dating life, I’m not really sure. And this is can’t really speak to, his dating life. But I will say that not only is he interesting,as we talked about –he can speak multiple languages–but here’s an interesting one:You probably have a mental image of him as a little bit rotund, and that’s an Adam’s kind of trait. But he is a very vigorously healthy president. He will walk to Congress and time himself every time. But what he was particularly hung up about was walking down to the Potomac, stripping off all his clothes –he’d keep a pair of green goggles on — and hopping in for a half-an-hour to an hour-long swim.There are apocryphal tales of a reporter–an enterprising young reporter, a female reporter, who could not get an interview with him–who, when he makes it back to the shore one day,says, ‘Mr. Adams, I have your clothes. Would you like to give me that interview now?’ I can’t find any evidence for it, but it’s a great story.

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Sources & References:

1 “John Quincy Adams.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 3 May 2019, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Quincy_Adams.
bijijoo. “The Presidential Ham – John Quincy Adams”, http://presidentialham.com/u-s-presidents/john-quincy-adams-with-ham/
3Lillian Cunningham.”Presidential Podcast” Washington Post, 5 Jan. 2016, https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/business/podcasts/presidential/

Original Life Mask Image Source: John Quincy Adams (1767-1848), 1940, J.H. Browere & Roman Bronze Works, bronze, H: 29 x W: 23 x D: 11.5 in., Fenimore Art Museum, Cooperstown, New York, Gift of Stephen C. Clark. N0202.1961. Photograph by Richard Walker

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One thought on “WHAT IF John Quincy Adams……?

  1. Good morning Cheryl. I very much enjoyed your answer to “What if?”. And the discription of my personality is spot on. Although I am not the “flycatcher” of society, you might remember my playful side of playing the flute, a good game of cards, and dancing abilities.

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