Plodding Through The Presidents

Plodding Through The Presidents

Join history blogger Howard Dorre and his wife Jessica Dorre for a deep irreverent dive into lesser-known stories of the early American presidents. They dig into the myths, mysteries, scandals, and drama of the founders and their families.


January 28, 2020 1 min
Introducing Season 1 of Plodding Through The Presidents with presidential history blogger Howard Dorre and his wife Jessica Dorre. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit
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We dig into the separate smallpox inoculations of John and Abigail Adams and the heartfelt and hilarious love letters this supercouple exchanged during their quarantines, along with some background on Lady Mary Montagu's bold introduction of the smallpox inoculation from Turkey to England. Sources: Founders Online - letters between John & Abigail Adams Time Magazine: How One Daring Woman Introduced the Idea of Smallpox Inoculation ...
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February 11, 2020 51 mins
We explore Thomas Jefferson's dangerous liaison in Paris with the talented artist Maria Cosway and her monkey-like husband Richard Cosway - a love story that resulted in two broken hearts, one permanently damaged wrist, and one epic 4000-word love letter written as a dialogue between Jefferson's head and heart. Sources:Founders Online - Jefferson's Head and the Heart letter to Maria CoswayMr. Jefferson's Women by Jon KuklaThomas J...
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February 18, 2020 43 mins
  We dig into the rise and fall of James Thomson Callender, the pamphleteer who exposed the greatest sex scandals in early American history. His story is told through his attacks on Alexander Hamilton, John Adams, and Thomas Jefferson. Sources:With the Hammer of Truth: James Thomson Callender and America's Early National Heroes by Michael DureyEliza Hamilton: The Extraordinary Life and Times of the Wife of Alexander Hamilton by T...
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February 25, 2020 40 mins
George Washington and James Madison never had any biological children, but they each had a problem child stepson. We explore the lives of the "voluptuous" Jacky Custis and the debauchery enthusiast John Payne Todd and how they affected their famous stepfathers and mothers. Sources: My original (and unfairly harsh) article about Jacky Custis: George Washington's Disappointing Stepson Letters between Jonathan Boucher and George Wa...
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March 3, 2020 40 mins
We dive into the truth behind four popular stories about John Quincy Adams, including the inspirational "if your actions inspire others" quote, the pet alligator in the White House, the skinny dipping interview with reporter Anne Royall, and the expedition to the center of the earth to visit the mole people. Show notes and sources at Join our Patreon family at for e...
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March 10, 2020 54 mins
In our Season 1 finale, we trace Andrew Jackson's feelings about women's honor from his early days as a rowdy outhouse-mover to his tragic relationship with his wife Rachel and finally to the Petticoat Affair – the scandal surrounding Margaret Eaton that nearly took down his entire administration. We'll be back with more brand new episodes soon! Follow us on Facebook for updates. Sources: The Petticoat Affair: Manners, Mutiny, a...
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October 20, 2020 56 mins
In our Season 2 premiere, we dig into three stories where presidential history meets the paranormal – an apparition of John Adams spotted while he was very much alive, the bloody medieval ritual of "bier right" attempted in a murder trial where John Adams was the defense attorney, and the nursery bogey of Rawhead and Bloody Bones that frightened founders like Thomas Jefferson as children. Show notes and sources at Joi...
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October 27, 2020 56 mins
In our paranormal conclusion we dive into the wild story of Andrew Jackson and the Bell Witch, who terrorized the Bell family of Tennessee from 1817-1821. Then we explore John Quincy Adams's electrifying adventures in the hereafter via a bizarre spiritual autobiography written by the medium Joseph Stiles in 1859. Show notes and sources at Join our Patreon family at ...
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Lin-Manuel Miranda’s musical Hamilton barely touched on the relationship between Alexander Hamilton and John Adams, and we dive into the many reasons these men HATED each other. It all started with their differences during the Revolutionary War and the hate only grew during their power struggles in the Quasi-War and the viciously contentious Election of 1800. Not even Hamilton's untimely death could stop their feud, as Adams contin...
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November 10, 2020 44 mins
We explore the mysterious deaths of Thomas Jefferson’s sister Elizabeth and her enslaved body servant Little Sall, who both drowned just days after the first recorded earthquake in Virginia’s history. We also dig into how Elizabeth’s apparent intellectual disabilities were handled by biographies over the years. Show notes and sources (like Susan Kern’s The Jeffersons at Shadwell) detailed at Join our Patreon family at...
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November 17, 2020 52 mins
We explore the unbelievable "coincidence" of John Adams and Thomas Jefferson both dying on the Fourth of July on the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, the uncomfortable fact that James Monroe also died on the Fourth of July five years later, and the circumstances surrounding James Madison's deliberate choice to break with this weird tradition. Show notes and sources at Join our Patre...
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November 24, 2020 47 mins
We go on a hunt for the often-mentioned but little-documented wicked sense of humor of James Madison. That hunt includes his abusive college poetry, his weird experimentation with animals and humans, and his special relationship with Thomas Jefferson. Show notes and sources at Join our Patreon family for exclusive bonus material at Learn more about your ad choices....
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We delve into the big penman energy of founding father Gouverneur Morris, the peg-legged sex-positive anti-slavery aristocrat who penned multiple constitutions and sailed through life with care-free confidence. We also explore the story of his wife, Ann Cary "Nancy" Randolph Morris and the sensational scandal at Bizarre that she struggled to overcome. Show notes and sources at Join our Patreon family at
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December 8, 2020 66 mins
In our Season 2 finale, we take on the single deadliest disaster to befall a presidential cabinet – the explosion aboard the USS Princeton in 1844. We look at four of the key players aboard and how they got there - President John Tyler, Secretary of State Abel Upshur, Captain Robert Stockton, and Julia Gardiner, "The Rose of Long Island" – and how this tragedy shook up Tyler's plans for love and Texas. Show notes and sources at pl...
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February 11, 2021 49 mins
In this Valentine's Day/Presidents Day bonus episode, we discuss a few sweet and weird love letters from early presidents like John Quincy Adams and Andrew Jackson before diving into the raunchy trove of letters borne of Warren G. Harding's semi-treasonous affair with Carrie Fulton Phillips. Listener discretion advised. Show notes and sources at Join our Patreon family at
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August 19, 2021 1 min
Season 3 premieres Tuesday, August 31! Enter our book giveaway to win books by our first two guests, The Cabinet by Lindsay Chervinsky and Photographic Presidents by Cara Finnegan at And check out our brand new MERCH STORE at Learn more about your ad choices. V...
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August 31, 2021 61 mins
This episode is all about Thomas Jefferson's lust for wool and how it caused him to ignore the violence of a particular four-horned Shetland ram until it was too late. Come for the killer ram, stay for the sheep breeding and a quiz that could save you from getting rammed. Show notes and sources at Consider joining our Patreon family at Check out our brand new merch...
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September 7, 2021 65 mins
We continue the theme of naughty animals and dive into the stories of two parrots named Polly – Dolley Madison’s violently jealous macaw and Andrew Jackson’s purportedly potty-mouthed parrot. We dig into the plausibility of the popular story that Jackson’s parrot had to be removed from his funeral for swearing, and along the way we explore the burning of the White House and the history of profane parrots in the United States. ...
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Our very first guest, Dr. Lindsay Chervinsky, joins Howard for a conversation about her book The Cabinet: George Washington and the Creation of an American Institution and about the personalities and relationships of Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Madison, and Hamilton. And of course we talk a bit about our mutual love for John Quincy Adams. Jess and Howard kick off the episode with a look at the most famous story of George Washing...
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