Artifact Collection

Rock Jerry

This Bicentennial caricature of Gerald Ford was presented to future Vice President and Ford’s Chief of Staff, Dick Cheney, while he was on a trip to Philadelphia in September 1976. The sculpture, created by artist Michael Manning, weighs approximately 70 pounds and is made of Pennsylvania river stone. The caricature depicts Ford in a striped business suit, striped shirt, and a red and blue-striped tie. An American Flag lapel pin adorns his jacket pocket. Ford’s caricature also holds a small stone elephant in one hand and a lighted pipe in the other, a common feature associated with Ford.

Though “Rock Jerry” is a carefree likeness of Gerald Ford, throughout his Presidency Ford was plagued with unflattering caricatures. He often was labeled as an “irredeemable klutz,” which turned into a recurring Saturday Night Live skit for comedian Chevy Chase. The skits included the President falling or tripping, stumbling over his words, and dropping or running into objects. Being likened to Bozo the Clown was “probably the roughest caricature” Ford had to face. The jokes by late-night comedians were harmful, yet, Ford was able to rise above insults. He “was secure enough in himself to laugh at the caricatures.” Politicians and colleagues in Washington, along with those who knew Gerald Ford personally, knew of his value as a strong leader of the nation, regardless of his portrayal by the media.

The “Rock Jerry” sculpture has proved popular at the Gerald R. Ford Museum and has been featured in other exhibits as well. It traveled with the “To the President: Folk Portraits by the People” exhibit, which features 56 pieces of art created by citizens. Caricatures of Bill Clinton, John F. Kennedy, and Richard Nixon were also featured in the exhibit.

“Rock Jerry” serves as a reminder of the caricatures created throughout Gerald R. Ford’s presidency. Its likeness portrays Ford as a happy figure, comfortable with himself, the way so many remember him.

Rothstein, Edward. “The Power of Political Pratfalls.” The New York Times, 12 October 2008.
“What to Say About Jerry.” Time, 2 December 1974.
Ford, Gerald. A Time to Heal. Harper and Row Publishers, 1979, p. 289.
“Gerald Ford: Legacy he left one of healing.” Courier Press, 26 December 2006.
Burchard, Hank. “All the President’s Miens.” Washington Post, 12 December 1993. (From Accession File)

Written by Museum Intern Sarah Cassidy

Pulley Plaque

Pulley Plaque

Nail to the mast her holy flag,
Set every threadbare sail,
And give her to the god of storms,
The lightning and the gale!
Oliver Wendell Holmes
From Old Ironsides

On October 13, 1975 president Gerald R. Ford was presented with a plaque made from pieces of the naval warship the USS Constitution in celebration of the Bicentennial of the United States Navy. The plaque consists of a block of wood, an oval pulley, and a few copper pieces that were taken directly from the ship during her restoration in1974. The copper pieces are found on either side of the block of wood and are protected by Plexiglas while the pulley rests atop the block. This plaque represents an important part of naval history and honors the most revered ship in the United States Navy and the oldest commissioned warship in the world.

The USS Constitution was one of six ships that founded the United States naval fleet. She is nearly as old as the historic document whose name she bears, each proving itself to be a resilient symbol of America’s strength, courage and liberty. The construction of the ships was authorized by President George Washington, who signed an act to provide naval armament to protect the large American merchant fleet from increasing attacks by the North African “Barbary Pirate” states of Morocco, Algiers, Tunis and Tripoli as well as protect the merchant fleet from aggressive attacks by the British. All six of the frigates were designed by Mr. Joshua Humphreys, a Philadelphia Quaker and a naval architect. The USS Constitution was built in Edmund Hartt’s Shipyard in Boston, Massachusetts and was designed to out sail larger opponents and defend and outfight any other ship of the same size. She was made from 2,000 trees, and her canons were cast in Rhode Island. The famous crier Paul Revere provided her copper sheathing . On October 21, 1797, the Constitution was successfully launched, two earlier attempts having failed after her hull fouled on the launch rails. By July 1798, she was at sea under the command of Captain Samuel Nicholson.

The Constitution took part in several battles and had two peace treaties drafted and signed aboard her, both of which were between the United States and the Barbary states of Tripoli and Tunis. Yet the ship’s most memorable event occurred during the War of 1812, while battling the HMS Guerriere. On August 19, of that year, after an hour of maneuvering and trading cannon shots, the two ships moved in close enough to start a short range firing battle. During this battle, someone on the USS Constitution reportedly saw a British shot bounce off Constitution’s side and shouted “Huzza! Her sides are made of iron!” , and thus she earned her affectionate name “Old Ironsides.” The USS Constitution, to this day, is still listed on the role of active ships of the U.S. naval fleet and will always be seen as a national symbol.

Maffeo, Steven Capt. “USS Constitution timeline”. United States Navy.

Written by Museum Intern Jessica Eason

Bicentennial Jewel

Bicentennial Jewel

The Bicentennial Jewel is made of white gold, diamonds, rubies and sapphires and is in the shape of the official 1976 Bicentennial symbol. The neck support contains thirteen stars representing the thirteen original colonies. The pendant may be removed and worn as a pin.

In 1976 the country celebrated the two hundred year anniversary of the American Revolution. The American Bicentennial celebration lasted the entire year. It included parades, patriotic ceremonies and patriotic gifts to the President and the nation. President Gerald R. Ford decided to accept on behalf of the nation all Bicentennial gifts which were sent to the White House. Gifts ranged from Bicentennial squeaker toys to model fire hydrants painted as colonial soldiers, and even jewelry. One of the most impressive Bicentennial gifts was the Bicentennial Jewel made by Pierre J. Touraine.

Pierre Touraine was a world renowned jeweler before he made the Bicentennial Jewel in 1976. Born in Marseille, France, Touraine began working with gems early and created many pieces for European Royalty and aristocracy. He was selected to be one of the jewelers for the coronation of George VI of England. Some of his work was also displayed at the World’s Fair in New York in 1964. Other famous works that Touriane assisted with include The Black Star of Queensland; the worlds largest cut black sapphire, which weighs 733 carats. He also assisted with the four famous Presidents in sapphire, which includes Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln and Eisenhower.

In 1938 Touraine immigrated to the United States, where he lived in New York City. In 1942 he was chosen to do the intricate gold sculpturing for an exhibition of Salvador Dali’s jewel collection. During World War II, Touraine moved to California and helped with the war effort by cutting tiny jewel bearings for instruments, as the German U-boats had made the importation of such jewels from Switzerland impossible. In 1960 Touraine moved to Scottsdale, Arizona for his wife’s health.

Although he Bicentennial Jewel was made in 1976, scheduling conflicts postponed the presentation to President Ford until January 10, 1977. Mr. and Mrs. Touraine, along with Congressman John Rhodes, spent more than two months attempting to get an appointment with President Ford. Rhodes had requested that the jewel be displayed in The White House; however this was not possible due to the President’s insistence that no Bicentennial gifts, regardless of value, be displayed at The White House. Since each gift was considered a gift to the nation, none were to be singled out as better than the others. The Jewel was displayed privately in the Oval Office for thirty days before being transferred to the National Archives until suitable display could be arranged in Michigan, where the Ford Museum would be established in 1981. The necklace has never been worn.

The Bicentennial Jewel remains a beautiful and valuable gift to the nation.

Written by Museum Interns Stacey Dearing and Lindsay Borton, 2009.

Wolf-Skin Fur Coat

imagePresident Ford received a wolf-skin fur coat from his friend, Jack Kim, an Alaskan furrier, when Air Force One stopped in Anchorage to refuel. It was mid November 1974, and President Ford was headed to Japan to meet Emperor Hirohito and then to the Siberian town of Vladivostok to meet General Secretary Leonid Brezhnev. The coat, made of mottled grey, brown, black, and white fur and lined with black quilted polyester, would keep The President warm in snowy eastern Russia.

President Gerald R. Ford met with Leonid Brezhnev and Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko in Vladivostok on November 23, to discuss a nuclear weapons agreement. The first agreement between the two countries, SALT I, was made in the spring of 1972 and froze the number of land and sea missiles on each side. With this temporary agreement (scheduled to end in October of 1977), the Soviets could deploy 2,360 missiles, while the U.S. could deploy 1,710. President Nixon unsuccessfully attempted to make a permanent agreement between the two countries in 1974.

President Ford, Secretary Brezhnev and their teams of advisors worked to reach agreements to limit the arms race between the nations. The day-long visit ended with both leaders signing a communiqué pledging pursuit of a new strategic arms limitations agreement. While taking a break from the meeting, Secretary Brezhnev gave President Ford a portrait of the US President carved in wood. “It was a marvelous work,” Ford recalled, “but it did not look like me.” This carving is preserved in the museum’s collection.

As President Ford was ready to leave Vladivostok, Secretary Brezhnev walked The President up the ramp to the airplane. During the trip, President Ford had noticed Secretary Brezhnev “eyeing enviously” his fur coat. Just before boarding Air Force One, President Ford took the coat off, and gave it to Secretary Brezhnev. “He put it on and seemed truly overwhelmed.” President Ford wondered what he would tell “my old friend Jack Kim about his Alaskan wolf coat?” The jacket in the museum’s collection is a replacement jacket given to President Ford by Kim.

Despite President Ford’s good intentions when he presented the fur coat to Secretary Brezhnev, angry letters soon filled The White House mailing room. Conservation was an issue, as wolves in the lower forty-eight states were listed as an endangered species. However, the Alaskan timber wolf, some 50,000 strong, was not endangered.

Ford, Gerald R, A Time To Heal: The Autobiography of Gerald R. Ford. Harper & Row, New York. 1979, 213 and 219
“Species Reasoning.” Time 09 Dec, 1974. Time.

Written by Museum Interns Stacey Dearing and Lindsay Borton, 2009.

Polish Cossack Doll

Coassack Doll

The Polish Cossack doll, which stands approximately 22 inches high, was a gift of his Excellency Edward Gierek, first secretary of the Polish United Workers Party in Warsaw, Poland. Given to President Ford while visiting Poland in 1975, the doll depicts a Cossack in full decorative dress on horseback.

The Cossacks were a group of people who fled to the Dnieper River region in the fifteenth century in order to escape serfdom in Poland and the Ukraine. They called themselves Cossacks, which means “free people,” and lived a simple life on communes in the steppes. Because they were seeking to break away from serfdom, the Cossacks were often required to fight to maintain their independence. Consequently, they became skilled fighters and horsemen for their military group known as the Zaporozhskaya Sech, which did not disband until 1775. They passed this military training on to their male children, who were reportedly capable of riding horses by the age of three. It has also been recorded that a weapon was placed in the hand of male infants after birth, to signify their future role as warriors.

Historians identify three military periods in Cossack history. The first lasted from 1550-1648, and consisted of wars against the Tartars and the Turks who wanted to bring the Cossacks back under their control. In the second phase, which lasted from 1648-1775, the Cossacks fought against the cultural and economic domination of the Ukrainians and the Poles, specifically the Polish aristocracy. Because of their efforts against the upper class, the Cossacks gained a reputation as the heroes of the lower classes in Poland. The final military period lasted from 1775-1917, and involved struggles to create and maintain an autonomous Ukrainian state. For this reason the Cossacks are still considered to be heroes in the Ukraine. Communities of Cossacks still exist in Poland and the Ukraine, and their reputation of equestrian skills continues.

The Cossack doll was given to President Ford in 1975 after a period of renewed and improving relations between the United States and Poland. President Nixon had met with Secretary Gierek in 1972 and 1974. It was at these meetings that the first serious talks on cooperation in scientific research between the two nations occurred. The talks focused primarily on industrial trade, specifically relating to coal production, and six U.S.-funded projects relating to coal were arranged for the U.S. Department of the Interior. Before this period, the main trade between the U.S. and Poland was agricultural. After these visits there was a shift in trade toward industry, the purchase of heavy lathes used by the National Forge Company in Erie, Ohio serves as a prime example. Secretary Gierek’s visit and meeting with President Ford in 1976 ushered in a new era of cooperation and trade between the US and Poland, despite the continuance of the Cold War.

Chadzynski, Henryk. “A New Stage in Economic Cooperation,” Almanach Polonii 1976. 1976.

Written by Museum Interns Stacey Dearing and Lindsay Borton, 2009.

Roman Vessel

Roman VesselThe Roman Vase is made of hand-blown glass, and painted brown. The base is convex, with an elongated circular neck and concave top. From the vase’s shape, the piece appears to have been used as a perfume or oil decanter in ancient times. The vase was found in the Levant (eastern Mediterranean), and dates back to the 1st-2nd century A.D.

Israel’s Minister of Defense, Shimon Peres, presented this gift in December 1975. United States Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld received the gift on behalf of President Ford.

The United States continued to promote the peace process between Israel and Egypt during Ford’s Presidency. There had been a long struggle between Israel and the surrounding Arabic countries since the modern Jewish nation was founded in 1948. The United States was the first country to recognize Israel and served as an ally of this fellow democracy. Because of the United States support of Israel, the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) imposed an embargo on America in 1973. As a consequence, the price of oil increased 400%.1

Because of the support the United States had long provided Israel, President Ford believed that Israel should be more willing to negotiate with Egypt, an adversary in recent wars. To aid in the effort of peace, President Ford sent Secretary of State Henry Kissinger to the region. His many flights to numerous countries in the region earned his negotiations the sobriquet “shuttle diplomacy.”

President Ford was stung by accusations of anti-Semitism because he was willing to reassess the nation’s policies toward Israel.2 In reply, President Ford told Jewish groups, “It is because of my affection and admiration for the Jewish people and the state of Israel that I’m so concerned about the lack of progress toward peace in that part of the world. We must have progress soon if we are to avoid another war, the fifth in thirty years.”3

In 1975, after exhaustive work by Kissinger, Israel and Egypt signed an agreement on troop disengagement in the Sinai Peninsula. The Roman Vase is one of many head of state gifts exchanged during this time of peace negotiations between the United States, Israel and Egypt.

1Mieczkowski, Yanek. Gerald Ford and the Challenges of the 1970s, The University Press of Kentucky: 2005, p.203.
2Ford, Gerald R. A Time to Heal: The Autobiography of Gerald R. Ford, Harper & Row: The Readers Digest Association Inc, 1979, Page 286.
3Ibid 286.

Written by Museum Interns Stacey Dearing and Lindsay Borton, 2009.

Scale model of 1975 Apollo Soyuz

Apollo ModelThis scale model of Apollo-Soyuz was presented to President Gerald R. Ford by cosmonauts Aleskei Leonov, Valeri Kubasov and other members of the Joint Apollo-Soyuz Mission Crew in the Oval Office on September 7, 1974. The 1/50 scale model measures 6.5” H x 17” W x 9” D. One of President Ford’s staff affixed the Soviet pins commemorating Apollo-Soyuz to the base of the model.

In July of 1975 capsules from the world’s two largest competitors in the decades long space race met in what became known as the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project (ASTP). The historic docking of the two spacecraft brought a symbolic end to the 20-year space race. President Ford radioed to space, “It has taken us many years to open this door to useful cooperation in space between our two countries and I am confident that the day is not far off when space missions made possible by this first joint effort will be more or less commonplace.”

President Ford played an active role in America’s space program. During his third congressional term he was appointed to the Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense Spending, which provided the funding for much of the early rocket programs. President Ford also sat on the “Select Committee on Astronautics and Space Exploration,” chaired by Senator Lyndon Johnson, which recommended the change from the National Advisory Committee on Aeronautics (NACA) to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). In 1958 Congressman Ford helped draft the Space Act that gave NASA its charter.

President Ford’s 895 days in the White House saw the end of the Apollo Program and the beginning of the shuttle program. The Apollo-Soyuz mission fit President Ford’s presidency well – a presidency geared towards healing and reconciliation – as a milestone in U.S.-Soviet relations. On October 13, 1975, President Ford referred to the mission as a “great demonstration” in cooperation between the two countries and as a “forerunner of what we can do on an expanded basis, not only in space and science but in many other areas.”

The Apollo and Soyuz spacecraft both launched on July 15, 1975. They docked in outer space at 12:10 p.m. EDT on July 17. Although joint scientific and logistics experiments were conducted by the crews, the docking served more symbolic purposes. The crews of both spacecraft spent much of their time talking to President Ford and General Secretary Brezhnev via direct lines, exchanging gifts, and taking part in live press conferences. Cosmonauts Aleskei Leonov and Valeri Kubasov manned Soyuz 19, while astronauts Thomas Stafford, Vance Brand, and Donald Slayton flew Apollo.

The artifact collections at the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum also includes a Presidential flag carried aboard the mission, several presentation plaques, and the telephone President Ford used to talk with the orbiting crew in 1975.

Written by James W. Draper, Museum Registrar

Commemorative Medallion

Commemorative Medallion

This commemorative medallion was a gift to President Gerald R. Ford from Councilman Merle D. Gilliland and T. Mel Anderson, President of St. Mary’s College of California. The oval-shaped, bronze disc is adorned with a crest in relief on the front and “Moraga Family Crest Presented to President Gerald R. Ford May 25, 1976 by Town of Moraga & St. Mary’s College, Moraga, California” inscribed on back. It measures 3.5” W x 4.5” L.

Spurred by the bombing of Pearl Harbor, President Ford joined the U.S. Naval Reserves in early 1942. His academic credentials and coaching history allowed him to ascend the ranks quickly and spend time as a trainer. For one year, starting in May of 1942, President Ford taught elementary seamanship, ordnance, gunnery, first aid, and military drill at Navy Preflight School in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. He also coached all nine sports offered by the school. President Ford then went on to serve on the light carrier U.S.S. Monterey (CVL-26) in the south Pacific during some of the most intense engagements of World War II.

The medallion reflects a little known chapter in President Ford’s life. He left the U.S.S. Monterey just before Christmas in 1944 and was reassigned to the Navy Pre-Flight School, St. Mary’s College, California. Lieutenant Ford served in the football division, where he taught cadets “aggressiveness, coordination, and alertness,” to help these future pilots become “tougher physically than all enemies.” Cadets participated in other instructional sports, coupled with academics, military drill, and gunnery lessons. From there, in April of 1945, the U.S. Navy assigned Lt. Ford to Naval Reserve Training Command in Glenview, Illinois, where he taught and coached until the end of his service in January of 1946.

President Ford became an honorary alumnus of Saint Mary’s College in 1993. Mel Anderson, then President of Saint Mary’s, and Regent Gerry Fizpatrick traveled to Rancho Mirage, where they personally conferred the honorary title on former President Ford. President Ford responded by saying that he had “wonderful memories of [his] service at Saint Mary’s.”

The Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum also preserves President Ford’s U.S. Navy uniforms, medals earned during World War II, and objects associated with the U.S.S. Monterey.

Written by James W. Draper, Museum Registrar