The President Andrew Johnson Museum and Library is housed in the second oldest building on the Tusculum College campus- “Old College“. The building was built in 1841 for a total of $4,245.62. Andrew Johnson gave a $20.00 donation for the construction of the building, one of the largest local donations according to the minutes of the Board of Trustees.
Johnson often found himself on the campus where he met with students and developed his debating skills. Andrew Johnson also served as a trustee of Tusculum College from 1844 to 1875.
President Johnson’s great-granddaughter, Margaret Johnson Patterson Bartlett, graduated from Tusculum College in 1924. She donated the initial artifacts for the museum and her estate has since acquired additional artifacts for the museum.
Andrew Johnson was born December 29, 1808, in Raleigh, North Carolina, the son of a hotel porter and a housekeeper. His father died when he was three, and he never received a day of formal education. Apprenticed to a tailor as a child, he ran away as a teenager. After several years, he settled in Greeneville, Tennessee and met Eliza McCardle, daughter of a shoemaker, whom he married in 1827. Between the years, 1828 and 1852, the couple had five children.
Working as a tailor in Greeneville, Johnson was first elected a Greeneville Alderman in 1829 and Mayor in 1834. He quickly progressed up the political ladder to State Legislator and Senator. In Washington, he served for ten years in the House of Representatives. During his two terms as elected Governor of Tennessee, he strongly supported public education and libraries. He was elected to the United States Senate in 1857 where he championed the Homestead Act, which gave 160 acres of free land to any family who lived on it for three years. A staunch supporter of the United States Constitution, he remained loyal to the Union during the Civil War and was appointed Military Governor of Tennessee by Abraham Lincoln in 1862.
Johnson was chosen by President Lincoln as his running mate in 1864. Johnson became Vice-President and then President upon Lincoln’s assassination on April 15, 1865. He tried to implement Lincoln’s plan for reconstruction of the southern states, but was unsuccessful. Impeached by a hostile House of Representatives, he was cleared of charges in a close vote by the Senate. Upon completion of his term as President in 1869, he returned to Greeneville. In 1874, Tennessee once again elected him to the United States Senate. He died in office on July 31, 1875 at his daughter Mary’s home.
The Andrew Johnson Collection contains approximately 100 three-dimensional artifacts, ranging from the former President’s top hat and political memorabilia to a copy of Lincoln’s life-mask, a gift to Pres. Johnson. In addition, the collection contains Johnson’s personal library of over 800 volumes and over 500 volumes of books belonging to his children and grandchildren. It also contains over five linear feet of paper items relating to the President and his family.
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