In this response from the March 2013 issue, Dr. Know attempts to unknot the rumored origins of a political cliché.
During the last presidential election, I was told that the political cliché “measuring for drapes” is credited to a Cincinnati first lady—Nellie Taft—who was so eager to move into the White House that she actually did measure the windows for new curtains before her husband’s inauguration. Fact or folktale?—Loves a Good Scandal Dear Loves:You seem to have the wrong Taft. The earliest written reference to measuring the White House curtains is not to Nellie Taft, but to her daughter-in-law Martha Wheaton Bowers, the Minnesota-born wife of Senator Robert A. (Mr. Republican) and grandmother of former Ohio governor Robert A. (Call me Bob) Taft II. Mrs. Taft, like the Doctor’s own paternal aunts who inexplicably adored Mr. Republican, was certain that her husband was going to the White House, and said so. She did not, however, say at any time that she was actually going in with a tape measure. That hurtful curtain remark may have been planted by unkind observers in the rival Wendell Willkie camp. But the hoary old line has the feel of a much older historic joke, one that could just as easily have been made about lifelong bachelor president James Buchanan. We just can’t be sure.
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