Life-size presidents

There is one small, unresolved problem which patriotic Americans ought to look into. The Smithsonian Institution lacks life-size portraits of four presidents of the United States.

This same danger has not threatened statues in parks. Not only were life-size statues the going thing in past generations, the artist usually added a horse. Statues of people on horses naturally declined when the automobile came in, and since then it has seemed too gauche to portray the president sitting in the back seat of a gas guzzler.

Big portraits are lacking for the last three Presidents - Ford, Carter, and Reagan. The other one is no less than Thomas Jefferson.

In the face of no full-size portrait of President Jefferson it can be speculated he did not want to spend the money. Spending money was not popular in those days.

But also, he may have deemed it unnecessary, since his portrait would eventually appear on so many nickels, after all the buffaloes were gone.

It is much harder to determine why the last three American Presidents did not have life-size portraits.

As for President Ford, he may not have been in office long enough. It is possible the picture got started but that the artist only got down as far as the second button on his vest, just below the ''WIN'' button.

When Jerry Ford did not return to Washington after the election, it may have seemed inappropriate to finish the portrait out in California while Jerry was wearing a golf shirt.

As for President Carter, some think a mistake was made. He actually had a full-size portrait painted, but no one realized it. It may have been hung next to President Lincoln, for instance, but didn't seem full length. Another theory is that when he had a full-length portrait painted he was wearing a brown sweater and the Smithsonian didn't want it.

It is the case of President Reagan that is somewhat puzzling. When he was in the movies there were life-size posters all over the front of the theater - playing football, fighting Indians, wooing starlets. It may be that he is trying to have one of these earlier reproductions converted into an official Smithsonian picture.

Or maybe he is working on one bigger than life-size.

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