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A Treasury of Great American Scandals: Tantalizing True Tales of Historic Misbehavior by the Founding Fathers and Others Who Let Freedom Swing

3.67  ·  Rating details ·  860 Ratings  ·  99 Reviews
Following on the heels of his national bestseller A Treasury of Royal Scandals, Michael Farquhar turns his attention to matters a little closer to home with A Treasury of Great American Scandals. From the unhappy family relationships of prominent Americans to the feuds, smear campaigns, duels, and infamous sex scandals that have punctuated our history, we see our founding ...more
Paperback, 320 pages
Published July 1st 2003 by Penguin Books (first published January 1st 2003)
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Jun 15, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction

Well, it's American history, so obviously there's a level of dryness you can't get around, but the author writes in a very witty, sometimes sarcastic manner that amuses me. Educational little bits of stuff you won't find in history books. I definitely learned stuff I didn't know about and I think it was worth the read almost just for the more in-depth story on the Salem witch trials (oh my god I didn't know a bunch of jerk-ass kids were the cause of it, augh, what a messed up town.) I only recom
Jun 08, 2015 rated it liked it
I assumed that this was a bathroom reader but there was much more substance and less fluff. A nice little history refresher. There are some names that sound familiar and I should know why, but I don't. For example, Joe McCarthy was a bit before my time and I knew he was involved in the Communist witch hunt, but I didn't realize the whole story. Of course some things you need enough time to pass to have the whole story, so Billy Carter (his scandal about being paid by the Libyians) is where this ...more
Andrew Jackson was a crazy son-of-a-bitch.
Amanda pepos
Apr 28, 2008 rated it liked it
i read these books because i love history, but i didnt find this one as interesting as the royalty scandals, but nonetheless it was an interesting read.
Jan 31, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
There are many good reasons to study history. There is the desire not to be doomed to repeat it, for one, which I find to be an excellent motivator. I remember watching the run-up to the invasion of Iraq and hearing the spectral voice of William Randolph Hearst screaming "Remember the Maine!" in my head. And of all the reasons to study history, that is perhaps the most important, though not necessarily the most fun.

You might also study history to just enjoy the stories. I used to hate history, e
Aug 07, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book. I'm a history buff and even I didn't know all these tales. It shows us that the US became great despite ourselves It should remind us everyone is human and makes mistakes(even our heros). We should keep in mind that the one over arching petard upon which almost everyone gets hoisted, is hubris, doing things for their own benefits thinking they are above the law or the moral codes of the time. There are exceptions of course. Some get caught in events beyond their abilities and ...more
Oct 11, 2016 rated it really liked it
I have enjoyed all of the books that I have read by Michael Farquhar. He always entertains as he informs. I thought this book great right from the beginning section on dysfunctional families. In fact, I found myself wanting to know more about them, especially Mary Todd Lincoln. I will be sure to find a biography or two about her to read next. The chapter on feuds was fascinating as well. I enjoyed the chapters on Presidents and the Hall of Shame. I learned things as I both snickered and shook my ...more
Sep 06, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
I enjoyed this book, a dollar find at a YMCA book sale. While some of the scandals were familiar, others were shocking. I loved seeing the legends debunked. Benjamin Franklin, so famous for his lightning experiment, actually let his son run around in the field during the storm, while he watched from the shelter of a barn. Reading about all the hijinks and misbehavior of our country's leaders did renforce to me that we have invented nothing. Like it says on the back cover of the book, we just hav ...more
Feb 27, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Very interesting. Nice perspective on the personalities of those in positions of leadership. I enjoyed the exposure to many people and eras. This book piqued my interest in many things and I look forward to finding out more about many of the people covered in this book.
Nov 15, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone who is interested in history, or just interested in learning something new
I really liked this book. It gives people a view of things from history that they may not have known about. What I read certainly wasn't what we were taught in HISTORY class. It's very interesting to get that glimpse of history that some people might not have wanted people to know about.

In the US we tend to glorify the Founding Fathers. But I'm sure people didn't realize just how awful some of these men were.

Did you know that Benjamin Franklin treated his son like garbage? Did you know that he
May 23, 2011 rated it liked it
A solid punch to the face of Hagiography. Very interesting, a sober examination of those we tend to revere blindly. I was most surprised by the amount of dueling and the chapter on exhuming the dead; that was a bit shocking. They still don't know where Thomas Paine's body is after it was stolen and hauled off to Britain. Paine was stored under some nut's bed and inherited by the nut's son and then disappeared from record, which I think is a fitting legacy for Paine.

Short chapters. Fun, if you l
Brant Rackley
Sep 16, 2008 rated it really liked it
My wife introduced me to this book. She used it for her 5th grade history class. I liked this book. I can't remember when I was in school ever getting to read more about the scandalous side of history, politics, and government, than I did about what I like to call "boring facts" about American History. There are so many books introduced and new methods of teaching than I was aware of growing up that I feel would have benefited me in my educational interest. If I was to have read this book when I ...more
May 14, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Tracy Baptista
Shelves: politics, history, humor
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
D Books
Oct 22, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
With the exception of about 3 stories, this book will definitely keep your interest. It has some tantalizingly scandalous stories. It’s as if TMZ, WikiLeaks, and Dennis Miller decided to join forces and journeyed into the past just to gather dirt on past Presidents, Congressional leaders, Generals, and their families. :) There are many juicy stories in this book; some of which are very short (1 page long). My 2 fav stories of the book were: “The Case of the Cuckolded Congressman” and “LBJ vs. RF ...more
David Szatkowski
Feb 16, 2015 rated it liked it
Michael Farquhar is an author I first heard about on NPR. This is the second of his books I have read. They all follow a similar format. The author will take a topic (here American scandals) and write in a series of short essays (from 1 to 15 pages) on each one. The result is an easy, humorous read about history. And you get to learn a bit along the way. Since each essay is a stand alone, it is like reading short stories. Great for reading as a break from another book, while standing in line som ...more
April Helms
Apr 27, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: young adults (11+) and adults
Shelves: nonfiction, history
History buffs will love this one. It tells short stories about our leaders and their all-too-human foibles. A couple stories are actually kind of sweet (Andrew Johnson and the mice), a couple others are actually kind of sad (Ben Franklin's relationship with his son; to call it "strained" would be an understatement). But most will leave you chuckling and shaking your head in disbelief. Ultimately, though, it's almost heartening -- when we think things couldn't get worse in the present day, there' ...more
Nov 02, 2007 rated it liked it
this is a great book to read at a time when you have nothing to do,...cold night whenyou whant some light entertainment.. there is nothing shocking in here

unless you view the starange .event that inclued lincon
coffin being trasported round for forty years to stop others stealing it,???.. a senator wife going mad so he keeps her in the celler to aviod shame..

the other who called his daughter..IMA.. and burr who shot a fellow senator, after (the said senator found out burr,.. had an affair with "
Nov 01, 2007 rated it liked it
Farquhar goodness. I liked his Royal Scandals book better, but that's only because I generally prefer European history to U.S. history. Family drama (who knew that Ben Franklin was a horrible father?), character flaws (Nixon was an anti-Semite on top of everything else?), and catty sexual scandals (like the Peggy Eaton affair) abound. I love Farquhar's style -- imagine a gossip magazine written by a scholar who doesn't dumb things down. Can't wait to read his book on liars and hoodwinkers!
Michelle Hoogterp
Dec 02, 2012 rated it it was ok
It was ok. While there were interesting details about America's past that I'd not known, I was a bit disappointed overall. The scope of this book was too big and wasn't quite met, plus, some important details that would've given more context to the scandals were glossed over or completely ignored.

I listed to this on audio and it was a good reading. The voice actor changed inflections, even his dialect subtly, to invoke voices such as Nixon. He did a good job narrating.
anthony e.
Apr 27, 2008 rated it liked it
Fun. Not too in-depth, and an easy, breezy read. Still, it did provide some really interesting, personal information on a lot of people from our nation's history. We, as a nation, have pretty much always been fucked up, it seems. Also, there was a lot of semantic information that was really enlightening: vice-presidents, for instance, used to chosen in a run-off style. The second place candidate was declaed vice-president.

Oh, and apparently James Buchanan was gay. Huh.
May 05, 2009 rated it really liked it
If you think that we have scandals in politics today, take a look back in history and you can see that we've never really changed. This book contains numerous historical figures who are commonly known as well as those who are not but have a great scandal story. I learned a lot of the background surrounding these historical figures as well. I'd recommend it to any history buffs, or just anyone who likes a good, short read that will raise your eyebrows a little.
Jun 27, 2015 rated it liked it
I was looking for a book of short bits and this fit the bill. I read a lot of history, and this book made me realize just how much. Of the 50 plus scandals here, I found I already read about 90% of them. Made for a much shorter read than expected. Was a bit disappointed, but it was not the book's fault.
Jul 04, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: books-i-own
It's pretty interesting to find out how crazy this country has been the entire time. There sure is a lot of stuff you don't learn about in history class! There are some dry parts, and some places where I was left wondering if an important detail had been left out, but I read the thing in just a week or two, so that's a pretty good history book!
Kate Robinson
Sep 09, 2008 rated it it was ok
This book showed moments of greatness, times that I was damn near laughing out loud with the uncontrollable urge to spill the beans on a former President to any passerby that would listen. But unfortunately, those urges were few. Most of the book's dirt-filled chapters were not that captivating or well constructed.

A quick read, but not really worth that brief time.

Sep 10, 2010 rated it liked it
More of a "flip through" rather than "peruse" sort of book. I enjoyed passages on Teddy Roosevelt (my favorite) and some of the shorter anecdotes, but the longer passages didn't hold my attention very well. Still, the section of quotes from Richard Nixon (who should've just been called Dick, never mind the Tricky, if you ask me) is worth a read.
Sara G
Aug 05, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: history
Nothing really new to me in here, but this was a fun read about the seedier bits in American history. A lot of it reminded me of my 11th and 12th grade history teacher, who always told those sorts of stories to make the classes more interesting! (Thanks, Ms. Boutwell!) It's appalling that Florida seems to adore Andrew Jackson for some reason, because he was an absolutely batshit crazy man.
M.A. Nichols
Feb 16, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, comedy
This is a funny little collection of history snippets. I'm not someone who generally likes reading an entire novel about one aspect of history, so this kind of collection is right up my alley. It's not amazing writing or the best collection out there, but it was entertaining and worth reading once.
Jun 21, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: incredible
Now this is the kind of history book I like. While I'm not a huge fan of celebrity gossip. I didn't think I'd care much for it on our Founding Fathers either, I was wrong. The writing is easy in this book too. No academic text book sh-- to muddle through. So plain and simple our Fore fathers were bad or bad ass. This book was thick, but so much fun. I finished it in 3 afternoons.
Feb 12, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history-america
I like history, but more the Tudor period, or the ancients. American History, for the most part, has always somewhat bored me. (Yeah, I know. I am a bad Yank. I did, however, love my local history classes in college).

Farquhar is funny. Good short read. I fear very sorry for Ima Hogg. I really, really do.
Oct 20, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: american-history
It was fine. Somewhat entertaining, but I think I hit my "I don't really enjoy American history" level. I've read his other books, they are quick, fast reads, and kinda "pick it up when you're bored" books.

This was on CD...and I couldn't skim.

This book (and I bet others like it) suffer from the lack of skim.

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Michael Farquhar, a former writer and editor at The Washington Post, is the bestselling author of numerous books, including the critically acclaimed Behind the Palace Doors and Secret Lives of the Tsars, as well as the popular Penguin "Treasury" series: A Treasury of Royal Scandals, A Treasury of Great American Scandals, A Treasury of Deception, and A Treasury of Foolishly Forgotten Americans. He ...more
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