One and Only Presidential Museum
[Note: This story was written while the Museum was still located in Hartsgrove, Ohio, though the new place is reported to contain much of the same]
Presidents are in the news nowadays, and most of us probably believe we know a thing or two about the highest office holder in the land. But then, most of us have never visited the tiny crossroads town of Hartsgrove, Ohio, and had Nick Pahys Jr. knock the wind out of our sails. His Presidential Museum is "the one and only in the world honoring our first president of the USA, John Hanson." It gives credit to presidents #2 through #8 as well: Elias Boudinot, Thomas Miffin, Richard Henry Lee, John Hancock, Nathaniel Gorham, Arthur St. Clair, and Cyrus Griffen.
Two obvious questions come to mind. "Who is John Hanson?" And "Wasn't George Washington the first president?"
Here are the facts, quickly, because they're kind of dull. John Hanson became "president" in 1781 -- nine years before Washington -- under the Articles of Confederation, which was America's "constitution" before it had a Constitution. The other seven guys followed Hanson, roughly one a year, until the Founding Fathers dumped the dysfunctional Articles and wrote the Constitution to replace it. Washington was the first president under the new system. Generations of Americans have accorded him #1 status because his presidency is, structurally, the same kind of presidency that we still have today.
Nick Pahys Jr., D.D.G., C.H., AdVS, A.G.E., LDA, FIBA, has a problem with that. His museum, which has been here since 1989 and is the product of fifty years of research, is dedicated to setting the record straight and righting this perceived wrong.
You won't get a quick explanation when you visit The Presidential Museum. Instead, Nick will hit you with rhetorical broadsides such as, "Our current Constitution -- I'm a doctor and I'm also a professor -- the point is simply this: I do know the law. The point is simply this: The law is this: When you make up a law, our current Constitution, which is the federal Constitution, was ratified September 17, 1787. Didn't go into effect until 1790. Look in any library. George Washington didn't come into play until 1790. How could he possibly be our first president? All the history books in the library so state that."
Nick's circumlocution is not really a problem. You don't visit The Presidential Museum to understand Nick Pahys. You visit to bask in the glory of Nick Pahys. He will subject you to withering salvos of rhetorical questions -- "You follow me?" "You see my point?" "Now do you understand?" -- and it doesn't matter how you answer. Nick will explain it anyway. Nick has done the research. Nick knows what he's talking about. Nick is smarter than you.
Indeed, it is difficult to know where his indignity at an injustice toward John Hanson ends, and his self promotional zeal begins. When we visited, Nick was wearing a large medal around his neck that he said had been awarded to him by an organization in Ireland. "I'm no crackpot, and I'm not a religious fanatic, but also I got nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize last year," he told us. When we replied that we hadn't heard about that, he told us "they only publicize the winners."
Nick has spiral binders full of official-looking letters, awarding him a medal of honor for this, a man of the year for that. One cites Nick Pahys as "one of the Great Minds of the 20th century" alongside Einstein, Gandhi, and Mother Theresa.
If you're maneuvering around the rotary at the center of tiny Hartsgrove, you can't miss the hand-painted signs and portraits adorning the 2-story wood frame building housing the Presidential Museum. The first floor performs as a combination bar (selling Presidential Museum beer in bottles), general store, and tease for what awaits upstairs. Admission paid, you climb stairs to a large room cluttered with tables and chairs, posters, books, photos and assorted Presidential items. All the Presidents are represented, and portraits line the walls. The biggest portrait? Not Washington, or Hanson -- it's Pahys himself.
Nick has ridden the John Hanson bandwagon for a long time. "My great grandfather was King of Bohemia -- King Stoodnichka -- my mother was born in Prague, her mother was raised as a princess," he says. "When I questioned my mother I found that it was corrupt over in Europe, and if it was corrupt over there it had to be corrupt over here, and that's when I knew George Washington wasn't our first president. When I was seven."
Nick has poured his fifty years of John Hanson research into a book, What Every American Should Know, which he sells at the museum.
Nick's publisher calls it "the truest history book ever written," a point that Nick emphasizes repeatedly. "She put three pages on her web site so stating that fact. 'Truest history book ever written.' The point is, if you go to any library, what I've done is -- it took me fifty years -- or fifty years to establish that -- the presidential seal, John Hanson created that." The presidential seal is a significant piece of evidence in Nick Pahys' theory -- after all, he reasons, why would John Hanson create the presidential seal if he wasn't the president? Or, as Nick puts it, "How could George Washington be the president if John Hanson created that seal?" -- another rhetorical question that it is best not to answer.
Nick sent the first copy of his book to the King of Sweden (who nominated Nick for his Nobel Peace Prize). He reserved the second copy for George W. Bush, "but he hasn't received it yet because he hasn't answered my two certified letters." Nick is toying with George. Nick knows that George will never respond, because George knows that Nick knows the truth.
Nick believes that the reason people don't know about John Hanson is not because John Hanson is a hopelessly arcane footnote in American history, but because the government doesn't want you to know about John Hanson. "The point is, the less you know the easier it is for you to be controlled," Nick tells us. "True history hasn't been taught in this country in the last 40 years. The truth is our only salvation and the government should QUIT LYING to us." Nick lowers his voice. "I trust nobody," he says, and we believe him. When we arrived we found him sitting in his museum, alone,watching a videotape that he had made of The Daily Show videotaping him. "If you're gonna film me, I'm gonna film you."
Although seven U.S. presidents were born in Ohio -- there's a room in the museum devoted solely to them -- the Presidential Museum isn'there because of that. And since neither John Hanson nor Nick Pahys is from Hartsgrove -- John Hanson, in fact, was from Maryland -- why is the museum way out here in this tiny town in Ohio?
Nick tells us that the building is a 200-year-old tavern and that the Articles of Confederation -- the John Hanson constitution -- were written in a tavern, so the location is symbolic. Even so, he confides, he's expecting to get $3.5 million within the next few months from an unnamed source so that he can move to a 160-acre facility that is somewhere other than here.
"My job is to give people a choice," Nick says in summation. "You wanna honor George Washington? Be my guest. I won't chase you out of here with a gun saying 'Please believe me.' Check the facts for yourself.But once you check the facts and you still wanna believe it? You're a raving maniac."
A Woman With Two Heads and 22 Children
From Nick Pahys' book, What Every American Should Know:
"I have a sign in front of my museum about 30 feet long and about five feet high, which states that John Hanson was the first president of the United States. Yet for that first year the museum was opened, I took in only $187, not enough to pay one month's electric bill!
"If I were to put a smaller sign up outside the museum which offered the public to view a woman with two heads and 22 children, and put up a $5 admission price, you can rest assure that I would need a staff to be hired just to count my money and control the crowds."