Growing up a third-generation San Franciscan, I sometimes wondered why they named a president after Fillmore Street, which had a spectacular funicular cable car line. Now I know. Millard Fillmore reduced the cost of a postage stamp from 5 cents to 3 cents, sought earnestly but futilely to reach a compromise on slavery, sent Commodore Matthew C. Perry to open trade relations with Japan, personally saved the Library of Congress from a conflagration and was called the best-mannered American she'd met by Queen Victoria.
Yet the 13th president often is ranked at the bottom by students of the presidency. "What he lacked in charisma he made up in mediocrity," said Rae Rosson, coordinator of the first luncheon in Baltimore a few days ago of the Society to Promote Respect and Recognition of Millard Fillmore.
Humbly born in western New York state, Fillmore was an ex-congressman and New York state comptroller when the Whig Party nominated him for vice president on a ticket with Zachary Taylor, whom he had not met prior to their inauguration. When Taylor died in office, he took over.
At the Baltimore ceremony, 21-month-old Jocelyn Fillmore was present along with her father and grandfather. Yes, they were family, but, gee, they weren't sure to what degree. If they'd been from the South, they'd have known, to the Nth degree.