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In November of 1864, after three-quarters of a century of Presidents, and more than three years of the Civil War, the first full-time Presidential body guards were finally hired. A promotion two months later left a job opening in the foursome, and William H. Crook was hired away from the Washington Police Force (he had previously served in the Union Army during the Civil War). As one of the bodyguards, Crook was in close contact with President Abraham Lincoln and his family, observing the sixteenth President as a person, and recording his observations.


Following Lincoln's assassination (Crook wasn't on duty at the time), he continued in the role for President Andrew Johnson. After Johnson left office, President Ulysses Grant (whom Crook had grown to know during his service under Lincoln) appointed him Executive Clerk of the President of the United States, and then dispersing agent in 1877. Eventually, he became the Chief Disbursing Officer. In January 1915, President Woodrow Wilson celebrated Crook's half-century of service in the executive mansion, presenting him with a cane and acknowledging his more widely but less official title, "White House Encyclopedia." Two months later, Crook died of pneumonia at the age of 75, and was buried in Arlington National Cemetery.


In that half century working in the White House, directly for the Presidents, William H. Crook grew to know the men who held the nation's highest office, and their families; their public and private lives. Though his experience lasted through twelve administrations, his memoir only covers the first six (though he called it Through Five Administrations, counting the 1881-85 term of James Garfield and Chester Arthur as one).


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