Hold Your Horses!

There’s always a diverse crowd visiting our national park partners, but four-legged visitors?  Well, that’s who you’ll see at Ulysses S. Grant National Historic Site this Saturday.

As a tribute to Ulysses Grant’s lifelong passion for horses, the park will host Horses and Grant at White Haven this Saturday.  Horses from area ranchers and owners will be on hand to help park interpreters explain the central role that the animals played in the 18th president’s life.

Illustration by Leslie Przybylek 

From the time he was a small boy, Grant loved to ride, train, and care for horses.  Horses were also vital to him as a soldier and farmer.  He was an accomplished rider both in his military career and his private life, and owned a succession of horses throughout his life. In fact, it was thought he bought the White Haven property from his wife’s family after the Civil War mainly to breed and raise horses.

Original horse barn on the White Haven property

At the park this Saturday, there will be formal demonstrations on horsemanship, saddles, and the history of racing, as well as hands-on activities for children. The free event runs from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.; reservations are not required.  It is offered as one of the site’s Grant bicentennial activities.

Happy Birthday, Ulysses!!!

How do you fit 200 candles on a birthday cake?  Tomorrow – April 27, 2022 – marks the 200th anniversary of Ulysses Grant’s birth.  This notable bicentennial will be commemorated with events, activities and exhibits at dozens of locations across the nation.  Our partner park Ulysses S Grant National Historic Site will offer programs for all tastes and ages in the coming months.  Whether you’re a history buff, a military veteran, a food lover or a kid, you’re sure to find a fun and interesting way to celebrate the former president’s 200th year.

The park is devoting the entire day and evening of April 27 to an extended birthday celebration:

  • There will be presentations on Grant’s life in the visitor center theater. 
  • Food historian Suzanne Corbett will deliver a program on 19th century cakes and other desserts in the dining room of White Haven, the house where Ulysses lived with his wife Julia and her family. 
  • Visitors can make and send cards to residents of Missouri veterans’ homes letting them know about Grant’s appreciation of military veterans. 
  • You can pick up a “Flat Grant” handout at the park’s visitor center to color and take with you on your travels. Share your selfies with Grant on social media as you travel with #USGrant2ndWorldTour.
  • Kids can explore all aspects of Grant’s life with a special Junior Ranger activity book and receive a commemorative Junior Ranger badge. 
  • In the evening, the Independent Silver Band will conduct a one-hour concert on the park grounds, beginning at 6:30 pm. This program is presented in partnership with the Ulysses S. Grant Association and Mississippi State University.

Credit: Curt Fields

Other bicentennial activities planned by the park include a visit by the nation’s premiere Grant impersonator, Curt Fields, on Tuesday May 17th.  Throughout the summer, park staff will offer special themed tours of the historic White Haven estate, gallery walks, touch tables, and facilitated dialogue programs inside the park’s museum.  Check the park’s list of bicentennial events for more details. To learn about events elsewhere in the U.S. that will commemorate the Grant Bicentennial, visit the Ulysses S. Grant Association’s website.

Finally, if you’d like a keepsake of this important bicentennial, pick up this unique brass ornament at our bookstore when you visit the park. It features a likeness of Grant beneath his well-known saying “Let us have peace.”  You can also order the ornament from our online store.  Quantities are limited!

How Many National Park Sites Have YOU Visited?

The National Park Service system currently includes 423 sites throughout the United States and its territories.  These range from national monuments and battlefields to national historic sites and recreation areas to national rivers and seashores. 

Don’t feel bad if you haven’t visited the majority of these places (most of us haven’t!). But luckily, National Park Week is just around the corner – a perfect time to add to your NPS “life list.”

National Park Week is an annual celebration jointly hosted by the National Park Service and the National Park Foundation to encourage everyone to discover our nation’s diverse historic, natural, and cultural treasures.  This year, the week runs from April 16 through 24.  Parks across the country will host a variety of special programs, events, and digital experiences, including National Junior Ranger Day for kids on Saturday April 23.  You can find out more about programs and themes you might be interested in by going here.  

Another bonus for park visitors during National Park Week – entrance fees are waived at all parks on Saturday April 16.  (Other 2022 free fee days can be found here).  Luckily, there are never entry fees at JNPA’s partner parks but each of them would be glad to see you in April, or any time!

If you’re planning to visit any of the 63 parks that have “national park” in their name, you’ll want a copy of National Geographic’s national park guide as well as the Passport to Your National Parks, which not only contains park information but allows you to collect the passport stamps from every park you visit. 

New Leader at U.S. Grant National Historic Site

We’re excited to welcome Nathan Wilson as the new superintendent at Ulysses S. Grant National Historic Site.  The National Park Service announced his appointment, effective this month.  Wilson is a 17-year veteran of NPS and has a wide range of experience working in historical parks, mostly in the Midwest.  We recently caught up with him to learn why he’s excited about his new role at our partner park.

Why did you start working for the National Park Service?

I’ve always enjoyed the outdoors and parks as places to reflect, learn, and recreate. As a student in the Parks, Recreation, and Tourism program at the University of Missouri, I became interested in public land management and the various agencies tasked with overseeing them. I found the National Park Service mandate to protect and preserve our nation’s most significant resources – for everyone’s enjoyment – to be particularly special. That’s what led me to pursue a career working for the agency. I was fortunate to receive an internship at Fort Smith National Historic Site as I was finishing my undergraduate degree and that opportunity turned out to be a springboard for my career with the NPS.  

What is particularly special about U.S. Grant National Historic Site, or why should someone visit?

I think the story we tell in conjunction with the physical resources at the site make for a very impactful experience. The period of Grant’s life spent here in St. Louis is often overlooked in comparison to his time served as Union general and president. However, it was critical in shaping and influencing the values, character, and identity that we associate with this American hero today. Visitors get a meaningful glimpse into this part of his life when they visit our park.

What’s your favorite part of the job, or what do you hope to accomplish at ULSG?

The park staff does an incredible job of interpreting the Grant story and administering and caring for the resources here at the park. The level and variety of skill among our team is impressive and inspiring to me, and collaborating with them is a highlight of the job. I’m truly honored by the opportunity to take on this leadership role and look forward to continued collaboration with this amazing team during Grant’s bicentennial year and into the future.

What’s your favorite activity to do at your park?

I really enjoy the historic structures and cultural landscape here at the park. The restoration and rehabilitation work that took place at White Haven in the 1990s transformed the park structures and makes for a great historic preservation experience, and the landscape provides a nice greenspace to enjoy the outdoors in suburban St. Louis.   

Your park’s best kept secret is…?

Not necessarily a secret but I’d be remiss if I didn’t give a shout out to our park volunteers. We’ve got over 20 volunteers here at Grant who help us with everything from visitor services and tours to cultural resource management and museum operations. These dedicated team members provide a tremendous amount of support to our park and are a major contributor to the high-quality visitor experience we provide at the Ulysses S. Grant National Historic Site. 

Honoring our Presidents

Just in time for Presidents’ Day (February 21), JNPA has a wide array of cool gift items for that POTUS* geek in your life.  What else would you expect from a non-profit with stores at three national parks that honor U.S. Presidents:  Gateway Arch National Park, Clinton Birthplace Home National Historic Site, and Ulysses S. Grant National Historic Site?

Gateway Arch National Park is a memorial to President Thomas Jefferson and his role in greatly expanding the borders of the United States.

JNPA greatly respects Jefferson’s accomplishments, as evidenced by the many books and statues we sell at The Arch Store.  But we also sell a few more whimsical items that still honor our third president, like this stately bobblehead and  mini-building block set.  (We trust Mr. Jefferson doesn’t object to our…ahem…taking “liberties” with his likeness.)


President Bill Clinton spent his early boyhood years in a comfortable two-story frame house in Hope, Arkansas, an experience that he says helped develop his broad views on race relations, social justice, and public service.  Our book on Clinton’s early life features numerous photos of the home as well as of the young future president. 

Credit: Clinton Foundation

An image of the home is featured on this handsome earthenware mug.  And of course, we also sell a fun bobblehead version of the 42nd president.


Credit: David Newmann

If it’s President Ulysses S. Grant you’re interested in, JNPA offers numerous items commemorating both Grant and his wife Julia.  From books to sturdy mugs to fun kids’ products, there’s something for everyone.  And don’t forget our popular bobblehead version of our 18th president.

*President of The United States

“My Dearest Julia and my love for her are ever in my mind…”

What do you know about Ulysses S. Grant?  Victorious commander of the Union troops in the U.S. Civil War:  Check.  Eighteenth President of the United States:  Yep.  Devoted lover:  Huh??

President Grant and his wife Julia Dent Grant sustained a long love affair throughout their lives. What better love story to share in time for Valentine’s Day?

Ulysses and Julia’s romance began at White Haven, the Missouri plantation owned by Julia’s parents.  In 1843, while stationed at a nearby Army barracks, the young Lieutenant Grant visited the farm where his West Point roommate had grown up.  He was immediately charmed by Julia and often made the 12-mile ride to White Haven to visit her several times a week. 

Unfortunately for the young couple, their courtship was marked by long periods of separation while Grant was on assignment for the Army.  So they turned to letter writing as their sole method of declaring their love.  Although sadly no correspondence from Julia to Grant survives to this day, we are lucky to have numerous letters that Grant sent to his beloved, and his devotion to her is obvious.

When Grant was stationed in Louisiana and Texas in preparation for the coming war with Mexico, he wrote Julia in 1844 “of the depth and sincerity of my love for you.”  Writing from Texas the following year, Grant told her “for my own part I would sacrifice everything Earthly to make my Dear Julia my own forever.”

Even during the height of battle, his feelings for her were as strong as ever: “…in the midst of grape and musket shots, my Dearest Julia and my love for her are ever in my mind.”  And in that same letter, Grant assures her “I am getting very tired of this war, and particularly impatient of being separated from one I love so much, but I think before I see another birth day I shall see Julia, and if she says so, be able to call her my own Dear for ever.” Grant’s wish eventually came true.  The couple was married at White Haven in 1848. 

Though Julia was able to travel with Ulysses to some of his Army postings, they still remained apart for much of their early marriage.  It is thought that these ongoing separations was one reason Captain Ulysses Grant resigned his commission from the Army in 1854 and returned to White Haven to be with his wife and young children.

To learn more about the love story of Julia and Ulysses, watch A Thousand Kisses, the short video about their early life that JNPA helped produce for the National Park Service.

You can also read many of Grant’s letters to his wife in My Dearest Julia, available in our online store or at our bookstore at Ulysses S. Grant National Historic Site.