Grateful American® Foundation

Novelist Tom Fleming Takes Us Inside “The Intimate Lives of the Founding Fathers”

“How do you write a book?” 24-year-old Thomas Fleming asked best-selling writer Fulton Oursler in 1951.

“Write four pages a day,” Oursler said. “Every day except Sunday. Whether you feel like it or not. Inspiration consists of putting the seat of your pants on the chair at your desk.”

Fleming has followed this advice to good effect.

Flemin’s book, “The Intimate Lives of the Founding Fathers,” is his 50th published work. Twenty-three of his books have been novels, and he is the only writer in the history of the Book of the Month Club to have main selections in fiction and in nonfiction. Many have won prizes.

He received the Burack Prize from Boston University for lifetime achievement. In nonfiction he has specialized in the American Revolution. He sees “Intimate Lives” as a perfect combination of his double talent as a novelist and historian. His wife, Alice Fleming, is a gifted writer of books for young readers.

“Novelists focus on the intimate side of life,” says Fleming, who was born in Jersey City, the son of a powerful local politician. “This is the first time anyone has looked at the intimate side of the lives of these famous Americans with an historian’s eyes.”

Signs of the Times

When it comes to the Revolutionary era, there’s no better storyteller than Fleming, now a best-selling author himself. In fact, “The Intimate Lives of the Founding Fathers,” is most relevant for our Grateful American™ Series, and it’s one of the books that co-hosts David Bruce Smith and Hope Katz Gibbs focused on during their interview with Fleming in his stomping ground — New York City.

The co-hosts of the Grateful American™ TV Show couldn’t have found a better spot for the interview than the formal dining room of Alexander Hamilton’s home, The Grange. Be sure to check out the TV episode.

Click here to download the entire interview, and find answers to these questions:

  • What were the lives of the great figures in American history really like, including George Washington, Ben Franklin, John Adams, Alexander Hamilton, and James Madison?
  • What role did the Founding Mothers play in the lives of these famous men — such as George Washington’s mother, Mary Ball Washington, who was known to be not particularly affectionate?
  • How do the customs of the 18th century differ from today’s, including courting, medicine, and hygiene?
  • What makes it so important that their stories live on — especially in the minds of kids?
  • And how can parents help their kids develop a passion for history?

Plus, you’ll learn three important ideas about the Founding Fathers and Mothers that your family can talk about tonight at the dinner table.

Added bonus: Scroll down for 10 fascinating facts about this era.

For more information:


Did you know:

  1. Of the Founding Fathers who became president, only George Washington did not go to college. John Adams graduated from Harvard; James Madison from Princeton; and Thomas Jefferson attended the College of William and Mary.
  2. John Adams was the first president to live in the White House, moving in during November of 1800. He only lived there for four months, however, since he lost that year’s election to Thomas Jefferson.
  3. On March 4, 1793, George Washington delivered the shortest inauguration speech in American history: 133 words. William Henry Harrison gave the longest — 8,443 words — on March 4, 1841. The day was a cold, blustery one, and Harrison caught a chill, which ultimately led to his death a month later.
  4. Author Washington Irving described James Madison as “a withered little apple-john,” and his wife, Dolley, as a “fine, portly, buxom dame.”
  5. The Marquis de Lafayette thought so highly of George Washington that he named his son George Washington Lafayette. Over the years, Washington developed tremendous affection for Lafayette, referring to him as “my French son.”
  6. John Adams was the only president to be the father of a future president—John Quincy Adams—until George W. Bush, son of George H.W. Bush, became president in 2000.
  7. Thomas Jefferson often spent $50 a day (about $900 in 2014 dollars) on groceries for the lavish entertaining that he did. The wine bill for his eight-year presidency was $11,000 (equivalent to almost $200,000 in 2014).
  8. Although it is known that George Washington called for the emancipation of the slaves in his Last Will and Testament, it was his wife Martha who freed the slaves that Washington owned. However, she was unable to free the slaves that she owned. Under the terms of her first husband’s will, these slaves — about half of those living at Mount Vernon — belonged to her children and grandchildren.
  9. Originally, George Washington was to be buried in the US Capitol, beneath the Rotunda floor, under the Capitol dome. But he died before the Rotunda was finished, and he and his wife Martha are both buried at Mount Vernon in Virginia.
  10. Thomas Jefferson and John Adams died on the same day: July 4, 1826, exactly 50 years after the signing of the Declaration of Independence. James Monroe died July 4, 1831.

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