From the desk of Jan Hommel, Museum Director:
Q: Which president was often called the Little Magician?
A: Martin Van Buren. Van Buren was often called the “Little Magician” for his skill and wit and for being the main man responsible for organizing the Democratic Party. With this type of resume, you would think that Van Buren would have the greatest term ever. Sadly, this magician ran out of tricks when he entered office. The fault was not his entirely. He had inherited the financial mess that Andrew Jackson had created with the Bank War, which eventually led to the Panic of 1837. He avoided addressing the panic and dealing with it swiftly, which led to an even worse second depression in 1839. He never personally nor politically recovered from this and was defeated in reelection.
These depressions did not affect his love of “the finer things in life,” which seemed to anger the public. Van Buren loved to dress in fine clothes and ride in the most elegant carriages available. Because of his taste for “the good life,” the American people perceived that he did not care about them or their impossible situation. He became one of the most unpopular presidents of all time.
Not to mention one final act that probably sealed his fate for sure: He opposed statehood for Texas. If he had just known that you “don’t mess with Texas” and get away with it! (The Essential Book of Presidential Trivia)