ILLUMINATION
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ILLUMINATION

One Interesting Fact About Each U.S. President

Trivia from 1 to 46

5021836 by Vacclav licensed by an editor from depositphotos.com

Most of us have heard some interesting stories about our various presidents. I, too, have heard some peculiar tales about the chief executives over the years.

This article will hopefully add to the list of interesting tidbits that you retain about our 46 presidents. One of these may even serve as a party conversation starter.

Here goes the list:

#1. George Washington

Both of the most well-known myths about our first president are not true — Washington never wore wooden teeth (they were instead made of ivory, gold, lead, and potentially even hippopotamus teeth) and never chopped down a cherry tree.

#2. John Adams

The Duke of Braintree actually served as a defense representative for the British soldiers involved in the Boston Massacre of 1770, a testament to his dedication to fair trial and justice.

#3. Thomas Jefferson

The Sage of Monticello was arguably the biggest rival of our second president, John Adams. However, the two statesmen did manage to sequester their animosity and share respects on July 4th, 1826, the day they both died just a few hours apart.

#4. James Madison

James Madison, the Father of the Constitution, was our shortest president, standing at just 5’4”, a whole foot shorter than our tallest, Abraham Lincoln (6’4”).

#5. James Monroe

The final Virginia Dynasty member was wounded at the Battle of Trenton in 1776 and nearly died as a result of his wounds, a reality that would have rewritten history forever.

#6. John Quincy Adams

Adams, then Secretary of State under Monroe, provided much behind the scenes work in crafting the Monroe Doctrine despite his name losing association with the document over the years.

#7. Andrew Jackson

After Jackson’s inauguration, an excited crowd of supporters (tens of thousands) followed his carriage to the White House and stormed the halls, breaking artifacts, China, and even spitting tobacco on the floors, culminating in the new president fleeing to a nearby hotel.

#8. Martin Van Buren

Van Buren was the first non-English president by heritage. The Little Magician was actually Dutch and used it as a primary language growing up.

#9. William Henry Harrison

William Henry Harrison holds the record for the shortest presidential term, dying from pneumonia after just 31 days.

#10. John Tyler

John Tyler has a still-living grandson in his 90s. Tyler, born in 1790, fathered 15 children, some late in life. Because of this, Tyler’s grandson, Harrison Tyler, still lives today. For more, check out this piece by Noah Nelson.

#11. James K. Polk

Before Polk was even elected president, he swore that his time in office would only consist of one term, a promise that he kept as he did not run for a second.

#12. Zachary Taylor

Old Rough and Ready was nominated by the Whig Party and took office in 1849. However, Taylor was not a member of the party and did not even learn of the nomination until weeks after the decision had been made.

#13. Millard Fillmore

Fillmore took over after the death of Zachary Taylor. He is a prime example of a forgotten president, but one interesting aspect of Fillmore’s life was that he never drank, smoked, and only gambled once, buying a ticket and winning a turkey raffle at age 15.

#14. Franklin Pierce

Shortly before his inauguration, Pierce’s only remaining son died in a tragic train accident, plunging him into a deep depression and addiction that greatly influenced his time in office.

#15. James Buchanan

Buchanan, widely agreed upon as the worst US president, was and still is the only bachelor president. Instead, his niece, Harriet Lane, served as First Lady.

#16. Abraham Lincoln

Lincoln was a great wrestler; I guess that long reach paid off. Check out this piece by Noah Nelson for more.

#17. Andrew Johnson

Johnson was the first president to face impeachment charges. He was also severely inebriated during his inauguration according to an account by Mary Todd Lincoln.

#18. Ulysses S. Grant

Before his heroic leadership during the Civil War, Grant was an average student at West Point and later developed a serious drinking problem forcing his resignation from the Army in 1854. In this time before the Civil War broke out, he held various jobs in farming, real estate, and even firewood sales.

#19. Rutherford B. Hayes

You would not find alcohol in the White House during Hayes’ term. His wife and First Lady, Lucy, was fully against alcoholic beverage service in the Executive Mansion.

#20. James A. Garfield

Garfield was shot by an office-seeker shortly after taking his oath of office. With today’s medical knowledge and hygiene, he most likely would have survived given that his wounds resulted in untreated infection and sepsis.

#21. Chester A. Arthur

While in the White House, Arthur placed a rose next to his late wife’s picture every day, honoring her tragic passing a year before he took office.

#22. Grover Cleveland

Cleveland was the first Democrat to be elected since before the Civil War. He was also an extremely hands-off president, once even vetoing a popular bill to provide seed relief in Texas following a major drought because he disagreed with government handouts.

#23. Benjamin Harrison

The White House first obtained electricity during Harrison’s time in office in 1891, but he and his wife, Caroline, were afraid to handle the switches for fear of electrocution.

#24. Grover Cleveland

Uncle Jumbo was the only president to have two nonconsecutive terms in office. The Baby Ruth candy bar is also named after his daughter, Ruth.

#25. William McKinley

McKinley could reportedly make any of his visitors smile with his friendly, personable attitude as well as the red carnation he wore for good luck.

#26. Theodore Roosevelt

Despite Teddy’s macho exterior, he was actually a very sickly child. The big-stick diplomat suffered from severe asthma which sidelined him from school and forced him to frequently sleep sitting upright.

#27. William H. Taft

Taft loved baseball and was the first president to throw out the opening pitch at a Major League Baseball season opener in 1910. He was able to hit a “homerun” on his lifetime goal of becoming a Supreme Court Justice as well.

#28. Woodrow Wilson

Wilson’s full name is actually Thomas Woodrow Wilson. He chose to go by Woodrow after his uncle, James Woodrow, explaining that he felt the name sounded more sophisticated.

#29. Warren G. Harding

Harding is remembered today for his administration’s political scandals, but he had numerous personal ones as well. He was reportedly involved in a couple extra-marital affairs which fully came to light after his death.

#30. Calvin Coolidge

Coolidge stepped into the presidency after the death of Warren Harding. He was sworn in at his own father’s house in Vermont around 3:00 AM by his father, John, who was a justice of the peace.

#31. Herbert Hoover

Hoover was born in West Branch, Iowa, the first president born west of the Mississippi.

#32. Franklin D. Roosevelt

FDR was the first president to appear on television with a speech in 1939. He was also the only president to be elected for more than two terms, being selected four times.

#33. Harry S Truman

The “S” in Harry S Truman does not stand for any name in particular but was a compromise between the names of his two grandfathers, Anderson Shipp Truman and Solomon Young.

#34. Dwight D. Eisenhower

Ike is remembered for his military excellence, but he was also a talented football player. He played two seasons at Army before breaking his leg.

#35. John F. Kennedy

JFK was only 43 when elected president, making him the youngest to ever be elected (Teddy Roosevelt was 42 when he stepped into office, but he was not elected).

#36. Lyndon B. Johnson

Johnson was the first president to be sworn in by a woman. Federal Judge Sarah Tilghman Hughes swore in the 36th president aboard Air Force One following Kennedy’s assassination.

#37. Richard Nixon

Nixon actually applied to become an FBI agent in the 1930s but never heard back. Had he pursued this route, the word “Watergate” would have much less meaning.

#38. Gerald Ford

In 1975, Ford was the target of two assassination attempts, both in California. Two women, Lynette Fromme and Sara Moore were arrested for independent attempts.

#39. Jimmy Carter

Carter had planned on a successful career in nuclear physics, serving in the Navy until 1953 when his father passed away. Following this, Carter moved back to Georgia to take over the family peanut business.

#40. Ronald Reagan

Reagan loved jelly beans, especially the licorice flavor. He reportedly got hooked on the candy to subvert his smoking habit.

#41. George H.W. Bush

Bush was born into a prominent New England family, but he elected to delay attending Yale to join the Navy. Once in the service, Bush became one of the youngest Navy pilots ever, earning his wings before the age of 19 and flying many missions over the Pacific.

#42. Bill Clinton

Most know that Clinton loved the saxophone, but did you know that his birth last name was actually Blythe? His father, William Blythe Jr., died before he was born. Clinton would later change his name to reflect that of his step-father, Roger Clinton.

#43. George W. Bush

Like his father, Bush also piloted aircraft. He is also the most recent president to serve in the military.

#44. Barack Obama

Reportedly, Obama has not enjoyed ice cream since his days working at Baskin-Robbins. Despite this, he and Michelle enjoyed some Baskin-Robbins on their first date.

#45. Donald Trump

Trump was the first president to have a true reality TV show, as well as the only president to appear on WrestleMania in 2007.

#46. Joe Biden

Joe Biden is the oldest president ever sworn into office, coming in at the age of 78.

Closing Thoughts

Each president comes with their own set of interesting, and sometimes odd, facts. This was certainly a fun list to put together, so I hope you enjoyed it!

Grant Fuerstenau is a Medical Student at the University of Louisville School of Medicine and the editor of The Biographical Historian.

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Grant Fuerstenau

Grant Fuerstenau

Medical Student | Medicine, Science, History, Geography, and Sports | Editor of The Biographical Historian