98 Fun Facts about U.S. Presidents
- The only president to be unanimously elected was George Washington (1732-1799). He also refused to accept his presidential salary, which was $25,000 a year.
- Because the KKK was a powerful political force, Truman was encouraged to join the organization. According to some accounts, he was inducted, though he was “never active.” Other accounts claim that though he gave the KKK a $10 membership fee, he demanded it back and was never inducted or initiated.
- Grover Cleveland was the only president in history to hold the job of a hangman. He was once the sheriff of Erie County, New York, and twice had to spring the trap at a hanging.
- The “S” in Harry S Truman doesn’t stand for anything; therefore, there is no period after his middle initial.
- Lincoln Logs are named after Abraham Lincoln and the log cabin where he was born. John Lloyd Wright, son of famous architect Francis Lloyd Wright, invented them.
By carving up Shakespeare’s chair, Jefferson and Adams became some of America’s earliest vandals
- Thomas Jefferson and John Adams once traveled to Stratford-upon-Avon to visit Shakespeare’s birthplace. While there, they took a knife to one of Shakespeare’s chairs so they could take home some wood chips as souvenirs.
- James Madison and Thomas Jefferson were once arrested together for taking a carriage ride in the countryside of Vermont on a Sunday, which violated the laws of that state.
- Andrew Johnson is the only tailor ever to be president. As president, he would typically stop by a tailor shop to say hello. He would wear only the suits that he made himself.
- George Washington never lived in the White House. The capital was actually located in Philadelphia and other cities when Washington was president. He is also the only president who didn’t represent a political party.
- James Abram Garfield (1831-1881) is the first president to ever talk on the phone. When he spoke to Alexander Graham Bell, who was at the other end 13 miles away, he said: “Please speak a little more slowly.”
- Twenty-ninth president Warren Gamaliel Harding (1865-1923) repeatedly made love to a young girl, Nan Britton, in a White House closet. On one occasion, Secret Service agents had to stop his wife from beating down the closet door.
- Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) was the first president to be inaugurated in Washington, D.C.
- The term “O.K.” derives from President Martin Van Buren (1782-1862) who was known as “Old Kinderhook” because he was raised in Kinderhook, New York. “O.K.” clubs were created to support Van Buren’s campaigns.
- President Grover Cleveland (1837-1908) is the only president to be elected to two nonconsecutive terms. He was the 22nd and 24th president.
Bush is the only recorded U.S. president in history to vomit on a foreign dignitary
- After President Bush Sr. vomited on the Japanese Prime Minister, a new word entered the Japanese language. Bushusuru means “to do the Bush thing,” or to publicly vomit.
- John Fitzgerald Kennedy’s (1917-1963) famous inaugural line “Ask not what you your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country” echoes similar directives made by many others, including Cicero, Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. and President Warren G. Harding, who told the 1916 Republican convention: “We must have a citizenship less concerned about what the government can do for it, and more anxious about what it can do for the nation.”
- Martin Van Buren was the first to be a United States citizen. All previous presidents were born British subjects.
- Six presidents were named James: Madison, Monroe, Polk, Buchanan, Garfield, and Carter.
- President Dwight David Eisenhower (1890-1969) was the only president to serve in both WWI and WWII.
- Richard Milhous Nixon (1913-1994) was the first president to visit all 50 states and the first to visit China. He is the only president to resign.
- James Earl “Jimmy” Carter (1924-) was the first president to be born in a hospital.
- Jimmy Carter is the first known president to go on record as seeing a UFO.
Before he was president, Lincoln was a licensed bartender
- Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865) is the only U.S. president who was also a licensed bartender. He was co-owner of Berry and Lincoln, a saloon in Springfield, Illinois.
- George H. W. Bush (1924-) was the first serving vice president to be elected president since Martin Van Buren.
- William Jefferson “Bill” Clinton (1946-) was the first U.S. Democratic president to win re-election since FDR.
- Abraham Lincoln was the only presidential candidate who was not a Mason in the 1860 election.
- President James Buchanan (1791-1868) quietly but consistently bought slaves in Washington, D.C., and then set them free in Pennsylvania.
- Herbert Clark Hoover (1874-1964) gave his White House servants strict orders to hide from him whenever he passed by. Those who failed to do so were at risk of being fired.
- James Buchanan is the only bachelor president. He was virtually inseparable from William R. King (1786-1853), a senator from Alabama, earning the pair the nickname “Miss Nancy and Aunt Fancy” and “Mr. Buchanan and his wife.”
- Ulysses S. Grant (born Hiram Ulysses Grant, 1822-1885) smoked at least 20 cigars a day and, after a brilliant war victory, a nation of well wishers sent him more than 10,000 cigars. He later died of throat cancer.
- Dwight D. Eisenhower had an affair with his wartime driver, Kay Summersby (1908-1975). Kay later wrote a book called Past Forgetting: My Love Affair with Dwight D. Eisenhower in which she claims he was impotent.
- John F. “Jack” Kennedy most likely had the most active extramarital sex life of any president. He allegedly slept with Marilyn Monroe, Jayne Mansfield, Audrey Hepburn, Angie Dickinson, stripper Blaze Starr, Marlene Dietrich, and many other women including White House staffers, secretaries, stewardess, campaign workers, strippers, and acquaintances of trusted male friends. The FBI taped sounds of him and Inga Arvad making love.
Johnson nicknamed his genitals “Jumbo”
- Lyndon Baines Johnson “LBJ”(1908-1973) affectionately called the many women he slept with his “harem.” He even had a buzzer system installed that rang inside the Oval Office so that Secret Service could warn him when his wife was coming.
- Every member of Teddy Roosevelt’s family owned a pair of stilts, including the first lady.
- Sally Hemings (ca. 1773-1885) was not only Jefferson’s slave, but also the half-sister of Jefferson’s dead wife. She is said to have been Jefferson’s mistress for thirty-eight years, and scholars have argued for years whether Jefferson was the father of her children. DNA tests in 1998 revealed that a male in Jefferson’s line was the father of at least one of her children, though it did not prove conclusively that Jefferson himself fathered them.
- When Martin Van Buren wrote his autobiography after serving as president from 1837-1841, he didn’t mention his wife of 12 years. Not even once.
- John Tyler (1790-1862) had more children than any other president. He had eight by his first wife and seven by his second. He was 70 when his last child, Pearl, was born. He was also the first president to get married in office, though his eight children form his first wife did not approve of the wedding and did not attend.
- Ronald Wilson Reagan (1911-2004) won the Most Nearly Perfect Male Figure Award from the University of California in 1940.
- Thomas Jefferson had a family of plants named after him, Jeffersonia diphylla, which is also known as twin root or rheumatism root.
- Thomas Jefferson wrote “The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth,” which was discovered after his death by his daughter. It argues that Jesus Christ was a great thinker, but that he was devoid of other worldly qualities that made him the center of Christianity.
- James Madison (1751-1836) was the shortest president of the United States, standing at only 5’4”. He never weighed more than 100 pounds.
- George Washington made the shortest inauguration speech on record—133 words and less than two minutes long.
- William Henry Harrison (1773-1841) holds the record for the longest inauguration speech in history at 8,578 words long and one hour and 40 minutes. Unfortunately, he gave the speech during bad weather and a month later, he was dead from pneumonia, making his the shortest presidency on record.
- John Quincy Adams (1767-1848) would often skinny dip in the Potomac River.
Adams would swim at 5 a.m. in the Potomac River every day to deal with the stress of being president
- George Washington, James Monroe, Andrew Jackson, James Polk, James Buchanan, Andrew Johnson, James Garfield, William McKinley, Theodore Roosevelt, William Taft, Warren Harding, Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman, Lyndon Johnson, and Gerald Ford were all Masons, many symbols of which are found on American currency.
- The body of John Scott Harrison, father of President of Benjamin Harrison, was stolen by grave robbers and sold to Ohio Medical College in Cincinnati for use as a training cadaver. The body was eventually recovered and reburied.
- Gerald Rudolph Ford’s (1913-2006) name before he was adopted was Leslie Lynch King Jr.
- The youngest president was Teddy Roosevelt who became president at age 42 when McKinley (1843-1901) was assassinated. JFK was the youngest president elected at the age of 43.
- As a young man, Rutherford Birchard Hayes (1822-1893) fought lyssophobia, or the fear of going insane.
- Three presidents died on July 4th: Thomas Jefferson (1826), John Adams (1826), and James Monroe (1831). Calvin Coolidge is the only president to have been born on the Fourth (1872).
- George Herbert Walker Bush is the only President with four names.
- James Garfield could write Latin with one hand and Greek with the other hand simultaneously.
Roosevelt was also the first President to win a Nobel Peace Prize
- “Teddy Bears” were so named when Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt (1858-1919) refused to shoot a small bear cub one day. The incident was reported in the news, which inspired a toy manufacture to come out with the cute stuffed animals.
- The three best known Western names in China are Jesus Christ, Elvis Presley, and Richard Nixon.
- James Monroe (1758-1831) once chased his Secretary of State from the White House with a pair of fire tongs.
- When Mexican general Santa Ana demanded Zachary Taylor (“Old Rough and Ready,” 1784-1850) to surrender, Taylor said, “Tell him to go to hell.”
- Andrew Jackson (1767-1845) was reportedly involved in over 100 duels, most to defend the honor of his wife, Rachel. He had a bullet in his chest from an 1806 duel and another bullet in his arm from a barroom fight in 1813 with Missouri senator Thomas Hart Benton.
- Herbert Hoover was an orphan whose first job was picking bugs off potato plants, for which he was paid a dollar per hundred bugs. He also was a mine worker.
- Gerald Ford worked as a model during college. He also worked as a forest ranger at Yellowstone National Park directing traffic and feeding the bears.
- In 1945, Congress voted to commemorate the work FDR did for the March of Dimes by putting his profile on the coin.
- Abraham Lincoln was the first president to ever be photographed at his inauguration. In the photo, he is standing near John Wilkes Booth, his future assassin.
- Robert Lincoln is the only man in U.S. history known to have witnessed the assassinations of three different presidents, his father, James Garfield, and William McKinley. After he saw anarchist Leon Czolgosz shoot McKinley, he vowed he would never again appear in public with an incumbent president.
- An anarchist and lawyer named Charles Guiteau shot James Garfield in the back with a five-barrel, .44-caliber pistol called a British Bulldog in 1881. He said he chose the gun because it would look good on a display in a museum someday. No one currently knows where the gun is.
Taft was also the only U.S. president to also serve as chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court
- At 325 pounds, William Howard Taft (1857-1930), who was dubbed “Big Bill,” was the largest president in American history and often got stuck in the White House bathtub. His advisors had to sometimes pull him out.
- The first attempt to assassinate a president was on Andrew Jackson by Richard Lawrence, a house painter. Both of his guns misfired, however—an event that statisticians say could occur only once in 125,000 times. Andrew Jackson then chased Lawrence with his walking stick.
- James Garfield didn’t die from the gunshot wounds from his assassin’s gun; he died of blood poisoning after doctors and experts (including Alexander Graham Bell) tried to remove the bullet from his back with their dirty fingers and instruments, causing him to linger in pain for 80 days before dying. His assassin, Charles Guiteau, later claimed that he didn’t kill the president, the doctors had.
- Harding was obsessed with poker and once bet an entire set of priceless White House China and lost it.
- During his second run for presidency, Teddy Roosevelt was shot by a would-be assassin while giving a speech in Milwaukee. He continued to deliver his speech with the bullet in his chest.
- Woodrow Wilson (born Thomas Woodrow Wilson, 1856-1924) would paint his golf balls black during the winter so he could continue playing in the snow.
- Thomas Jefferson was convinced that if he soaked his feet in a bucket of cold water every day, he’d never get a cold.
- Teddy Roosevelt’s last request before dying was “Please put out the light.” Thomas Jefferson’s last words were “This is the Fourth?” John Adam’s dying words were “Thomas Jefferson still survives,” unaware that Jefferson had passed away a few hours earlier.
- George Washington didn’t have enough money to get to his own inauguration so he had to borrow $600 from his neighbor.
- Washington, Jackson, Van Buren, Taylor, Fillmore, Lincoln, A. Johnson, Cleveland, and Truman did not attend college. Harry Truman is the only twentieth-century president without a college degree.
- On his epitaph, which he composed, Jefferson mentions that he was the author of the Declaration of Independence and the Statuette of Virginia for Religious Freedom and that he was the father of the University of Virginia. He neglected to mention he had been the President of the United States.
No man who ever held the office of president would congratulate a friend on obtaining it.
– John Adams
- The capital of Liberia is called Monrovia after President James Monroe.
- In 1978, President Jimmy Carter, the first Southerner elected to the presidency following the Civil War, restored U.S. citizenship to Jefferson Davis, president of the Confederate States of America.
- Samuel Mudd, the doctor who treated the broken ankle of Lincoln assassin John Wilkes Booth, received a presidential pardon in 1869 from Ulysses S. Grant.
- No president has ever been an only child.
- Historians argue whether George Washington actually added the phrase ““so help me God” to the end of presidential oath. As far as can be determined, the first President who is known to have appended the phrase to the oath was Chester Alan Arthur. He added the phrase when he was sworn into office on September 22, 1881, after the death of President Garfield.
- John Adams’ campaign propaganda against Jefferson said that if Jefferson was elected, “murder, robbery, rape, adultery, and incest will be openly taught and practiced.” They later resolved their differences and wrote many letters to each other.
- It was so cold at Ulysses S. Grant’s presidential inauguration that the canaries that were supposed to sing at the inaugural ball froze to death.
- Calvin Coolidge liked to have his head rubbed with petroleum jelly while eating his breakfast in bed.
He believed rubbing the jelly on his head was good for his health
- Every so often, Calvin Coolidge would press all the buttons on the President’s desk and hide and watch his staff run in. He would then pop out from behind the door and say that he was just seeing if everyone was working.
- The first president to be born outside the original 13 States was Lincoln.
- Jimmy Carter was a wealthy peanut farmer in Plains, Georgia. A farming accident left one of his fingers permanently bent.
- William McKinley, Grover Cleveland, and James Madison are on the $500, $1000, and $5000 bill, respectively. The bills are still used as legal tender but are no longer being printed.
- Abraham Lincoln is the only president to receive a patent (# 6469). He was the first president to have a beard, at the request from a little girl named Gracie Bedell. The first child to die in the White House was Abraham Lincoln’s 12-year old son, Willie.
- Abraham Lincoln was the tallest president at 6′ 4.”
- Several of his descendants and a few historians claim that John Hanson (1721-1783) is actually the forgotten first president of the United States because he was the first president under the Articles of Confederation.
- William McKinley was the first to ride in a self-propelled vehicle—the electric ambulance that took him to the hospital after he had been shot.
- The presidential faces on Mount Rushmore are as high as a five-story building, about 60′ from chin to top of the head. The pupils of eyes are 4′ across and the mouths are 18′ wide. The carving took 14 years, from 1927-1941. The total cost was about $990,000. A total 450,000 tons of stone was removed.
- George Washington’s original ancestral name was de Wessyngton, from a certain William de Hertburn, a twelfth-century noble knight of the manor and village of Wessyngton who later changed his name to de Wessyngton (which is the Norman spelling of Washington).
- Woodrow Wilson was the first to show a motion picture in the White House: The Birth of Nation, which has become the most banned film in American history.
JFK died younger than any other U.S. president to date
- JFK was the first Roman Catholic to be president, the first Boy Scout to become president, and the first president to be born in the twentieth century.
- Warren Harding was the first president to own a radio, the first to make speech over the radio, and the first to ride to his inauguration in a car. When women got the right to vote, he was the first president they could elect.
- Gerald Ford was the first person to be both vice president and president without being elected by the people. He was appointed vice president when Spiro Agnew resigned and he succeeded to the presidency when Nixon resigned.
- Rutherford Hayes banished alcohol from the White House and held gospel sing-alongs every night in the White House.
- Andrew Johnson was the first president to be impeached. He was acquitted by one vote in the Senate. It would be another 131 years before another president, Bill Clinton, would be impeached.