Over the course of America’s 239 years as a nation, 44 people have sat behind the big desk in the White House. While power corrupted some, others didn’t even live long enough to give their first State Of The Union address. Brush up on a bit of US history with these 44 fun facts!
1. George Washington, 1789-1797
He wasn’t born on February 22, 1732. More like February 11, 1731, but when the colonies switched from the Gregorian calendar to the Julian calendar, it was bumped back a year and eleven days.
2. John Adams, 1797-1801
Before the Bush presidential legacy, there was the Adams family. No, not The Addams Family… John Adams was the first to make being the president a family affair when his son was elected a short twenty-eight years after him.
3. Thomas Jefferson, 1801-1809
Despite the widely circulated myth that potatoes were poisonous, Jefferson – who mostly ate vegetables – frequently sliced and served them at Monticello. The result? Our third President introducing the french fry to mainstream America.
4. James Madison, 1809-1817
Though his face may not grace any of the spare change in your pocket, in 1928 Madison’s likeness was used for a very rare $5,000 bill. With a little more than three hundred still in existence, even a heavily circulated bill can go for upwards of $30,000 at auction.
5. James Monroe, 1817-1825
While he wasn’t born on the 4th of July, sadly Monroe was one of three founding fathers turned President to pass away on Independence Day.
6. John Quincy Adams, 1825-1829
Despite being the son of a former president, John Quincy received little support from the people of the United States. This lack of love more than likely spawned from the election being decided in the House Of Representatives and Henry Clay negotiating Adams into the White House. The election would later be labeled ‘The Corrupt Bargain.’
7. Andrew Jackson, 1829-1837
Though extremely popular with the people, Jackson wasn’t everyone’s favorite as he was the first President to almost be assassinated. In 1835, as he left a congressman’s memorial service, a man named Richard Lawrence fired a pistol at Jackson from only a few feet away. The gun misfired and Lawrence took out another pistol which also misfired. Later, both guns were found to be in perfect working order and the chances of them both misfiring was 125,000 to 1.
8. Martin Van Buren, 1837-1841
You may not know it, but we have the eighth President to thank for the phrase “It’s OK.” A native of Kinderhook, New York, Van Buren was nicknamed Old Kinderhook – which was later abbreviated to OK. When speaking about the president people would say, “He’s OK” which is the root for the “okay” we know and love today.
9. William Henry Harrison, 1841
While in office, Harrison didn’t have the opportunity to do much, but he did manage to make history as the first President to die in office. After giving his inaugural address in the rain, the newly minted commander in chief unfortunately caught pneumonia and passed away a mere 30 days later.
10. John Tyler, 1841-1845
Since no president had died while serving, after Harrison’s death, the country was a little confused about what to do next. But before anyone could make any decisions, Tyler arranged to be sworn in and gave an inaugural address. He essentially branded himself as the new man in charge and created the line of presidential succession as we know it.
11. James K. Polk, 1845-1849
There was a time in the 11th president’s life when his health wasn’t so great, and it was discovered to have been caused by bladder stones that were too big to pass. So, hopped up on nothing but adrenaline and brandy, Polk was opened up and had the stones removed one by one – while he was still conscious.
12. Zachary Taylor, 1849-1850
Instead of going to college, Taylor became an officer in the Army and subsequently never cast a vote until he was in his sixties. Thanks to his forever changing address, he could never establish a place of residence until after he retired.
13. Millard Fillmore, 1850-1853
After taking the place of Zachary Taylor, who died in office, Fillmore spent the entirety of his term without a Vice President. As the Constitution hadn’t been written with the death of a President in mind, there was no procedure to replace the Vice President until the ratification of the 25th Amendment in 1967.
14. Franklin Pierce, 1853-1857
America’s fourteenth President was notorious for being one of the worst, and he only solidified that notion after being the first and only President to get a DUI. During his presidency, Pierce was arrested for running over a woman with his horse, but was later released due to lack of evidence.
15. James Buchanan, 1857-1861
After his fiancée Ann Caroline Coleman broke off their engagement amid rumors of Buchanan’s wandering heart, she died a short time later, leaving her family to blame Buchanan for her death. Buchanan promised never to marry and went on to become the fifteenth President of the United States, and the first “bachelor president.”
16. Abraham Lincoln, 1861-1865
Though there may be a room in the White House called the “Lincoln bedroom,” Abraham Lincoln never slept there. When he called the White House home, that room was used as his personal office where he met with important people and signed important documents – most notably, the Emancipation Proclamation.
17. Andrew Johnson, 1865-1869
He may not have meant to be the center of attention at Abraham Lincoln’s inauguration, but Johnson certainly made history books when he showed up drunk. He slurred his way through his oath of office of just plain gave up on attempting to swear in new senators thanks to all the whiskey he was chugging to treat “typhoid.”
18. Ulysses S Grant, 1869-1877
It was no secret that Grant loved cigars, sometimes chewing and smoking up to ten a day. After the war, the President received over 20,000 cigars as gifts. There’s no concrete evidence, but it’s assumed that all those cigars contributed to the throat cancer that would later kill him.
19. Rutherford B Hayes, 1877-1881
Unlike some Presidents who were elected four times, Hayes was more of a one and done type of guy. He even went as far as proposing that the presidency be limited to one, six-year term. Though his idea was never made into law, Hayes followed through on his promise and didn’t seek re-election in 1880.
20. James A Garfield, 1881
Of our seven left-handed Presidents, Garfield was the first. As if that didn’t make him unique enough, he was also the ambidextrous leader. And to top it all off, he could write in Greek with one hand and Latin with the other – at the same time! Show off.
21. Chester A Arthur, 1881-1885
Not unlike our current President, Chester A Arthur was also suspected of being ineligible for the presidency on the grounds that he wasn’t born in the US. Though his father lived in Ireland and Canada, and his family moved all over the United States when he was a child, Arthur was actually born in Vermont.
22. Grover Cleveland, 1885-1889
Grover Cleveland’s real name was actually Stephen Cleveland. He changed it to Grover when he was an adult, but not before earning the nickname “Big Steve.” At 250 lbs, Cleveland weighs in at our second heaviest President. Blame it on the beer and cigars.
23. Benjamin Harrison, 1889-1893
The first to use electricity in the White House, though neither he nor his wife touched any of the switches for fear of being electrocuted, so they often went to bed with the lights on.
24. Grover Cleveland, 1893-1897
The first President to serve two non-consecutive terms in the White House. Cleveland would’ve won the election and served his second term immediately, but he lost the electoral college vote thanks to some big spending Republicans. In 1892, Cleveland ran against Harrison again and took the presidency with 277 electoral college votes.
25. William McKinley, 1897-1901
McKinley loved carnations and always wore them as a good luck charm, but on September 6, 1901, as he greeted a line of people, the President gave his lucky carnation to a small girl only to be shot by an assassin a few moments later.
26. Theodore Roosevelt, 1901-1909
While campaigning in Milwaukee, Roosevelt was shot by a saloon-keeper. The bullet travelled through his jacket pocket, a steel eyeglass case, and a copy of his 50 page speech (which was folded in half) before lodging itself in his chest. The President refused medical treatment and went on to give a 90-minute speech, claiming, “it takes more than that to kill a Bull Moose.”
27. William Howard Taft, 1909-1913
When he passed, William Taft was the first and only President to be buried at Arlington National Cemetery. He would later be joined by John F. Kennedy after his assassination in 1963.
28. Woodrow Wilson, 1913-1921
As a child, Wilson suffered from dyslexia, which made him a bit of a slow learner when he was in school. But that didn’t stop him from going to Princeton to pursue a law career. Later, he became the president of Princeton University before heading off into politics.
29. Warren G Harding, 1921-1923
We have our 29th President to thank for the founding fathers. No, not literally… But Harding is credited with coining the term “founding fathers” in 1916.
30. Calvin Coolidge, 1923-1929
In 1927, Coolidge went on vacation to South Dakota to go fishing and he had so much success, he decided to stay for three months. Unbeknownst to Coolidge, South Dakota officials are chicken wiring the lake and restocking the fish every night to make sure that he always walked away a winner. The truth? South Dakota needed Coolidge to fall in love with their state so he could fund their new tourist attraction: Mount Rushmore.
31. Herbert Hoover, 1929-1933
When you’re the President, you’re never truly alone and to keep some conversations private, Hoover often spoke to his wife in Mandarin Chinese.
32. Franklin D Roosevelt, 1933-1945
After the attack on Pearl Harbor, FDR needed to address both houses of Congress, but the secret service was a bit nervous about an attack on the President. They had 24 hours and about $10,000 to come up with an armored vehicle for the president to ride in. This panic led to FDR taking a ride in an armored 1928, 341A Cadillac Town Sedan that had been seized from Al Capone by the US Treasury Department.
33. Harry S. Truman, 1945-1953
After attempting and failing to get into West Point because of his poor vision, Truman turned to the National Guard. He was only accepted because he’d hid his eye problems by memorizing the eye chart.
34. Dwight D. Eisenhower 1953-1961
As a President who did make it into West Point, Eisenhower played football and was a junior varsity cheerleader. He counts never making West Point’s baseball team as one of his “greatest disappointments.”
35. John F Kennedy, 1961-1963
As the youngest President elected to office, JFK was the first President to be born in the 20th century.
36. Lyndon B Johnson, 1963-1969
LBJ was one of only four people to serve in each of the four elected offices; Representative, a Senator, a Vice President, and then President.
37. Richard M Nixon, 1969-1974
As the first President to resign from office, Nixon apparently regretted going into politics to begin with with. He’s quoted as saying, “If I had my life to live over again, I’d like to have ended up a sportswriter.”
38. Gerald R Ford, 1974-1977
Some of our Presidents held jobs that you wouldn’t expect of a future leader, and Ford is no exception. Before he was commander in chief, Gerald Ford was fashion a model while in college and even appeared on the cover of Cosmopolitan magazine.
39. James Carter, Jr., 1977-1981
Carter is the only President to have received a Nobel Prize after leaving office. In 2002, Carter was awarded the peace prize for campaigning for human right, working for social welfare, and just being an all around good guy.
40. Ronald Reagan, 1981-1989
Reagan started out as a sports announcer for Hawkeye football in Iowa for $10 a game before getting a seven year deal with Warner Bros. as an actor in 1937.
41. George H. W. Bush, 1989-1993
The third President, along with Eisenhower and Reagan, to receive an honorary knighthood, which was bestowed upon him in 1993 by Queen Elizabeth II.
42. William Clinton, 1993-2001
It’s no secret that Bill Clinton is a lady killer, and up until this point, you might’ve thought it was only that Arkansas charm. Well it turns out that Clinton’s face is so symmetrical, he ranks with male models on the “attractiveness scale.”
43. George W. Bush, 2001-2009
During his senior year at Phillips Academy, Bush was the head cheerleader, and he’d carry his school spirit all the way to Yale where he became a part of their cheer team too.
44. Barack Obama 2009 – 2017
Not the only teacher turned president on our list, but Obama taught constitutional law at the University of Chicago for 12 years, eight of which he spent as a senator. Talk about busy!