44 Things You Did Not Know About the Presidency

By Dominic J Larsen, Clarion Staff

As Americans, we often take for granted all of the history that comes with the title President of the United States of America. The average citizen could probably reiterate the names of a few presidents, most likely the ones found on our currency, the administrations we have lived through, and the few names we can dredge up from high school memories.  Few would be able to tell you that George W. Bush was the head cheerleader in college, or that Ulysses S. Grant was given a speeding ticket rushing on his way back to the White House.

With a new administration settling into the nation’s capital and the passing of many presidential holidays ­­ here are 44 facts that you never knew about the men who have lead our great nation.

  1. George Washington did not have enough money to get to his own inauguration so he had to borrow $600 from his neighbor.
  2. In 1770, John Adams defended British soldiers accused of killing five colonists, in an incident that would become known as the Boston Massacre. Even though he disagreed with British policies, he wanted to ensure the British soldiers a fair trial.
  3. Thomas Jefferson, though an exceptional writer and the father of the Declaration of Independence, was scared to death of public speaking. He often mumbled and slurred his words. He even mailed his State of the Union address to Congress, rather than presenting it himself.
  4. James Madison was the shortest president of the United States, standing at only 5’4”.
  5. The capital of Liberia was named Monrovia after President James Monroe.
  6.  John Quincy Adams enjoyed skinny dipping in the Potomac River.
  7.  Andrew Jackson was reportedly involved in over one hundred duels, most of which were started to defend his wife’s honor. In two separate duels, he was hit and neither bullets were removed. One of the bullets remained in his chest, while the other was in his arm.
  8.  After serving as president, Martin Van Buren wrote his autobiography and he did not mention his wife a single time.
  9.  William Henry Harrison holds the record for the longest inauguration speech in history at one hour and forty 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.
  10.  John Tyler had more children than any other president. He had seven children with his first wife, and eight with his second wife. He was seventy when his last child was born.
  11.  James K. Polk only started his schooling at the age of eighteen, due to the fact that he was plagued with gallstones throughout his childhood.
  12.  In 1848, the Whig Party nominated  Zachary Taylor to be president without his knowledge or presence at the nominating convention. They sent him notification of the nomination without postage paid so he had to pay for the letter that told him that he was their nominee. He refused to pay the postage and did not find out about the nomination for weeks.
  13.  Millard Fillmore married Abigail Powers, his teacher during his childhood. Surprisingly, she was only two years older than him.
  14.  Franklin Pierce suffered from crippling alcoholism throughout his life, even during his time as President.
  15.  President James Buchanan quietly bought slaves in Washington, D.C., and then set them free in Pennsylvania.
  16.  Abraham Lincoln 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.
  17.  Andrew Johnson is the only tailor ever to be president and would wear only the suits that he made himself.
  18.  Ulysses S. Grant smoked at least 20 cigars a day. Shortly after the end of the Civil War, he received thousands of cigars to thank him for his service. He later died of throat cancer.
  19.  Rutherford Hayes banned alcohol from the White House and held gospel sing-alongs every night in the White House.
  20.   James Garfield could write Latin with one hand and Greek with the other hand simultaneously.
  21.  Chester A. Arthur held a yard sale on the front lawn of the White House to raise money for new furniture, instead of asking for the money.
  22.  During Grover Cleveland’s bid for the presidency, many of his opponents accused him with having a child out of wedlock with a woman named Maria Halpin. He admitted to having an affair with the woman, but there was no way to truly uncover the paternity of the young child as Miss Halpin was very carefree with her relationships. Despite this, he provided economic support and care for the boy throughout his entire life.
  23.  Benjamin Harrison was the grandson of the ninth president, William Henry Harrison.
  24.  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.
  25.  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. The bullet did not continue any further into his chest, because his reading glasses, in his pocket, slowed its entrance.
  26.  Coming in at a whopping 325 pounds, William Howard Taft was the largest president in American history and often got stuck in the White House bathtub. White House staff occasionally had to help him out.
  27.  Thomas Woodrow Wilson would paint his golf balls black during the winter so he could continue playing in the snow.
  28.  Warren G. Harding had an affair with Nan Britton and would often do so in a White House closet. On one occasion, Secret Service agents had to stop his wife from beating down the closet door.
  29.  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.
  30.  Hoover entered Stanford University in 1891 after failing all the entrance exams, except mathematics.
  31.  In 1945, Congress voted to commemorate the work FDR did for the March of Dimes by putting his face on the coin.
  32.  The “S” in Harry S Truman doesn’t stand for anything; therefore, there is no period after his middle initial.
  33.  Dwight D. Eisenhower was the only president to serve in both WWI and WWII.
  34.  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.
  35.  Lyndon B. Johnson had an alarm system installed, that would ring inside the Oval office and warn him that his wife was approaching. The system was installed, so he could hid his mistresses.
  36.  Richard Milhous Nixon was the first president to visit all 50 states.
  37.  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.
  38.  James Earl “Jimmy” Carter was the first president to be born in a hospital.
  39.  Ronald Reagan won the “Most Nearly Perfect Male Figure” Award from the University of California in 1940.
  40.  After President Bush Sr. vomited on the Japanese Prime Minister, a new word entered the Japanese language. Bushu-suru literally means “to do the Bush thing” or “to publicly vomit”.
  41.  During high school, Bill Clinton played the saxophone in a jazz trio called “Three Blind Mice.”
  42.  George W. Bush had both the lowest and highest approval ratings in United States history. After the September 11, 2001 attacks, Bush’s approval rocketed to 90 %, while in comparison just before the 2008 elections, his approval rating was at 25 %.
  43.  While growing up in Indonesia, Barack Obama owned a pet ape named “Tata”.
  44.  Donald Trump was seventy years, seven months, and seven days old on his first full day in office.



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