In honor of Presidents’ Day, here are some fun facts about the 44 men who served as the 45 Presidents of the United States. Click on the President’s name for more fun facts on this site about that President.
1. George Washington — Plagued with poor dental health for his entire life, Washington lost all of his teeth by the age of 57. Thereafter, he wore false teeth made of whale bone, ivory, metal, and teeth of other humans. Contrary to popular myth, he never had teeth made of wood.
2. John Adams — Adams was a notoriously vain man. While he was serving in a diplomatic assignment in France, he was dazzled by compliments given to him, such as one gentleman who referred to him as “The Washington of negotiation.” Adams dutifully recorded these compliments in his diary. When he sent a report of his activity back to Philadelphia, it appears that he accidentally included pages from his diary that included these compliments. Members of Congress read his diary entries into the record for the purpose of mocking his vanity.
3. Thomas Jefferson — In addition to being the father of the Declaration of Independence, Jefferson earned immortality by introducing or popularizing ice cream, macaroni and cheese, french fries, champagne, and parmesan cheese in the United States.
4. James Madison — Madison had two vice presidents — George Clinton and Elbridge Gerry. Both of them died in office.
5. James Monroe — He was the third President to die on the Fourth of July. John Adams and Thomas Jefferson both died on that date in 1826, the fiftieth anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Monroe followed suit five years later, in 1831.
6. John Quincy Adams — John Quincy Adams was the only President to serve in the House of Representatives after leaving the Presidency.
7. Andrew Jackson — Andrew Jackson may have gained a reputation as a fighter against Native Americans, but few people know that he adopted a 2-year-old Native American boy, Lyncoya, who was found on the battlefield with his dead mother. Jackson cared for the boy as his son until the boy’s death at the age of 17.
8. Martin Van Buren — Martin Van Buren was the first President to be born after the independence of the United States.
9. William Henry Harrison — William Henry Harrison could not get permission to marry the woman he loved. Consequently, the two of them eloped and were married in secret. They became the only occupants of the White House who had a grandchild (Benjamin Harrison) become President.
10. John Tyler — Tyler had fifteen children — more than any other President. He was 63 years old when his son Lyon Tyler was born. Lyon, in turn, married a woman much younger than him, and he was 75 years old at the time his son, Harrison Tyler was born in 1928. Even though 175 years have passed since Tyler was in office, his grandson, Harrison, is still alive.
11. James K. Polk — Polk had major surgery as a child to remove urinary stones. The surgery was conducted without anesthesia. He survived the shortest amount of time after leaving office, dying from cholera a scant three months after leaving the White House.
12. Zachary Taylor — Zachary Taylor almost missed out on the Presidency because of insufficient postage. The letter informing him that he had received the nomination of the Whig Party was not delivered to his house, because there wasn’t enough postage on the envelope. Only after party leaders contacted him, inquiring about why they had not received a reply, was it discovered that the letter was sitting in the Dead Letter Office.
13. Millard Fillmore — Raised in a home where there were only three books, Fillmore became an ardent lover of books. He and his wife created the first permanent White House Library. When a fire broke out in the Library of Congress in 1851, Fillmore dropped everything and ran to the scene to personally help out in saving the books.
14. Franklin Pierce — Pierce was involved in an embarrassing situation while in office when he drank too much and drove a carriage over an elderly woman.
15. James Buchanan — Buchanan earned the nickname “Ten Cent Jimmy” after he famously declared that ten cents per day was an adequate wage for laborers.
16. Abraham Lincoln — Some scholars have suggested that Lincoln suffered from Marfan Syndrome and that he would not have survived a full second term of office, even if he had not been assassinated.
17. Andrew Johnson — Andrew Johnson did not learn how to read or write until he was 17 years old; he was taught by the woman who would become his wife. A tailor by training, he continued to sew his own clothes, even while President. He was the only President to serve in the Senate after leaving office.
18. Ulysses S. Grant — When he was diagnosed with the cancer that would ultimately take his life, Grant was concerned that his wife would be impoverished without him. He enlisted the assistance of Mark Twain to help him write his memoirs and finished the book just days before his life ended.
19. Rutherford B. Hayes — Rutherford B. Hayes narrowly won one of the closest elections in history. Having lost the popular vote by 250,000, he prevailed in the Electoral College. The election remained disputed, however, until March 2, 1876 — just two days before the new President was to begin his term of office. Inauguration Day fell on a Sunday that year, and according to tradition, everyone expected the President-elect to wait until the following day to be sworn in. Because of the bitter feelings about the outcome of the election, however, President Grant invited Hayes to be sworn in during a private ceremony on March 3, thus giving the USA two presidents for a period of 24 hours.
20. James Garfield — James Garfield could write simultaneously in Latin with one hand and Greek with the other.
21. Chester A. Arthur — Chester Alan Arthur pronounced his middle name with the emphasis on the second syllable — al-AN.
22. Grover Cleveland — While serving as sheriff of Erie County, New York, Cleveland was the executioner in two hangings. He had the opportunity to designate someone else to pull the lever, but he declined, saying that it was what he had been elected to do.
23. Benjamin Harrison — Electric lights were installed in the White House under Harrison’s watch. This did not mean that he liked them. The Harrison family was so frightened of being electrocuted that they had the White House staff turn the lights on and off.
24. Grover Cleveland — As the only man to serve two non-consecutive terms as President, Cleveland also had the distinction of being the first President to marry in the White House. John Tyler married his second wife while he was President, but the ceremony did not take place in the White House.
25. William McKinley — William McKinley was the first President to ride in an automobile.
26. Theodore Roosevelt — Although he consented to the use of his name for the Teddy Bear, he personally loathed the name Teddy. To friends and family, he was always Theodore.
27. William Howard Taft — William Howard Taft was the only President to serve on the Supreme Court. He was appointed Chief Justice of the United States by President Warren Harding.
28. Woodrow Wilson — Woodrow Wilson is buried at the Washington National Cathedral, making him the only President to be buried within the city of Washington, DC. He is also the only President to have earned a Ph.D., even though he did not learn how to read until he was 11 years old.
29. Warren G. Harding — With size 19 shoes, Warren Harding had the largest feet of any President.
30. Calvin Coolidge — When fellow Amherst alumni were planning a reunion, they invited their most famous classmate, Calvin Coolidge, to send greetings to be read at the event. Knowing he was famously tight with his money, they made it known that they would pay the costs for the telegram, so the President should feel free to use as many words as he wished in his message of greetings. When the telegram arrived during the reunion, the classmates all gathered in hushed anticipation to hear what their famous fellow alumnus had to say to them. The speaker read the telegram: “Greetings. Calvin Coolidge.”
31. Herbert Hoover — Herbert Hoover was independently wealthy and did not take a salary while he was President. He did not need any help in his retirement, either. He lobbied for the establishment of a Presidential pension, however, and agreed to accept it, because the only other living former President, Harry Truman, was in desperate need of financial assistance; Hoover did not want to embarrass his fellow former President by declining the payments himself.
32. Franklin D. Roosevelt — Although history will never be able to forget the name “Franklin Delano Roosevelt,” the man who would bear that name went without a name for the first seven weeks of his life.
33. Harry Truman — Harry Truman was the last President to not have a college education.
34. Dwight D. Eisenhower — As Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces in Europe during World War II and as President, Eisenhower was used to having people do things for him. It wasn’t until he moved into his home in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, that the President had his first experience of attempting to use a rotary phone. Up until that point, he just had to pick up the phone and someone would answer and carry out the President’s instructions. When he tried that with the rotary phone, and he heard no voice on the other end, he repeatedly pushed the receiver button, hung up and picked up the phone again, and finally, after becoming angry, looked to a Secret Service agent to tell him how to work the “newfangled telephone.”
35. John F. Kennedy — Kennedy was a big fan of James Bond. Prior to his election, Kennedy invited Bond’s creator, Ian Fleming, to his home. He asked Fleming how 007 would take out Cuban dictator Fidel Castro. Fleming laid out three possible scenarios. When he became President, Kennedy instructed the CIA to look into each of those three options.
36. Lyndon Johnson — While in the the Naval Reserves, Johnson went on one bombing mission in the South Pacific. He boarded a plane called The Wabash Cannonball. Once aboard, he realized he needed to use the restroom, so he got off. Upon his return, he got on a different plane, instead. The Wabash Cannonball crashed that day, killing everyone on board.
37. Richard Nixon — Richard Nixon and Franklin D. Roosevelt are the only two people to appear on a national Presidential ballot five times. FDR was the Democratic nominee for Vice President in 1920, and then appeared on the ballot for President in 1932, 1936, 1940, and 1944. Richard Nixon was on the ballot as Dwight Eisenhower’s Vice President in 1952 and 1956. He ran unsuccessfully for President in 1960, and he was on the ballot as President in 1968 and 1972.
38. Gerald Ford — Gerald Ford was born with the name Leslie Lynch King, Jr. After his parents divorced, his mother married a man named Gerald Rudolff Ford. He did not know until he was about 12 years old that Ford was not his biological father. His only significant interaction with his biological father occurred when he was 17 years old, and his biological father visited him, handed him $25, and disappeared. Five years later, Leslie Lynch King, Jr. legally changed his name to Gerald R. Ford.
39. Jimmy Carter — Jimmy Carter was the first President to be born in a hospital. He was also the first President to graduate from the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis, Maryland.
40. Ronald Reagan — Ronald Reagan broke “Tecumsah’s Curse.” Every President since William Henry Harrison who was elected or re-elected in years evenly divisible by 20 died in office. William Henry Harrison, who fought against Chief Tecumsah, for whom the curse is named, was elected in 1840 and died a month after taking office. Abraham Lincoln, elected in 1860, was assassinated in 1865. James Garfield, elected in 1880, was assassinated the next year. William McKinley, re-elected in 1900, was assassinated the next year. Warren G. Harding, elected in 1920, died in 1923. Franklin D. Roosevelt, re-elected in 1940, died in 1945. John F. Kennedy, elected in 1960, was assassinated in 1963. Ronald Reagan was elected in 1980, and for a frightening time, it looked like Tecumsah’s Curse would continue when he was shot in 1981. The Gipper survived the attempt, however, and when he walked out of the White House, alive and healthy, on January 20, 1989, that was the last anyone gave any credence to Tecumsah’s Curse.
41. George H.W. Bush — In 1988 George H.W. Bush became the first sitting Vice President since Martin Van Buren in 1836 to win a presidential election. He also joined John Adams and became the second President to be the father of a subsequent President.
42. Bill Clinton — Like Gerald Ford, Bill Clinton was born with a different name than the one history remembers. He was born as William Jefferson Blythe III. His biological father died three months before the future President’s birth. The man who would become the 42nd President took the name of his stepfather when he was a teenager.
43. George W. Bush — George W. Bush has the distinction of claiming both the highest and lowest approval ratings of any President. Following the attacks of September 11, 2001, his approval rating was at 90%. Just before the 2008 elections, his approval rating was at 25%.
44. Barack Obama — One of Obama’s jobs as a teenager was at a Baskin-Robbins ice cream shop. Consequently, he cannot stand the taste of ice cream.
45. Donald Trump — Donald Trump easily tops the chart of the richest President, with an estimated worth in excess of $3 billion. When adjusted for inflation, the next wealthiest Presidents include George Washington, at $525 million; Thomas Jefferson, at $212 million (although he died bankrupt); and John Kennedy at $124 million.