Which president married his teacher? Who modeled for a magazine during college? Which president liked to skinny dip in the Potomac? To celebrate President’s Day, here are 45 fun and fascinating facts about our commanders-in-chief.
1. First president George Washington had teeth that were made, not from wood, but from hippopotamus ivory, bone, and human teeth.
2. When John Adams, the second president, died on July 4th, 1826, he said, “Thomas Jefferson survives.” He didn’t know that Jefferson had died hours earlier that same day—the 50th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence.
3. Thomas Jefferson, the third president, designed his own tombstone. The epitaph makes no mention of his presidency.
4. The fourth president, James Madison, was known as “the Father of the Constitution.” He was the last surviving original signer of the document.
5. James Monroe, the fifth president, is the only one to have a foreign capital named for him. Monrovia, Liberia, was a colony established in Africa in 1821 for freed black Americans.
6. John Quincy Adams, the sixth president, frequently skinny-dipped in the Potomac.
7. Andrew Jackson, the seventh president, killed a man in a duel over an argument that started when the man insulted Jackson’s wife, Rachel.
8. Martin Van Buren, the eighth president, was the first to be born a U.S. citizen. The presidents before him were considered British subjects.
9. William Henry Harrison, the ninth president, died only a month after taking office, making his the shortest presidency in history.
10. The 10th president, John Tyler, was born in 1790. Unbelievably, two of Tyler’s grandsons are still alive today.
11. James Knox Polk, the 11th president, was nicknamed “Young Hickory” after President Andrew Jackson, whose nickname was “Old Hickory.”
12. The 12th president, Zachary Taylor, died suddenly in office. His body was exhumed in 1991 to prove he hadn’t been poisoned with arsenic.
13 Have you ever had a crush on a teacher? You’re not alone. Millard Fillmore, the 13th president, married his teacher, Abigail Powers.
14. The 14th president, Franklin Pierce, was good friends with the writer Nathaniel Hawthorne, author of The Scarlet Letter.
15. James Buchanan, the 15th president, was the only president who never married.
16. In 1860, 11-year-old Grace Bedell wrote to Abraham Lincoln and advised him he had a better chance of winning the election if he grew “whiskers.” He followed her suggestion and became the 16th president.
17. Andrew Johnson, the 17th president, was the first to be impeached and then acquitted.
18. Broke and dying of cancer, 18th president Ulysses S. Grant wrote his memoirs. Mark Twain published them after Grant’s death, earning $450,000 for Grant’s family.
19. Rutherford B. Hayes, the 19th president, was the first to install a phone at the White House. He called Alexander Graham Bell first.
20. Multilingual and ambidextrous, James Garfield, the 20th president, could write Latin with one hand while writing in Greek with the other.
21. Chester Arthur, the 21st president, was a clothes horse, reportedly owning 80 pairs of pants.
22. Grover Cleveland, the 22nd president, was the only president to be married at the White House.
23. Electricity was installed at the White House during 23rd president Benjamin Harrison’s term, but the Harrisons wouldn’t operate the switches for fear of getting shocked.
24. Grover Cleveland, the 24th president (also the 22nd president) was the only president in American history to serve two non-consecutive terms.
25. Minutes after the 25th president, William McKinley, was shot by an assassin, he said, “Let no one hurt him,” speaking of his shooter. McKinley died eight days later.
26. Teddy bears are named for Theodore Roosevelt, the 26th president, because he once refused to shoot a bear his hunting companions tied to a tree.
27. It’s probably a myth that William Howard Taft, the 27th president, got stuck in a White House tub, although Taft did have a large bathtub installed at the White House to fit his size.
28. Woodrow Wilson, the 28th president, loved golf so much he painted golf balls black to play in the snow.
29. The 29th president, Warren Harding, was the first president to speak on the radio.
30. The 30th president, Calvin Coolidge, was the only president born on the Fourth of July.
31. Herbert Hoover, the 31st president, let his son Allan’s two pet alligators roam around the White House grounds.
32. Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the 32nd president, was related to 11 other presidents by either blood or marriage.
33. Harry S. Truman, the 33rd president, was expected to lose the 1948 election. A triumphant Truman was photographed holding the front page of the Chicago Daily Tribune with this headline: “Dewey Defeats Truman.”
34. Dwight D. Eisenhower, the 34th president, was the first to be picked up on the White House lawn by a helicopter.
35. John F. Kennedy, the 35th president, donated his presidential salary to charity.
36. Everyone in 36th president Lyndon B. Johnson’s family had the initials “LBJ.”
37. The 37th president, Richard Nixon, was the only president to resign.
38. Gerald Ford, the 38th president, modeled during college, appearing in Look magazine.
39. James Earl “Jimmy” Carter, the 39th president, was the first president to be born in a hospital.
40. Ronald Reagan, the 40th president, is credited with saving 77 lives during the seven summers he worked as a river lifeguard.
41. George H. W. Bush, the 41st president and a combat pilot for the Navy, was the last president to have served in World War II.
42. When William Jefferson “Bill” Clinton, the 42nd president, was a high school senior, he met and shook hands with President Kennedy.
43. George W. Bush, the 43rd president, was head cheerleader when he was in high school.
44. Barack Obama, the 44th president, won Grammys in the Spoken Word Album for two of his books.
45. Donald Trump, the 45th president, has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for his reality show The Apprentice.
Whose line is it?
Quiz your knowledge on some of the presidents’ most memorable quotes. Who said each of the following?
1. “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”
2. “Speak softly and carry a big stick; you will go far.”
3. “I have left orders to be awakened at any time in case of national emergency—even if I’m in a cabinet meeting.”
4. “This is America . . . a brilliant diversity spread like stars, like a thousand points of light in a broad and peaceful sky.”
5. “Ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country.”
6. “…that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth.”
7. “I hold it that a little rebellion now and then is a good thing, and as necessary in the political world as storms in the physical.”
8. “I would rather belong to a poor nation that was free than to a rich nation that had ceased to be in love with liberty.”
9. “Liberty, when it begins to take root, is a plant of rapid growth.”
10. “As a man is said to have a right to his property, he may be equally said to have a property in his rights.”
1. Franklin Delano Roosevelt
2. Theodore Roosevelt
3. Ronald Reagan
4. George H.W. Bush
5. John F. Kennedy
6. Abraham Lincoln
7. Thomas Jefferson
8. Woodrow Wilson
9. George Washington
10. James Madison