Unusual Facts about US Presidents

Even though many people know the basics of U.S. presidents, like when they served and their political party affiliation, there are a lot of fun facts that most people don’t know about our past presidents.

For instance, did you know that President James Buchanan was the only President never to marry?

Or how about former President William Henry Harrison, who died on his 32nd day in office from pneumonia after delivering the longest inauguration speech ever at two hours long?

The following list goes over each president with strange facts!

1. George Washington

Washington’s teeth were made out of gold, lead, and elephant, and donkey teeth.

As if that wasn’t weird enough, in his will, he also requested that his slaves be freed after both he and his wife died. However, this part of the will was struck down by Mount Vernon’s executor, who deemed freeing the slaves as too risky because of their “depraved habits in the arts of running away.”

2. John Adams

Adams and Thomas Jefferson died on the same day, July 4, 1826— exactly fifty years after signing the Declaration of Independence.

President James Monroe, who was elected during this 50th anniversary, gave both men a state funeral.

3. Thomas Jefferson

Jefferson was brilliant and could speak five languages: Greek, Latin, French, Italian, and Spanish. Also, he never bought a new book. He borrowed them from friends or asked the government to purchase books for him because he didn’t want to spend his own money.

However, when he died in 1826, his estate was $107,000 in debt (about 2 million dollars today).

4. James Madison

When James Madison was Secretary of State, he bought the Louisiana territory for just 3 cents per acre! Back then, it was just a big piece of land on the other side of the Mississippi River.

President Jefferson sent Lewis and Clark to explore this new territory, and they set off with their expedition on May 14, 1804.

5. James Monroe

Monroe’s inauguration was the first ever to be held on the East Portico of the Capitol Building. He was also the last President to wear traditional Revolutionary-style clothing.

6. John Quincy Adams

A deranged house painter tried to shoot and kill President Adams in the Capitol Building’s House Chamber during his presidency. To avoid this man who had a knife with him, Adams grabbed a Louisa Smith from Ohio and used her as a human shield until help arrived!

7. Andrew Jackson

Jackson’s mother and father died before he was born (he never even knew his Dad, and his Mom passed away shortly after giving birth to him).

He lived with a tailor and served as an apprentice to a saddle maker. Later in life, Jackson became the first president whose parents were both born outside of the British Isles.

8. Martin Van Buren

Van Buren’s nickname was “Old Kinderhook” because he hailed from Kinderhook, New York. This nickname is interesting because the symbol of the Democratic Party today is a donkey (which they call an ass).

Van Buren’s father had a farm and often used the phrase “docile as an old jackass” to describe stubborn animals, making Van Buren’s political affiliation “Old Kinderhook = Donkey.”

9. William Henry Harrison

William Henry Harrison was the first president to have his photo taken while in office. It was also the shortest presidency in U.S history— he died of pneumonia on April 4, April 4, 1841!

His last words were,

“I regret nothing, but am sorry I am about to leave my friends.”

10. John Tyler

Tyler was the first president to assume office due to his predecessor’s death and the first vice president not to succeed as President. Instead, he served as a caretaker until a new President could be elected.

11. James K. Polk

He was the first-ever “dark horse” candidate, meaning that his campaign started to gain momentum after other candidates had already been chosen.

He also served as the only U.S president who graduated from college (the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill).

12. Zachary Taylor

Even though he never drank alcohol, Taylor had a reputation of being a war hero. He was called “Old Rough and Ready” for his lackadaisical appearance and often fought without formal training or battle plan!

13. Millard Fillmore

Fillmore was the first president to take his oath of office using a bible from the Library of Congress. He was also the last U.S President who had been an employee of Andrew Jackson, as he worked as Jackson’s secretary during his days as a Senator and then general.

Fillmore is the only President who has English ancestry on both sides of his family. His wife had German origin on both sides of her family.

14. Franklin Pierce

Before becoming President, Pierce served in the Mexican-American War under General Zachary Taylor (he was even at the Battle of Buena Vista). He also fought in the Battle of Contreras and the Battle of Churubusco.

However, because he suffered from depression after these battles, he resigned from the military afterward.

15. James Buchanan

Many say that James Buchanan was the worst President in American history because he did nothing while the country fell apart!

He didn’t run for re-election in 1860 and retired to his home state of Pennsylvania.

16. Abraham Lincoln

Lincoln was called “Honest Abe” because he was a sincere man, and also because “Lincoln Steffens” is a famous journalist whose last name translates to “Honest Abe.”

However, the phrase came from a debate during Lincoln’s run for re-election against McClellan (McClellan said he was the most capable of handling civil matters while Abraham was the best for military affairs, so Lincoln turned this argument around and said, “Look at my track record. I’m an honest Abe.”).

17. Andrew Johnson

Johnson is the only U.S president who was an utterly home-schooled student until he enrolled in a small school when he was 17 years old. He still couldn’t read until he was 21!

18. Ulysses S. Grant

Grant’s wife, Julia, raised their four boys by herself after her alcoholic husband left her alone to drink with his friends for long periods.

She then taught them how to read before they started school and even took them to the White House when they were older to see what their father did for a living.

19. Rutherford B. Hayes

Hayes was one of the most stubborn and determined presidents to ever live in the White House, so it only makes sense that “Old See-Saw” would be his nickname!

He had served in the military during the Civil War and fought in the Battle of South Mountain and Antietam!

He was the only President to be wounded in battle during the Civil War, as he got a bullet lodged into his chest after fighting at South Mountain.

20. James A. Garfield

Garfield had one of the shortest tenures as President because he was shot just four months after taking office.

He also had an eventful life before being President, as he was orphaned at age 17 after both of his parents died from the disease within the same year.

21. Chester A. Arthur

During his campaign for the presidency, Arthur fought hard to prove that he wasn’t just taking votes away from opponents because they were Irish Catholics.

22. Grover Cleveland

Before becoming the 22nd and 24th President of the United States, Cleveland served as an apprentice at a law firm where he once threw an inkstand at a fellow worker (he missed).

He was also one of the few presidents to get married at the White House.

23. Benjamin Harrison

Harrison fought in the Mexican-American War and captured Pancho Villa’s brother while leading a group of soldiers in Mexico!

24. Grover Cleveland (Again)

Cleveland is one of only two U.S Presidents married in the White House (see #22 for more info).

He also strongly disliked Christmas, as he refused to let his family decorate the Whitehouse during the holidays and even went as far as not having trees or lights because his wife passed away on December 24.

25. William McKinley

McKinley had a very interesting nickname, “Dollar Bill,” however, this wasn’t because of his monetary policies but rather because he was a millionaire when he became President. He was shot twice during his presidency, and the second bullet is still lodged in his chest today!

26. Theodore Roosevelt

Teddy fought and won a New York State Assembly seat (he was also the youngest person ever to be elected in Albany at the time!) before becoming the 26th President of the United States.

He had served as an Assistant Secretary of the Navy after graduating from Harvard Law School but resigned in 1897.

27. William Howard Taft

Taft was the heaviest President to ever live in the White House (he weighed over 300 lbs); however, this didn’t stop him from climbing up and down the stairs because he refused to use the elevator.

He also had a fall while President, which left him with a fractured or dislocated jaw.

28. Woodrow Wilson

Wilson had been a political science and history professor at multiple colleges before becoming the 28th President of the United States.

He was the first president ever to fly while in office when he traveled 100 miles from Washington D.C to New York City!

29. Warren G. Harding

Harding was very generous, so much so that he gave away most of his clothing to poor people who needed them for various reasons. He only owned one suit when he was President!

30. Calvin Coolidge

Coolidge wasn’t into being social but rather liked being alone and didn’t have many friends, to begin with.

He also kept a very tight watch on the White House expenses (he once paid the White House gardener out of his pocket for some extra work).

31. Herbert Hoover

Hoover had a lot of siblings (including one who was 6’8). However, he wasn’t athletic and failed to make the Stanford University baseball team when he tried out for it!

Later in life, he would become the 31st President of the United States.

32. Franklin D. Roosevelt

FDR was the only President who got elected four times, but he also contracted Polio in 1921 at age 39, leaving him paralyzed from the waist down for good.

He hid this fact for many years until it was discovered during a media conference!

33. Harry S. Truman

Truman was very proud of his middle name, “S.” That meant that he came from the same family as President Andrew Jackson (his full name was Andrew Johnson).

After graduating high school, he fought in World War I and was on board a ship named the U.S.S Hugh Lyle when a German torpedo struck it!

Truman survived, but the other 299 men who were on board didn’t.

34. Dwight D. Eisenhower

Ike had numerous pets while living in the White House, including cats, dogs, raccoons, parakeets, and bear cubs! He also starred in a few movies, including “War of Worlds” and “The Longest Day.”

35. John F. Kennedy

JFK was one of our youngest Presidents to live in the White House. He was just 43 when he got elected (President Obama is the other). While living in D.C, he also had many pets, including dogs, ponies, monkeys, and birds!

36. Lyndon B. Johnson

LBJ was recently voted as having the worst personality of all of our American Presidents; he also loved showing off his boots every chance he got! He is said to have done this even when meeting with world leaders and heads of state!

37. Richard Nixon

Nixon suffered from motion sickness just like George Washington. Still, he also suffered from hay fever, so he would often be seen carrying around a box of Kleenex even during important meetings!

38. Gerald Ford

Ford was the second shortest President to live in the White House (John Quincy Adams was more straightforward). He only reached 5′ 9″ inches tall. He wasn’t athletic at all either, but he did have the honor of being on two NFL championship teams back in his high school days!

39. Jimmy Carter

Carter was an avid fisherman and has caught over 300 different types of fish during his presidency; he was even buried with a few of them (including a largemouth bass) when he died.

40. Ronald Reagan

Reagan was the oldest person to become President of the United States. He was 69 years old when elected in 1981. George H.W Bush is the only other President who has been that age while living in the White House. He is also one of our most famous presidents to date!

41. George H.W. Bush

Bush is one of only two presidents to have been the son of a president. He is also the only President who was once the head of a major corporation (The United States Football League).

He may be more popular now as an older man, but that wasn’t always the case. In fact, at the 1988 Republican National Convention, he was booed after he gave his nomination speech!

42. Bill Clinton

Clinton freely admitted to smoking marijuana while in college, but that didn’t stop him from being elected the 42nd President of the United States.

He went on to get impeached by Congress for lying about an extra-marital affair that took place in the Oval Office with a young intern by the name of Monica Lewinsky.

43. George W. Bush

George W. Bush is the 43rd President of the United States, but he didn’t become President until he was 54 years old!

He’s also said to be a pretty funny guy, even though some people might not think so given his job title.

44. Barack Obama

Obama is the 44th President of the United States, but he has already shown that he will be one of the most memorable presidents in history, given his age. He also held two degrees from Columbia University (one of them was earned while working as a community organizer) and was the first person of color to become President.

45. Donald Trump

Trump is one of the most famous billionaires who ever lived, but he has given up his throne as CEO of The Trump Organization (he’s still its owner, though).

He’s also known for being an avid golfer who happens to play the sport very well, even though he’s rumored to cheat at times!

46. Joe Biden

Biden was one of the most popular Vice Presidents in U.S history, even though he suffered from a scandal early on when it was learned that he placed his hand on the rear shoulders of female Secret Service agents.

In his book, he wrote that as a child, he had a debilitating stutter. Then-President Barack Obama awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

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