With Presidents Day an annual holiday most celebrated for the fact that most of us get a day off work, we thought it was the perfect time to share some interesting facts and tidbits about U.S. presidents. But we all know about George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and Thomas Jefferson, and even James Monroe, Andrew Jackson, and Franklin D. Roosevelt are household names. So today, we’ll share some fun facts and trivia about these lesser-known U.S. Presidents:
James Madison (1809-1817)
James Madison was our smallest president at 5’4” and weighing in at only 100 pounds.
James Monroe (1817-1825)
Monroe’s first term coincided with the end of the War of 1812, an era of unity that was called the Era of Good Feelings. Public sentiment was so warm and fuzzy that Monroe ran unopposed for his re-election, something that only happened one other time in U.S. history, with George Washington.
John Quincy Adams (1825-1829)
The son of a president, John Quincy Adams went skinny-dipping in the Potomac River every morning.
Martin Van Buren (1837-1841)
Van Buren was the first U.S. president born in the United States!
John Tyler (1841-1845)
John Tyler fathered 15 children, more than any other U.S. president!
James K. Polk (1845-1849)
Polk banned the consumption of alcohol, gambling, and card playing, and even dancing from the White House!
Zachary Taylor (1849-1850)
Zachary Taylor had been a major general in the U.S. Army and hero of the Mexican-American War, but it was bacteria from some cherries he ate that led to his death five days later, on July 4, 1850.
Millard Fillmore (1850-1853)
Fillmore married his schoolteacher, Abigail Powers, who instructed him at the New Hope Academy in New York when he was 19-years old.
Franklin Pierce (1853-1857)
While he was president, Pierce was arrested for running over a woman with his horse, but charges were later dropped because of a lack of evidence.
Pierce was also so unpopular during his first (and only) term as president that his own party didn’t re-nominate him to run again, leading him to reflect that “There is nothing left to do but get drunk.”
Andrew Johnson (1865-1869)
Johnson was the first U.S. president to be impeached.
James A. Garfield (1881)
James Garfield was shot by an assassin only a few months into his presidency. He passed away 11 weeks later but not after doctors worked tirelessly to save his life with a new medical device – a metal detector that was supposed to locate the bullet in his body - invented by Andrew Graham Bell. However, the metal detector kept going off because of the metal bedsprings beneath him, so the surgeons kept cutting him open in the wrong places, contributing to his demise.
Rutherford B. Hayes (1877-1881)
Hayes became president only after possibly the most disputed election in U.S. history, losing the popular vote by 25,000 but winning the Electoral College by one single vote.
Chester A. Arthur (1881-1885)
When Arthur wanted to redecorate the White House but there was no money in the budget, he simply started selling off historical relics to fund his project. In fact, “Elegant Arthur” pawned off 24 wagon loads of historical items in all, including a pair of Abe Lincoln’s pants and one of John Quincy Adams’ hats.
Grover Cleveland (1885-1889)
When his law partner passed away, Cleveland became a legal guardian to his 11-year old orphaned daughter. They actually wed 10 years later, making her quite a controversial First Lady – and the youngest ever – at only 21 years old.
Grover Cleveland (again) (1893-1897)
Grover, again? Cleveland holds the distinction of being the only U.S. president to hold office for two non-consecutive terms.
Benjamin Harrison (1889-1893)
The grandson of President William Henry Harrison, Benjamin was the first president to enjoy electricity in the White House during his tenure. However, he was so scared of being electrocuted that he wouldn’t dare touch the light switches, sleeping with the lights on when he went to bed.
William McKinley (1897-1901)
McKinley had an unusual good luck charm – carnations, which he wore them at all times. However, on September 6, 1901, he gave his carnation to a little girl in the crowd, leaving him without his lucky charm. He was shot by an assassin shortly after and died the next week.
William H. Taft (1909-1913)
The historically portly Taft inspired a line of stuffed possum toys called Billy Possum, named him because he once ate a huge possum for dinner.
Woodrow Wilson (1913-1921)
Wilson suffered a series of strokes in 1919 due to the stress of the presidency. He was rendered partially paralyzed and nearly blind, and only managed to stay in office and serve until 1921 with some serious help from his wife, who was nicknamed “the Presidentress.”
Warren G. Harding (1921-1923)
Harding had an affair with the close friend of his wife, Carrie Fulton Phillips. He was caught not through text messages or Facebook, but by the many love letters he wrote her.
Calvin Coolidge (1923-1929)
Every morning, Coolidge would have someone rub Vaseline on his head while he ate breakfast – a bizarre ritual!
Herbert Hoover (1929-1933)
Hoover’s son kept not one but two pet alligators that roamed around the White House lawn and grounds.
Lyndon B. Johnson (1963-1969)
Johnson might have been the luckiest president, and not only because JFK’s assassination led to his term as president. In fact, when Johnson was serving in WWII he was set to board a plane, the Wabash Cannonball, for a bombing mission in the South Pacific. When he went to the bathroom and came out, the plane had left him behind. The Wabash Cannonball ended up crashing, with everyone on it dying.
Gerald R. Ford (1974-1977)
Gerald Ford’s real name was Leslie Lynch King, Jr. – not very presidential! He also is the only president not to become president or even vice president by public vote, since VP Spiro Agnew resigned, and then followed shortly by the Nixon’s resignation.