Presidents Are (Weird) People Too


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All US Presidents so far besides Donald Trump

As is perhaps inevitable, our history books mainly focus on just a few of the forty-five presidents of the United States. Even among those with major historical importance, often the focus is cast only on the broad strokes of their actions or personalities. Presidents’ Day offers us an excellent opportunity to both learn more about our more obscure leaders and to delve deeper into the oddities of our well-known presidents. Here are some facts that give a clearer view of the more … eccentric side of our Presidents.

The Facts

  1. Instead of wood, George Washington’s teeth were an abomination consisting of hippopotamus ivory, gold wire, brass screws, lead, bone, and human teeth bought from his slaves.
  2. John Adams turned to his once-friend and vicious political rival with his last words, “Thomas Jefferson survives”; in reality, Jefferson had died just hours before.
  3. Before the vicious mudslinging when Jefferson and Adams went head-to-head for the Presidency, the two were close enough to chip off a piece of Shakespeare’s chair together as a souvenir.
  4. James Madison’s face appeared on the 5,000$ bill. He also rocked the size of 5’4” and about 100 pounds, making him the smallest president yet.
  5. The soldier holding the flag in the famous portrait of Washington Crossing the Delaware is supposed to be James Monroe.
  6. Like an absolute legend, John Quincy Adams went skinny-dipping in the Potomac River daily. One day, a gossip reporter pressured him into an interview by refusing to surrender his clothes until he gave her an interview.
  7. Andrew Jackson taught his pet parrot to curse, which was all well and good until the parrot wouldn’t stop swearing at Jackson’s funeral.
  8. Martin Van Buren’s nickname “Old Kinderhook” was shortened by supporters to OK and is most likely the origin of the term.
  9. William Henry Harrison (otherwise known as the “talked too much and died” president) was the last president born before the US became independent.
  10. During his presidency, John Tyler lost all but one of his Cabinet to resignation, was expelled from his own party, and was threatened with impeachment. After his death, the New York Times called him “the most unpopular public man that had ever held any office in the United States.” Defying convention, President Lincoln didn’t have flags fly at half-mast or issue a mourning proclamation.
  11. James K. Polk was kinda boring. He and his wife banned dancing, alcohol, and cards while they lived in the White House.
  12. While the legend of the cherry tree and George Washington may or may not have taken place, either some cherries or a glass of iced milk enjoyed on July 4th probably carried the bacteria that killed Zachary Taylor.
  13. Millard Fillmore married his school teacher. I know what I said at the start of the article, but this dude was kinda boring. The White House website calls him “an uninspiring man.”
  14. Franklin Pierce was not renominated by his own party, to which he replied, “There is nothing left to do but get drunk.” During his Presidency, Pierce was charged with running over a lady with his horse. However, the charges were dropped.
  15. James Buchanan has been speculated by historians to have been gay. He never married and is to date the only bachelor to become president. Buchanan lived with Senator William Rufus King (despite them both being able to afford their own homes), and after King went abroad, Buchanan wrote, “I am now ‘solitary and alone,’ having no companion in the house with me. I have gone a wooing several gentlemen, but have not succeeded with any one of them.”
  16. Being a massive lad, Abraham Lincoln lost only 1 out of about 300 wrestling matches.
  17. Andrew Johnson was the indentured servant to a tailor as a child; he continued making his own suits as President.
  18. Ulysses S. Grant was sent more than 10,000 boxes of cigars after the Battle of Shiloh, usually smoking at least 20 cigars a day; he later died of throat cancer. Wonder how that could have happened?
  19. Rutherford B. Hayes won the electoral college by one vote and lost the popular vote by 250,000, earning him nicknames like “Rutherfraud” and “His Fraudulency.” Hayes was the only president to be wounded in the Civil War.
  20. James A. Garfield, in a John Lewis-type move, could write Greek with one hand and Latin with the other at the same time.
  21. Chester A. Arthur, known as “Elegant Arthur”, owned eighty pairs of pants.
  22. Grover Cleveland became the legal guardian of his former law partner’s 11-year old daughter. They married ten years later. Alas, Chris Hansen wasn’t born yet.
  23. Benjamin Harrison was the first President to have electricity in the White House, but he was terrified of being electrocuted and would never touch the light switch.
  24. Grover Cleveland (who came back for the sequel to his original presidency) had formerly been a sheriff and, as a result, he had personally hung two people.
  25. William McKinley wore a carnation almost constantly as a good luck charm. He gave his flower to a little girl, and almost immediately after was shot by the bullet that would finally kill him eight days later. If that doesn’t make you superstitious, I don’t know what will.
  26. Theodore Roosevelt and the rest of his family all owned a pair of stilts that he enjoyed using. Because this article is getting too cheerful, Teddy’s diary on that day that both his first wife and mother died reads, “The light has gone out of my life.”
  27. William Taft was a massive lad of a totally different sort than Abraham Lincoln. However, he did lose eighty pounds after his presidency. Give the dude some credit!
  28. Woodrow Wilson’s face is on the $100,000 bill, which lost use once wire transfer came to the scene but is still legal tender. He also loved to golf.
  29. Warren Harding had multiple affairs. In one case, a woman named Nan Britton wrote a novel called “The President’s Daughter” about her child being Harding’s. In 2005, DNA testing was able to officially say, “You ARE the father!”
  30. Working in Calvin Coolridge’s White House was tough. Sometimes he would press buttons in the Oval Office and watch his staff run, just to see who was working. While he ate breakfast, Coolridge liked having his head massaged with the equivalent of Vaseline.
  31. Herbert Hoover demanded that his servants be “invisible” and hide in a closet whenever he or his wife entered a room.
  32. FDR (Franklin Delano Roosevelt) was deathly afraid of the number 13. FDR also dearly loved his dog Fala; he was an honorary army private and also a subject of a comic strip and two movies due to his popularity.
  33. Harry S. Truman (the S. stands for nothing) met his future wife when they were six-years-old in Sunday school. 
  34. Since Dwight D. Eisenhower loved to golf, he hated it when squirrels dug up the White House lawn’s putting green. While at first, Eisenhower wanted his valet to just shoot all of the squirrels, the Secret Service ended up having the squirrels trapped and removed.
  35. JFK was a massive James Bond fanboy and allegedly discussed ideas on how to assassinate Fidel Castro with the author of the series, Ian Fleming.
  36. Lyndon B. Johnson, while serving on his only bombing mission in WWII, ended up missing his plane’s embarkment because he had to use the restroom very badly. Fatefully, that plane would later crash and kill everyone on board. There are also many other facts about LBJ that I cannot really share in a school newspaper, so I urge you to do your own research.
  37. Richard M. Nixon could play five different instruments: the piano, clarinet, saxophone, violin, and accordion.
  38. Gerard Ford, apparently a real “ladies man,” survived two attempted assassinations by female assassins within 17 days of each other. Ford was also a former college football star and fashion model.
  39. Jimmy Carter officially filed a UFO sighting report, calling it “the darndest thing I’ve ever seen.” He also had an interview with Playboy during a presidential campaign.
  40. While in college, Ronald Reagan won the Most Nearly Perfect Male Figure Award and got to pose in front of an art class that was learning to sculpt a person.
  41. Presidents aren’t immune to nausea. George H. W. Bush vomited all over the Japanese PM in 1992, inspiring a Japanese word: “Bushusuru”, meaning “to do the Bush thing”/vomit in public. Poor guy.
  42. Bill Clinton had won two Grammys: Best Spoken Word Album for Children and Best Spoken Word Album.
  43. George W. Bush was the captain of his high school’s cheerleading team.
  44. Barack Obama apparently had a legendary jump shot in high school, earning the nickname “Barry O’Bomber.” While at Harvard, Obama applied to be in a black pin-up calendar but was declined.
  45. Donald Trump won a Razzie for worst supporting actor in the 1989 film Ghosts Can’t Do It, a film that also obtained Razzies for Worst Picture, Worst Actress, and Worst Director. Here’s a link to the scene: Also, Trump is one of the few Presidents to not drink alcohol, possibly due to his brother’s death from alcoholism in 1982.


Who knows what future Presidents will bring?