For Presidents' Day 2012, a list of presidential trivia, factoids and miscellany
Feb. 20, 2012
You knew that Barack Obama was born in Hawaii (oh yes you did!), but did you know that he attended St. Francis of Assisi grade school as a child growing up in Indonesia? In honor of Presidents’ Day, here is some additional information about each of the 44 U.S. presidents, with another Obama tidbit at the end. All information was compiled from the Wikipedia page for that particular president.
1. George Washington contracted smallpox during a trip to Barbados in 1751, leaving his face slightly scarred.
2. John Adams married his third cousin, Abigail Smith, in 1764. Their son John Quincy would later become the sixth president.
4. James Madison did not marry until age 43 when he wed Dolley Payne Todd, a widow, and adopted her son.
5. James Monroe is depicted holding the U.S. flag in the famous painting, Washington Crossing the Delaware.
6. John Quincy Adams wrote the Monroe Doctrine while serving as James Monroe’s Secretary of State.
7. Andrew Jackson’s wife dropped dead in the street in 1828 after purchasing a dress for the upcoming inauguration.
8. Martin Van Buren was the first president born as a citizen of the United States; all the previous presidents were born before the American Revolution.
9. William Henry Harrison was the first president to die in office. He served only 32 days.
10. John Tyler is the only ex-president whose death was not officially recognized in Washington, D.C. After leaving the presidency in 1845, Tyler, who died in 1862, supported the Confederacy during the U.S. Civil War.
11. James Knox Polk died of cholera three months after leaving office.
12. Zachary Taylor was the last president to hold slaves while in office.
13. Millard Fillmore wasn’t really the first president to have a bathtub installed in the White House. The actual answer is more complicated. See the link below under "Sources.” He was, however, a member of three political parties during his lifetime: Anti-Masonic (1828-1832); Whig (1832-1856, including his presidency of 1850-53); and American (1856-1860).
14. Franklin Pierce was a good friend of the American writer Nathaniel Hawthorne.
15. James Buchanan is the only president who never married. His niece assumed the duties of the first lady while he was in office.
16. Abraham Lincoln is the only U.S. president to hold a patent. He invented a floatation device for the movement of boats in shallow water.
17. Andrew Johnson ordered the establishment of a military commission to try the conspirators in the Lincoln Assassination, which occurred in April of 1865. The defendants were tried and convicted within seven weeks, and in July, four of the eight conspirators were hanged.
18. Ulysses S. Grant was 46 when elected president in 1868. Prior to the election of John F. Kennedy at the 43 in 1960, he held the distinction of being the youngest person ever elected president.
19. Rutherford B. Hayes was a defense attorney in Cincinnati and defended several accused murderers prior to becoming involved in electoral politics.
20. James Garfield worked as a carpenter to support himself while attending seminary school as a young man.
21. Chester A. Arthur was born in Vermont, but his family moved frequently when he was young. His political opponents later claimed he was not natural-born and was therefore ineligible to hold the office of president or vice-president. The smear attempt never caught on, and Arthur held both offices.
22. Grover Cleveland went by his middle name. His first name was Stephen.
23. Benjamin Harrison was the grandson of William Henry Harrison, the ninth president.
24. Grover Cleveland is the only U.S. president to serve two non-consecutive terms.
25. William McKinley was president with the U.S. annexed Hawaii in 1897.
26. Theodore Roosevelt took office at age 42 after McKinley was assassinated and remains the youngest man to ever be sworn in as president.
27. William Howard Taft attended Yale and, like the 43rd president George W. Bush and Bush’s 2004 challenger John Kerry, was a member of the “Secret Society” Skull and Bones. Taft’s father co-founded Skull and Bones in 1832.
28. Woodrow Wilson was at least 10 years old before he learned how to read.
29. Warren Harding, a Republican, won the largest popular vote landslide in U.S. history in winning the 1920 election with 60.34 percent to second-place finisher James Cox’s 34.19 percent, while Indiana Socialist Eugene Debs received 3.4 percent of the vote.
30. Calvin Coolidge became president when Harding died on a 1923 speaking tour in California. Coolidge’s father, a notary public, administered the oath of office at a remote cabin in Vermont.
31. Herbert Hoover was born in Iowa and was the first president born west of the Mississippi River.
32. Franklin D. Roosevelt married his fifth cousin once removed, Eleanor Roosevelt, in 1905. They had six children, including two sons they named Franklin Delano Roosevelt Jr. The first FDR Jr. died a few months after his birth; the second died at age 74 in 1988.
33. Harry Truman made the decision to recognize the state of Israel over the objections of then-Secretary of State George Marshall, who feared it would hurt relations with Arab states.
34. Dwight David Eisenhower was originally named David Dwight Eisenhower, but his mother later changed the name order to avoid the confusion of having two Davids in the family; Eisenhower’s father was a David as well.
35. John F. Kennedy was rejected by the Army because of back problems in 1941; with the help of one of his father’s former aides, he joined the U.S. Navy instead.
36. Lyndon Johnson smoked 60 cigarettes a day at one point in his life and suffered a near fatal heart attack in 1955. He gave up the habit afterwards and did not resume smoking until he left the White House in 1969.
37. Richard Nixon met his eventual wife, Thelma “Pat” Ryan, in 1938 when they were both cast in a Whittier (Calif.) Community Players production of The Dark Tower. The play was the basis for the 1934 Edward G. Robinson film “The Man With Two Faces.”
38. Gerald Ford is the only person to ever serve as president without receiving a single vote for either president or vice president. Nixon chose Ford to be his VP after duly elected VP Spiro Agnew was forced to resign over tax matters in 1973. He lost his re-election bid to Jimmy Carter.
39. Jimmy Carter is a distant cousin of Motown founder Berry Gordy, Jr., on his mother’s side, as well as a cousin of the late June Carter Cash.
40. Ronald Reagan remains is only U.S. president to have divorced. His first wife, actress Jane Wyman, filed for divorce in 1948 following arguments over Reagan’s political ambitions. He married actress Nancy Davis in 1952.
41. George H.W. Bush was Foreign Policy Director for the Council on Foreign Relations from 1977 to 1979, after leaving his post as director of the Central Intelligence Agency.
42. Bill Clinton played rugby as a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford and later for the Little Rock Rugby Club.
43. George W. Bush chose Dick Cheney as his vice-presidential running mate after first appointing Cheney to head his VP search committee.
44. Barack Obama lost his bid to become a U.S. representative in 2000, soundly defeated by former Black Panther Bobby Rush in Illinois’ 1st District. Rush remains the only person to ever defeat Obama in an election.
The Wikipedia entry for each president
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