44 Obscure Facts You Didn't Know About U.S. Presidents
Which president enjoyed skinny-dipping in the Potomac River? Who let their alligators run rampant through the White House? Who whipped out his — well, let's just say you probably didn't learn these facts in history class.
In honor of Independence Day, we've gathered a star-spangled list of facts about all 44 Presidents of the United States.
Scroll through the list to find out more about those who make us proud to be Americans, and then share your favorite fun fact in the comments below.
1. George Washington
Washington was an ultra-successful liquor distributor in the new country. He made rye whiskey, apple brandy and peach brandy in his Mount Vernon distillery.
2. John Adams
Adams and Thomas Jefferson were close friends and correspondents — but they also had a bit of a rivalry. Adams' dying words were, "Thomas Jefferson survives," unaware that he had died hours earlier. In another shocker, both died on July 4, 1826.
3. Thomas Jefferson
Jefferson and John Adams paid a visit to William Shakespeare's home in Stratford-upon-Avon in 1786. There, they chipped off a piece from Shakespeare's chair as a souvenir.
4. James Madison
James Madison was Princeton University's first graduate student.
5. James Monroe
Monrovia, the capital of the Liberia, is named after James Monroe. He supported the American Colonization Society in its work to create a home for freed slaves in Liberia.
6. John Quincy Adams
During his presidency, John Quincy Adams enjoyed skinny-dipping in the Potomac River in the early mornings.
Source: Huffington Post
7. Andrew Jackson
Jackson was involved in as many as 100 duels, most of which were fought to defend the honor of his wife, Rachel. He was shot in the chest in a duel in 1806 and took a bullet in the arm in a bar fight with Missouri Sen. Thomas Hart Benton in 1813.
8. Martin Van Buren
Van Buren's nickname was "Old Kinderhook" because he was raised in Kinderhook, N.Y. A popular theory states that the term "O.K." is derived from the O.K. clubs that sprung up to support his campaign.
9. William H. Harrison
Democrats ran a smear campaign during Harrison's campaign that tried to cast him as an out-of-touch old fogey who would rather "sit in his log cabin, drinking hard cider" than run the country. Harrison one-upped the haters by adopting the log cabin and hard cider as campaign symbols. He even commissioned bottles of hard cider shaped like log cabins.
10. John Tyler
John Tyler had 15 children, more than any other president. Two of his grandsons are still alive today. One of Tyler's children, Lyon Gardiner Tyler, born in 1853, fathered Lyon Gardiner Tyler Jr. in 1924 and Harrison Ruffin Tyler in 1928.
Source: Sherwood Forest
11. James K. Polk
Here's one for the underdogs. James Polk, nicknamed "Young Hickory," was America's first dark horse presidential candidate. He was considered a Plan B after the more likely choice, Martin Van Buren, failed to secure the party's nomination.
12. Zachary Taylor
Zachary Taylor was a tough guy — a major general in the U.S. Army and hero of the Mexican-American War. But oddly enough, what brought him down in the end was a glass of milk and some cherries that he enjoyed on July 4, 1850. The cherries were likely contaminated with bacteria that caused his death by cholera five days later.
13. Millard Fillmore
Millard Fillmore lived the dream of many a teenage schoolboy. Fillmore's first wife, Abigail Powers, was his teacher while he was a 19-year-old student at the New Hope Academy in New York.
14. Franklin Pierce
Pierce had a tough time guiding the nation and perhaps an even tougher time guiding his horse. During his presidency, Pierce was arrested for running over a woman with his horse. Charges were later dropped due to a lack of evidence.
15. James Buchanan
James Buchanan regularly bought slaves in Washington, D.C. and quietly freed them in Pennsylvania.
17. Andrew Johnson
In his youth, Johnson apprenticed as a tailor. Even as president, he never stopped making his own suits.
18. Ulysses S. Grant
Ulysses S. Grant smoked a ton of cigars — at least 20 a day. After a great military victory at the Battle of Shiloh, citizens sent him more than 10,000 boxes of cigars as gratitude. He died of throat cancer in 1885.
19. Rutherford B. Hayes
Hayes was the only president to be wounded in the Civil War — not once, but four times. Four horses were shot down from beneath him (ouch).
Sources: RBHayes.org; republicanpresidents.net
20. James A. Garfield
Not only was Garfield ambidextrous — he could write Latin with one hand and Greek with the other at the same time.
21. Chester A. Arthur
Chester A. Arthur was known for his impeccable attire, earning him the nickname "Elegant Arthur." On his last day in office, four women offered him their hands in marriage. Also, he owned 80 pairs of pants.
22. Grover Cleveland
While serving as sheriff of Erie County, N.Y., Grover Cleveland had to spring the trap at a hanging on two occassions. This earned him the unflattering nickname "Buffalo Hangman."
23. Benjamin Harrison
Benjamin Harrison was the first president to have electricity in the White House. However, he was so scared of getting electrocuted that he would never touch the light switches himself.
Source: Mental Floss
24. Grover Cleveland
Grover Cleveland's epithelium, a small tumor that was removed from the roof of his mouth, resides at the Mutter Museum in Philadelphia.
25. William McKinley
William McKinley almost always wore a red carnation on his lapel as a good luck charm. While greeting a line of people in 1901, he gave the flower to a little girl. Seconds later, he was shot by an assassin, and died eight days later.
26. Theodore Roosevelt
Teddy Roosevelt was shot in an assassination attempt while delivering a speech in Milwaukee. "I don’t know whether you fully understand that I have just been shot," he told the stunned audience. "I give you my word, I do not care a rap about being shot; not a rap." He completed the 90-minute speech with the bullet still lodged in his chest.
27. William H. Taft
William Taft — also known as "Big Bill" — was the largest president in American history. He once got himself wedged into the White House bathtub and had to call his advisers for help getting out.
28. Woodrow Wilson
Woodrow Wilson's face is on the $100,000 bill, which very few have ever laid hands on. The bills were mainly designed for trade between between Federal Reserve banks, but fell out of use with the invention of the wire transfer. They still work as legal tender, but good luck finding someone who can break the change for you.
Source: Huffington Post
29. Warren G. Harding
At 25, Warren married a divorcée, Florence "Flossie" Mabel Kling DeWolf. She was five years older with a 10-year-old son from a former marriage. Flossie's father once threatened to kill Harding if he married his daughter, but she pursued him relentlessly until he gave in. Girl power!
30. Calvin Coolidge
If you thought you had a tough boss, think again. Calvin Coolidge would occasionally press all the buttons in the Oval Office, sending bells ringing throughout the White House — and then hide to watch his staff run in. He just wanted to see who was working.
31. Herbert Hoover
Herbert Hoover's son had two pet alligators, which were occasionally permitted to run loose throughout the White House.
32. Franklin D. Roosevelt
Rooselvelt's wife, Eleanor, was actually his fifth cousin. She was also the niece of Theodore Roosevelt, FDR's idol and U.S. president No. 26. They married on March 17, 1905.
33. Harry S. Truman
The "S" in Truman's full name doesn't stand for anything. His parents couldn't decide on a middle name for over a month, so they settled on the letter "S" in honor of his maternal grandfather, Solomon Young, and his paternal grandfather, Anderson Shipp Truman.
34. Dwight D. Eisenhower
Eisenhower played a big role in popularizing golf. He installed a putting green at the White House and played more than 800 rounds while in office — exceeding the record of any other president. He holds a spot in the World Golf Hall of Fame in the Lifetime Achievement Category.
Source: Golf Week
35. John F. Kennedy
JFK was a huge James Bond fan. He first met the author of the series, Ian Fleming, at a dinner party in 1960. They allegedly bounced around ideas about how to get rid of Fidel Castro.
36. Lyndon B. Johnson
LBJ wasn't scared to show off his, err, Johnson — he nicknamed his penis "Jumbo." According to biographer Robert Dallek, Johnson met with a reporter who asked him multiple times why American troops were in Vietnam. In response, Johnson unzipped his pants, pulled out "Jumbo," and yelled, "This is why!"
37. Richard M. Nixon
In China, the most well-known Western names are Jesus Christ, Elvis Presley and Richard Nixon.
38. Gerald R. Ford
Gerald Ford worked as a fashion model during college, appearing on the cover of Cosmopolitan.
39. Jimmy Carter
Jimmy Carter filed a report for a UFO sighting in 1973. He called it “the darndest thing I’ve ever seen.”
40. Ronald Reagan
In 1940, the University of California bestowed Reagan with the Most Nearly Perfect Male Figure Award. The prize was the opportunity to pose nearly nude for an art class learning to sculpt the human body.
41. George H. W. Bush
On Sept. 2, 1944, Bush was flying over Japan when his aircraft was shot down in the Pacific. Bush and another crewman were able to bail out, but the other man's parachute malfunctioned, and he went down with the plane. Bush was eventually rescued by a submarine off the coast of Chichi-jima.
42. Bill Clinton
It wasn't just Clinton's southern charm that did it for the ladies. His face is so symmetrical — an important component of human attractiveness — that he ranked in facial symmetry alongside male models.
Source: Breeding Between the Lines
43. George W. Bush
"Dubya" garnered the media attention with his frat boy past, but he also has a more wholesome side (aside from painting, that is). During his senior year of high school at Phillips Academy in Andover, Mass., Bush was captain of the cheerleading team.
Source: Sports Illustrated
44. Barack Obama
Obama's high school nickname on the basketball team was "Barry O'Bomber," which he earned due to his awesome jump shot.