43 Surprising Facts About Each United States President

1. George Washington
The first President of the United States has the highest military rank of any officer to ever serve in the US military. He received a posthumous promotion from Lieutenant General to General of the Armies of the United States in 1976.

2. John Adams
He died on the same day as fellow President Thomas Jefferson. Jefferson died a few hours before Adams and Adams’ last words were “Thomas Jefferson survives.”

3. Thomas Jefferson
One of Jefferson’s hobbies included hunting for fossils and wanted to put a skeleton of a mastodon on display. Scientists named a prehistoric ground sloth in his honor called “Megalonyx Jeffersonii.”

4. James Madison
The fourth president of the US was also the smallest. He was only 5-feet, 4-inches tall and weighed around 100 pounds.

5. James Monroe
Monroe was the third and last president to run for office unopposed. He earned all but one of the electoral votes thanks to a New Hampshire voter who cast their vote in vain for John Quincy Adams, Monroe’s secretary of state.

6. John Quincy Adams
The sixth president had a pet alligator given to him by the Marquis de Lafayette. It lived in a bathtub.

7. Andrew Jackson
Jackson faced several moments where he was almost close to death. He and his brother were captured by the British during the Revolutionary War and almost starved to death. He got in several pistol duels to preserve his wife Rachel’s honor and almost died twice after being shot. He suffered from malaria during the Battle of New Orleans and avoided starving to death by eating nothing but acorns.

8. Martin Van Buren
He sailed to election in 1836 against William Henry Harrison thanks to a rousing endorsement he got from Davy Crockett.

9. William Henry Harrison
He was the first president to die in office. He died from pneumonia after catching cold during his cold and rainy inauguration because he refused to wear a raincoat. He died 32 days into his term.

10. John Tyler
He was extremely unpopular. One of his more famous nicknames was “His Accidency” and his own party, the Whigs, expelled from their ranks while he was still in office.

11. James K. Polk
He became the first president to retire from office after only one term. He vowed not to run so he could give other presidential hopefuls the opportunity to run.

12. Zachary Taylor
The cause of Zachary Taylor’s death isn’t exactly known. He had a late night snack after a hot day of Independence Day celebrations and enjoyed some cherries and milk. Five days later, he died. Historians believe he could have died from a bacteria in the milk or a stomach disorder that couldn’t handle the acidic qualities of the cherries.

13. Millard Fillmore
Queen Victoria of England declared Millard Fillmore to be the most handsome man she ever met.

14. Franklin Pierce
Not much is known about Pierce but it is believed that he may have been bald, despite the fact that he was known for his massive curly black hair. A witness on his deathbed described it as being “combed on a deep slant over his wide forehead.”

15. James Buchanan
He’s the only bachelor president and rumors circulated that he might have been a homosexual. He had a close relationship with a Congressmen and some often referred to the two as “Mr. Buchanan and his wife.”

16. Abraham Lincoln
His most famous speech, the Gettysburg Address, was only 10 sentences long and took two minutes to deliver.

17. Andrew Johnson
He came from very humble beginnings. His father died when he was 3 and he was too poor to go to school so he worked as an indentured servant until he turned 14.

18. Ulysses S. Grant
His childhood nickname was “Useless.”

19. Rutherford B. Hayes
Tributes to Hayes can be found throughout the country of Paraguay. There are several schools, statues and streets named in his honor.

20. James A. Garfield
The cartoon character Garfield was named after Jim Davis’ grandfather James Garfrield who was named after President Garfield.

21. Chester A. Arthur
A smear campaign accused Arthur of not being a naturalized citizen making him ineligible for the office. His mother came from Canada and his father came from Ireland.

22. Grover Cleveland
Alexander Graham Bell, the inventor of the telephone, devised a metal detector for the purpose of finding the bullet that eventually killed Cleveland. Unfortunately, the metal bed frame made it harder to find the bullet even though he proved that his invention worked.

23. Benjamin Harrison
He was the first to have electric lighting installed in the White House but refused to touch any switches for fear of being electrocuted.

24. William McKinley
He served during the Civil War in the Battle of Sharpsburg, the single bloodiest battle in US history. Over 22,000 soldiers were listed as dead, wounded or missing.

25. Theodore Roosevelt
During a campaign stop in Milwaukee in 1912, a man shot Roosevelt in the chest with a .38 caliber revolver. He refused to go the hospital and gave the speech he was scheduled to give to a crowd of supporters.

26. William Howard Taft
He may have been known as our fattest president but he lost 70 pounds after he left office.

27. Woodrow Wilson
Wilson’s portrait appeared on a $100,000 bill, the largest bill ever issued by the US Treasury.

28. Warren G. Harding    
Harding’s campaign manager was one of the first to use the power of celebrity appearances to boost his campaign. His consultant, the head of a Chicago advertising firm, arranged meetings with Harding with such famous names as Al Jolson, Lillian Russell, Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford. He also made sure there were plenty of cameras around as well.

29. Calvin Coolidge
One of his favorite hobbies was playing pranks on his staff. He would offer ring the buzzer for maids and ushers and run away from the Oval Office before they could get there.

30. Herbert Hoover
Hoover almost lost the election after his opponent Al Smith got a rousing endorsement from baseball great Babe Ruth. Fortunately for Hoover, Ruth would often show up drunk to press events if he showed up at all.

31. Franklin D. Roosevelt
FDR’s Secret Service had an extra duty in addition to protecting the President. They were also instructed to beat up photographers who caught the President in his wheelchair and destroy their cameras so the photos couldn’t be published.

32. Harry S. Truman
Truman never earned his college degree. He was too poor to afford tuition. He eventually went to Kansas City Law School but he dropped out before completing his degree.

33. Dwight D. Eisenhower
As a General, he oversaw the most important battles of World War II including the famed Normandy invasion. Even though he was confident of its success, he drafted another statement as a contingency stating “If any blame or fault attaches to the attempt it is mine alone.”

34. John F. Kennedy
JFK’s assassination in Dallas wasn’t the first attempt on the President’s life. Retired postal worker Richard Paul Pavlick planned to kill the President-Elect by blowing up a car lined with dynamite and parking it outside of the Kennedy Palm Beach compound. Fortunately, JFK did not show and Pavlick planned a second attempt but the Secret Service arrested him before he could carry it out.

35. Lyndon B. Johnson
LBJ had an amphibious car that he loved to drive into lakes and scare his passengers.

36. Richard Nixon
Long before the Watergate scandal, a young Nixon and two friends broke into a dean’s office while he was enrolled at Duke law school so he could get a look at his grades on file.

37. Gerald Ford
During a mock debate against future President Jimmy Carter, Ford used a television playing Carter sound bites from an interview he did with “Meet the Press” as his faux sparing partner.

38. Jimmy Carter
President Carter once left the “biscuit,” the nickname for the card containing the nuclear launch codes, in a suit that was sent to the dry cleaners.

39. Ronald Reagan
A McDonalds in Northport, Alabama has a bronze bust of Reagan in his restaurant with a plaque commemorating the time that the President had a Big Mac there following a speech at the University of Alabama.

40. George H. W. Bush
The elder Bush’s first campaign was remembered for running several negative ads against Michael Dukakis but there was one that they decided not to put on the air. It was nicknamed “Beastiality” because it reported that while Dukakis was a Congressman in Massachusetts, he put his name on a bill repealing a law that prohibited “unnatural” sex acts. The ad simply featured the words, "In 1970, Governor Michael Dukakis introduced legislation in Massachusetts to repeal the ban on sodomy and bestiality” followed by the sounds of mooing and baaing.

41. Bill Clinton
All three candidates in the 1992 presidential election, Clinton, George H.W. Bush and Ross Perot, were left handed.

42. George W. Bush
President Bush’s daughter, Jenna, decided to join her father’s campaign after dreaming that he lost his 2004 re-election campaign.

43. Barack Obama
President Obama is the third president to win a Grammy for Best Spoken Word Album. Clinton and Carter are the other two with Grammy awards.

Follow Danny Gallagher on Twitter @thisisdannyg