Shocking things you didn’t know about every US president

President William Howard Taft, George H.W. Bush, and Bill Clinton. AP/Lennox McLendon; Getty/Sean Rayford
  • John Quincy Adams was a huge fan of skinny-dipping and he did it every morning.
  • Thomas Jefferson’s favourite mockingbird was named Dick.
  • Andrew Jackson kept a 1,400-pound block of cheddar cheese in the White House.
  • Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Forget everything you learned in history class.

There’s a whole treasure trove of hidden facts about the 46 presidents that haven’t made it into middle school textbooks.

From the bizarre (one commander-in-chief owned a giant block of cheese) to the seriously cool (another won two Grammys), keep scrolling to learn everything about the country’s most important politicians throughout history.

George Washington (1789-1797)

A portrait of George Washington with his horse. DeAgostini/Getty Images

Washington had terrible, decaying teeth so he wore dentures made from (among other things) ivory, spring, and brass screws.

John Adams (1797-1801)

An 1816 portrait of John Adams by Samuel Morse. Stock Montage/Stock Montage via Getty Images

Adams’ last words were “Thomas Jefferson survives.” What he apparently didn’t know was that Jefferson had actually died a few hours prior.

Thomas Jefferson (1801-1809)

A portrait of Thomas Jefferson, circa 1780. Hulton Archive/Getty Images

He kept pet mockingbirds because he loved to listen to them sing. His favourite of the bunch was named Dick.

James Madison (1809-1817)

An illustration of James Madison from 1812. Universal History Archive/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

He was Princeton University’s very first graduate student, where he studied Hebrew among other subjects.

At the time, he was simply staying for a year of additional studies from the school’s president, John Witherspoon, but today he is considered a grad student, and the very first at that.

James Monroe (1817-1825)

A portrait of James Monroe circa 1800. Stock Montage/Stock Montage/Getty Images

Monroe was a law apprentice for another president: Thomas Jefferson. Law apparently didn’t interest him, though and he went into politics.

John Quincy Adams (1825-1829)

A portrait of John Quincy Adams. National Archive/Newsmakers/Getty Images

He was a big fan of skinny-dipping. Every morning, the president dived into the Potomac River for his daily exercise routine.

Andrew Jackson (1829-1837)

A portrait of Andrew Jackson. Stock Montage/Stock Montage/Getty Images

Jackson had a giant block of cheese – which weighed 1,400 pounds – that he kept in the White House. He let the public eat the block of cheddar after his time in office was done.

Martin Van Buren (1837-1841)

A print of Martin van Buren taken after his presidency. Universal History Archive/Getty Images

Van Buren’s wife died in 1819 and he never remarried. His daughter-in-law filled in with first-lady duties.

William Henry Harrison (1841)

A portrait of William Henry Harrison. VCG Wilson/Corbis via Getty Images

Harrison’s inauguration speech was the longest to date. It went for an hour and 45 minutes and he was out in a snowstorm. He died a month later of pneumonia.

John Tyler (1841-1845)

A portrait of John Tyler by George PA Healy in 1859. Everett Historical/Shutterstock

Tyler had 15 children, which is the most known children by any president.

James K. Polk (1845-1849)

A portrait of James K. Polk. Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Polk presided over the building of the Washington Monument, and oversaw the issuing of the first postage stamp.

Zachary Taylor (1849-1850)

A photograph of Zachary Taylor. Bettmann/Getty Images

Taylor was nominated for president by the Whig Party, and didn’t even realise that it had happened until he received a letter with the news. He also refused to campaign after accepting.

Millard Fillmore (1850-1853)

Millard Fillmore succeeded Zachary Taylor, who died of cholera after only 16 months in office. AP Images

Fillmore didn’t have a vice president during his time in office.

Franklin Pierce (1853-1857)

A portrait of Franklin Pierce, the 14th US president. GraphicaArtis via Getty Images

Pierce was known as “Young Hickory,” which was a reference to Andrew Jackson, who was known as “Old Hickory.”

James Buchanan (1857-1861)

A portrait of James Buchanan. Everett Historical/Shutterstock

He was the only completely unmarried president to serve in office.

Abraham Lincoln (1861-1865)

A portrait of Abraham Lincoln without his signature beard. Chicago Historical Society/AP Images

Lincoln is in the Wrestling Hall of Fame because of his skills in the ring. As a young man, he only lost one match out of the 300 he participated in.

Andrew Johnson (1865-1869)

A photo of Andrew Johnson. Library of Congress

Johnson never attended school, and had to teach himself how to read.

Ulysses S. Grant (1869-1877)

Commanding General Grant at the Battle of Cold Harbour in 1864. Library of Congress

The “S” in his name is actually a result of a clerical error when he was nominated to attend West Point. Though he tried to shake it, it stuck.

Rutherford B. Hayes (1877-1881)

A photograph of Rutherford B. Hayes. Bettman/Getty Images

The president was the first to be sworn in privately in the White House on a Saturday. He later swore the oath in public.

James A. Garfield (1881)

Following his support of civil service reform, James A. Garfield was shot by Charles Guiteau, a disappointed office-seeker. Everett Historical/Shutterstock

Garfield became the president of his college, Eclectic Institute, at the tender age of 26.

Chester Arthur (1881-1885)

President Chester Arthur posing for a photograph. Bettman/Getty Images

Arthur’s critics tried to persuade the public that the presidential hopeful was not actually an American citizen. He was born in Vermont.

Grover Cleveland (1885-1889, 1893-1897)

Grover Cleveland served two nonconsecutive terms as President. Library of Congress/Corbis/VCG via Getty Images

Cleveland – who served two nonconsecutive terms – won his presidency by the most razor-sharp of margins. He nabbed the job thanks to 1,200 votes in New York.

Benjamin Harrison (1889-1893)

A photo of Benjamin Harrison in 1896. Library of Congress

Harrison was the first president to use electricity in the White House. But he and his wife refused to touch the lights for fear of electric shock.

William McKinley (1897-1901)

William McKinley in his presidential portrait. Library of Congress/Corbis/VCG via Getty Images

McKinley’s team was the first to conduct telephone campaigning.

Theodore Roosevelt (1901-1909)

A portrait of Theodore Roosevelt ranching and hunting in the Dakota Territory in 1895. AP Images

Roosevelt watched Lincoln’s funeral procession when he was a child.

William Howard Taft (1909-1913)

William Howard Taft posing for a photograph. Archive Photos/Getty

Taft almost served in another high office: he was apparently offered a Supreme Court seat by both McKinley and Roosevelt but turned it down.

Woodrow Wilson (1913-1921)

Woodrow Wilson throwing the first pitch at a baseball game. AP Images

Wilson nominated the first Jewish justice – Louis Brandeis – to the Supreme Court.

Warren G. Harding (1921-1923)

A photo of Warren G. Harding taken around 1920. Library of Congress/Corbis/VCG via Getty Images

Harding held many jobs before taking office including being a teacher, an insurance agent, a reporter, and the owner of “The Marion Daily Star.”

Calvin Coolidge (1923-1929)

Calvin Coolidge is photographed at his desk. Bettman/Getty Images

Calvin was actually his middle name – he was born John Calvin Coolidge.

Herbert Hoover (1929-1933)

Herbert Hoover listening to a one valve radio set. Topical Press Agency via Getty Images

Before becoming president, Hoover was a self-made millionaire. He graduated from Stanford University with a degree in geology and then globe trotted throughout his 20s, locating valuable mineral deposits.

Franklin D. Roosevelt (1933-1945)

Franklin D. Roosevelt. AP Images

He was an avid stamp collector and used that hobby as a stress reliever while he was in the White House.

Harry S. Truman (1945-1953)

Harry S. Truman is photographed at his desk. Bettmann/Getty Images

The president once said that the “S” in Truman’s name didn’t actually stand for anything and it’s been the subject of controversy ever since.

Dwight D. Eisenhower (1953-1961)

Before becoming president, Dwight D. Eisenhower was the supreme commander of the Allied forces in Europe. Fox Photos/Getty Images

Camp David is named after Eisenhower’s 5-year-old grandson, David.

John F. Kennedy (1961-1963)

A photograph of John F. Kennedy in front of the White House in 1963. William J. Smith/AP Images

Kennedy donated his entire White House salary ($US100,000 a year) to charity.

Lyndon B. Johnson (1963-1969)

Lyndon B. Johnson at his desk in the White House in Washington on August 26, 1966. AP Images

Johnson nearly died in World War II. He boarded a plane, then exited to use the restroom. When he came back, he boarded a different plane. The original plane he was on was destroyed in battle but the second plane survived.

Richard Nixon (1969-1974)

Richard Nixon in 1977. AP

His middle name, Milhous, was actually his mother’s maiden name.

Gerald Ford (1974-1977)

President Gerald Ford. Charles Tasnadi/AP

He was the only politician to serve as both president and vice president without actually being elected to either office.

Jimmy Carter (1977-1981)

Jimmy Carter in the Oval Office. Wilson/AP Images

He created the Department of Energy, in response to the energy shortage crisis.

Ronald Reagan (1981-1989)

Ronald Reagan enjoying a cold drink. Walt Zeboski/AP Images

It may be well-known that Reagan loved jelly beans, but, according to his wife, he was a fussy eater who despised brussels sprouts and tomatoes.

George H.W. Bush (1989-1993)

George H.W. Bush acknowledging the crowd during an appearance at the University of Kansas. Charlie Riedel/AP Images

Bush was the youngest pilot in the Navy when he served. He flew for 58 combat missions.

Bill Clinton (1993-2001)

Bill Clinton decided to become vegan after his poor diet impacted his health. Samir Hussein/Getty Images

Clinton has won two Grammys. The first for the album “Prokofiev: Peter and the Wolf/Beintus: Wolf Tracks,” and the second for the reading of his autobiography, “My Life.”

George W. Bush (2001-2009)

George W. Bush at a speaking engagement. AP

He’s the first president who has an MBA. He graduated from Harvard Business School in 1975.

Barack Obama (2009-2017)

Barack Obama speaks in the Rose Garden of the White House. Susan Walsh/AP Images

Obama’s first job was scooping ice cream at Baskin Robbins and he says that he ate so much he no longer likes it.

Donald Trump (2017-2021)

Donald Trump addresses a joint news conference at the Presidential Palace in Hanoi, Vietnam. Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

Trump has appeared in numerous movies including “Zoolander” and “Home Alone 2.”

He’s also the only president to be impeached twice.

Joe Biden (2021-)

At age 78, Biden became the oldest president in the history of the US. Previously, this title was held by Reagan who was 77 when he left office.