Shocking things you didn't know about every US president

Wikimedia Commons; AP/Lennox McLendon; Getty/Sean RayfordPresidents George Washington, William Howard Taft, George H.W. Bush, and Bill Clinton.
  • There are a slew of surprising facts about all 44 US Presidents.
  • Abe Lincoln was an avid wrestler before becoming Commander-in-Chief.
  • JFK donated his entire White House salary to charity.

Forget everything you learned in history class. There’s a whole treasure trove of hidden facts about the 45 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)

Wikimedia CommonsGeorge Washington

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

Read more: A look at the daily routine of George Washington, who drank tea and wine and spent hours on horseback

John Adams (1797-1801)

Wikimedia CommonsA 1816 portrait of John Adams from Samuel Morse.

John 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)

Thomas Jefferson by Rembrandt Peale (1805)Thomas Jefferson

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

James Madison (1809-1817)

Wikimedia CommonsJames Madison

He was Princeton University’s very first graduate student, where he studied Hebrew among other subjects. At the time, he was simple 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)

WikimediaJames Monroe

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)

National Archives and Records AdministrationA copy of a daguerreotype taken of John Quincy Adams in around 1845.

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

Andrew Jackson (1829-1837)

Wikimedia CommonsThe White House portrait of Andrew Jackson.

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)

Wikimedia CommonsA print of Martin van Buren taken after his presidency, circa 1955.

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)

Wikimedia CommonsWilliam Henry Harrison

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)

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

Read more: How the White House’s d├ęcor has changed over the last 109 years

James K. Polk (1845-1849)

WikimediaJames K. Polk

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

Zachary Taylor (1849-1850)

WikimediaZachary Taylor

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)

Wikimedia CommonsMillard Fillmore

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

Franklin Pierce (1853-1857)

Wikimedia CommonsFranklin Pierce

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

James Buchanan (1857-1861)

WikimediaJames Buchanan

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

Abraham Lincoln (1861-1865)

Abraham Lincoln

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.

Read more: A look inside the daily routine of Abraham Lincoln, who started working before breakfast, forgot to eat regular meals, and was known to walk through the White House late at night

Andrew Johnson (1865-1869)

Wikimedia CommonsAndrew Johnson

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

Ulysses S. Grant (1869-1877)

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

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)

White HouseRutherford B. Hayes

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)

WikimediaJames A. Garfield

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

Chester Arthur (1881-1885)

WikimediaPresident Chester Arthur

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)

WikimediaJames A. Garfield

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

Benjamin Harrison (1889-1893)

Library of CongressAn 1896 photo of Benjamin Harrison.

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 elecric shock.

William McKinley (1897-1901)

Public domainWilliam McKinley in his presidential portrait

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

Theodore Roosevelt (1901-1909)

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

Read more: The top 20 presidents in US history, according to historians

William Howard Taft (1909-1913)

Archive Photos/GettyWilliam Howard Taft

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)

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

Warren G. Harding (1921-1923)

Library of CongressA photo of Warren G. Harding taken around 1920.

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)

WikimediaCalvin Coolidge

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

Herbert Hoover (1929-1933)

Wikimedia CommonsHerbert Hoover

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 20’s, locating valuable mineral deposits.

Franklin D. Roosevelt (1933-1945)

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)

Wikimedia CommonsHarry S. Truman

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)

Wikimedia CommonsDwight D. Eisenhower

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

John F. Kennedy (1961-1963)

P Photo/William J. SmithJohn F. Kennedy

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

Read more: John F. Kennedy is an American icon. These 21 colour photos helped define his legacy.

Lyndon B. Johnson (1963-1969)

Wikimedia CommonsLyndon B. Johnson

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)

US Government PhotoRichard Nixon

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

Gerald Ford (1974-1977)

WikipediaGerald Ford

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

Jimmy Carter (1977-1981)

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

Ronald Reagan (1981-1989)

Wikimedia CommonsRonald Reagan

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)

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

Read more: Here is the life and legacy of former President George H.W. Bush in photos

Bill Clinton (1993-2001)

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)

Right To RiseGeorge W. Bush

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

Barack Obama (2009-2017)

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- )

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

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