On this President’s Day, an occasion of celebration for the country’s commanders in chief, we take a look at some of the odd, interesting, and shocking fun facts about our nation’s past leaders.
Thomas Jefferson: During the War of 1812, the British burned down the Library of Congress. Jefferson stepped in and sold the institution his own collection of 6,487 books.
James Madison and George Washington are the only presidents who signed the Constitution.
John Quincy Adams must not have been too shy. As part of his morning exercise routine, he liked to go skinny-dipping in the Potomac River.
Martin Van Buren was the first president born a citizen of the United States and the only one for whom English was a second language. His native language was Dutch. He carried the nickname “Old Kinderhook” because he was from Kinderhook, NY, and some theorize that the term “O.K.” comes from the O.K. clubs used to support his campaign.
Abraham Lincoln and Lyndon B. Johnson were the tallest presidents at six feet four inches. Lincoln liked to wrestle and, during his youth, he was defeated only once out of about 300 matches. He got into the Wrestling Hall of Fame with the honor of “Outstanding American.” He liked to store papers and other goodies beneath his tall hat.
James Garfield was ambidextrous and could write Greek with one hand and Latin with the other – at the same time.
Benjamin Harrison was the first to experience electricity in the White House. However, the unfamiliar technology frightened him and he would never turn on the light switches himself for fear of being electrocuted.
William McKinley had an Amazon parrot named Washington Post whose job was the White House greeter. McKinley would whistle the first few notes of Yankee Doodle Dandy and Post would finish the rest. The president was a bit superstitious and always wore a red carnation on his lapel for good luck. In 1901, he gave the flower to a little girl and seconds later he was shot by an assassin. He died eight days later.
Calvin Coolidge liked to play practical jokes. Sometimes he would press all the service buttons in the Oval office which sent ringing bells through the White House to alert staff that he needed assistance. He would then hide and watch everyone run around trying to figure out what they were supposed to do.
Gerald Ford turned down offers to play with the Green Bay Packers and the Detroit Lions because he wanted to attend Yale University’s law school; he took a job coaching there instead. During college, he worked as a fashion model and appeared on the cover of Cosmopolitan.
George W. Bush was captain of the cheerleading team at Phillips Academy in Andover, MA, during his senior year of high school.