Facts About American Presidents

History Uncovered Episode 44:
The Secret Lives Of U.S. Presidents

Published October 3, 2023

Did you know that Abraham Lincoln was a champion wrestler or that Lyndon Johnson was a fervent practical joker? These are the most fascinating facts and lesser-known stories about America's presidents.

There’s plenty about the American presidency that’s dignified and elegant. Presidents enjoy a home at the White House, frequent visits from world leaders, opulent state dinners, and more. They’re hardly ever seen with a single hair out of place and the words they deliver to the nation are polished by professionals down to the last detail.

But the president is, at the end of the day, just a human being. And their lives – both the lives they lead in private while serving as president and the lives they led before getting elected – are often far stranger and more fascinating than the prestige of their hallowed office suggests.

Some presidents pursued utterly unexpected careers before turning to politics – everything from wrestling to modeling. In fact, some didn’t want to be president at all.

Meanwhile, some of the lesser-known antics of American presidents have been downright shocking. They spent small fortunes on alcohol, penned lustful love letters to their mistresses, and delighted in pulling juvenile pranks — all while showing a sober and serious face to the American people.

Take Warren G. Harding, for example.

He had multiple mistresses, including one that claimed that they had sex in a White House closet. Another of Harding’s mistresses exchanged steamy love letters with him, with Harding penning lines like: “There is one engulfing, enthralling rule of love, the song of your whole being which is a bit sweeter — the ‘Oh Warren! Oh Warren!’ When your body quivers with divine paroxysm and your soul hovers for flight with mine.” The Republican establishment had to pay her off to keep quiet.

In fact, Harding was such a notorious philanderer that when he died suddenly in 1923, some suspected that his long-suffering wife had actually poisoned him.

Warren G Harding

Library of CongressWarren G. Harding carried on multiple affairs, fathered a child out of wedlock, and left behind pages of steamy love letters, but is perhaps best remembered for dying in office in 1923.

Throughout its 230-year history, the American presidency has been colored by a seemingly endless series of strange moments, facts, and coincidences. Though the American presidency is full of dark moments, including Thomas Jefferson’s illicit relationship with an enslaved woman, Woodrow Wilson’s racist ideas, and more, today, we’re going to discuss some of the most flabbergasting fun facts from the secret lives of American presidents.

Listen on for everything from Abraham Lincoln’s surprisingly successful wrestling career to Lyndon B. Johnson’s propensity for practical jokes.

Learn more of the most astonishing facts about America’s presidents.

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