45 Presidential Facts Even Huge History Nerds Won’t Know

Published September 14, 2017
Updated February 27, 2024
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John Adams
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45 Presidential Facts Even Huge History Nerds Won’t Know
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America's presidents are almost always rendered into history with stories of inspiring heroism or tragic failings — great highs and great lows. But as these presidents facts show, there was plenty of gray area.

American presidents have had weird pets, fallen for strange pranks, and invented peculiar objects. They've died unusual deaths, established new traditions, and acted in bizarre ways. While some president facts are fun — like Reagan's obsession with jelly beans — others are darker — like how George H.W. Bush narrowly avoided being cannibalized.

In the gallery above, look through some shocking, cool, and downright bizarre facts about U.S. presidents. And keep reading below to learn about some of the strange stories surrounding American presidents.

Fun Presidential Facts: Eisenhower And The Squirrels

President Dwight D. Eisenhower is known for heroism during World War II, which helped propel him to two terms in the White House. But Eisenhower also waged a different kind of war: against squirrels.

In 1954, Eisenhower was thrilled when the American Public Golf Association set up a putting green just outside the Oval Office. But the White House grounds were known for their high density of squirrels — and it didn't take long for the little creatures to interfere with Eisenhower's golf game.

Though presidents like Harry S. Truman had tolerated and even encouraged the squirrels' presence by feeding them, Eisenhower couldn't stand them. According to the Washington Post, they stole his golf tees and ruined the putting green. Infuriated, Eisenhower wanted them gone.

Eisenhower Squirrel Cartoon

Herb Block FoundationA 1955 depiction of Dwight D. Eisenhower's fury over the White House squirrels.

He told his valet John Moaney: "The next time you see one of those squirrels go near my putting green, take a gun and shoot it!"

Neither Moaney nor the Secret Service thought it would be a good idea to shoot and kill squirrels in full view of D.C. tourists. So what to do? Though a naval officer suggested recording the sounds of squirrels in distress and playing it back to encourage the others to leave, it was eventually decided that the squirrels would be trapped and relocated elsewhere.

Whether or not this happened is a bit unclear. The Washington Post reports that at least one journalist sniffed around and found that the squirrels had actually been poisoned. But by the time Ronald Reagan arrived in office, they were back in full force. Reagan even fed them walnuts.

The story of Eisenhower and the squirrels is a good example of a fun presidential fact — though not, perhaps, for the squirrels — but plenty of others are much darker.

Darker Presidential Facts: The Death Of William McKinley

American history abounds with dark presidential facts. And some of the darkest and most bizarre have to do with presidential deaths.

Take William McKinley.

In 1901, the president traveled to Buffalo, New York, to attend the Pan-American Exposition. While there, McKinley pinned a red carnation to his lapel.

Listen above to the History Uncovered podcast, episode 44: The Secret Lives of Presidents, also available on Apple and Spotify.

This had long been something of a tradition with him. According to the Ohio Statehouse, he'd first been given a red carnation in 1876 by his political opponent, Levi Lamborn, as they both ran for a seat in Congress. Lamborn was a horticulturist who grew a special strain of red carnations, and he offered one to McKinley when they debated each other.

McKinley won the debate, and the election, and came to see red carnations as good luck. He started wearing them on his lapel all the time after he won the presidential election in 1896, and even kept the flowers on his desk in the Oval Office.

He was wearing one on Sept. 6, 1901 in Buffalo, when McKinley decided to take off his lucky flower and give it a little girl in the crowd named Myrtle Ledger. Shortly after giving the flower to Myrtle, McKinley found himself face-to-face with an anarchist named Leon Czolgosz.

William Mckinley Assassination

Public DomainOne of the dark presidential facts has to do with William McKinley, who was assassinated after giving away his good luck charm.

Czolgosz had a pistol hidden a white handkerchief in his right hand. wWen McKinley tried to shake his left hand, Czolgosz shot him twice in the abdomen.

The president died eight days later on Sept. 14.

Presidential facts like this one are dark but fascinating. What would have happened if McKinley had kept his lucky flower pinned to his chest? We'll never know.

To learn more about presidential facts, from the dark to the fun and everything in between, check out the gallery above for stories that you might not have learned in school.

After this look at the most fascinating U.S. presidents facts, discover some of the most interesting George Washington facts and Abraham Lincoln facts. Then, read up on the most amazing facts about our world and check out these Donald Trump quotes you'll have to read to believe.

Gabe Paoletti
Gabe Paoletti is a New York City-based writer and a former Editorial Intern at All That's Interesting. He holds a Bachelor's in English from Fordham University.
Kaleena Fraga
A staff writer for All That's Interesting, Kaleena Fraga has also had her work featured in The Washington Post and Gastro Obscura, and she published a book on the Seattle food scene for the Eat Like A Local series. She graduated from Oberlin College, where she earned a dual degree in American History and French.