45 Presidential Facts Even Huge History Nerds Won’t Know

Published September 14, 2017
Updated July 25, 2022
Obama Shush Og

Washington Teeth
1. George Washington’s teeth weren’t made of wood. The truth was actually much worse.

Washington's dentures were in fact made of animal bone and human teeth. Some records suggest that those teeth came from the mouths of slaves.
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Adams Jefferson Quote
2. John Adams' last words are thought to be, "Thomas Jefferson survives."

Adams believed that Jefferson, his great political rival, had outlived him. However, Jefferson himself had actually died just hours earlier. What's more, the date was July 4, 1826, exactly 50 years after the Continental Congress approved the Declaration of Independence.
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Thomas Jefferson Fun Fact
3. Thomas Jefferson invented the swivel chair, which he sat in while writing the Declaration of Independence. Wikimedia Commons

James Madison President
4. James Madison's face appeared on the $5,000 bill, which the government stopped printing in 1945. Wikimedia Commons

James Monroe
5. James Monroe was the last president that we'll never see a photograph of. He died in 1831, five years after the invention of the photograph but before the new technology had come into widespread use. Every subsequent president, however, was photographed.

Monroe was also the only president, other than George Washington, to run unopposed for reelection.
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Quincy President Facts
6. John Quincy Adams started keeping a diary when he was 12. By the time he died, he had written more than 14,000 pages in 51 volumes.

The writings showed, among countless other things, that the sixth president had suffered from depression for most of his life.
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Andrew Jackson
7. Andrew Jackson was the target of America's first presidential assassination attempt when Richard Lawrence fired a gun at him from just feet away.

When the gun misfired, Lawrence pulled out a second weapon — which also misfired.

An enraged Jackson charged Lawrence with his cane. Both pistols were later found to be working just fine, which means the odds of them both misfiring were 125,000 to 1.
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Martin Van Buren
8. Martin Van Buren's nickname, "Old Kinderhook," (a reference to the village where he was born in New York) is how we got the expression "OK."

He was also the first president to be born in America.
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William Henry Harrison
9. William Henry Harrison's supporters handed out booze in log cabin-shaped bottles after a critic called him the "Log Cabin and Hard Cider candidate."

Harrison was the first presidential candidate to actively campaign for the office, drawing crowds of up to 60,000 fans.

Too bad he let them all down by dying after just a month in office.
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John Tyler
10. John Tyler, born in 1790, still has two living grandchildren.Wikimedia Commons

James Polk Presidential Facts
11. James K. Polk's wife, Sarah, was such a staunch Presbyterian that music and dancing were banned at Polk's inaugural ball until they left. Wikimedia Commons

Taylor President
12. Zachary Taylor's body was exhumed 141 years after he died (having only served 16 months in office) to make sure he hadn't been poisoned.

They found that he had a normal level of arsenic in his body and concluded that it was cholera contracted from drinking milk on a hot day.
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Millard Fillmore Better
13. A Yale professor once wrote that "to discuss...Millard Fillmore is to overrate [him]."

And with that, we give you no Fillmore facts.
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Franklin Pierce President
14. Likely America's most obscure president, Franklin Pierce was denied renomination by the Democratic Party.

"There is nothing left to do but get drunk," he told a friend.
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Portrait President James Buchanan
15. Some scholars believe that James Buchanan may have been gay.

He is the only president that never married, but he lived for years with Alabama Senator William Rufus King.

This arrangement prompted Andrew Jackson to call the two "Miss Nancy and Aunt Fancy."
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Lincoln U.s. Presidents Facts
16. Abraham Lincoln created the Secret Service hours before he was assassinated.Wikimedia Commons

Andrew Johnson President
17. Andrew Johnson escaped indentured servitude.

His mother, alone with the children after their father died, sold him and his brother into servitude, but Johnson eventually ran away to reunite with his mother.
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S Grant
18. The "S" in Ulysses S. Grant's name doesn't stand for anything.

“Find some name beginning with “S” for me,” he joked in a letter to his future wife, Julia Dent. “You know I have an “S” in my name and don’t know what it stands for.”
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Hayes Standing Coast
19. Rutherford B. Hayes was the first president to take the oath at the White House and visit the West Coast.

He was also the first person in America to own a Siamese cat.
Bettmann/CORBIS/Getty Images

James Garfield President Facts
20. James Garfield's spine, with a clear bullet hole from his 1881 assassination, went on display at the National Museum of Health and Medicine in 2000.

At the time of the attack, Alexander Graham Bell had tried to find and remove the bullet using an early version of a metal detector.
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Chester Arthur
21. Chester Arthur held a White House yard sale, selling $8,000 of history (including Abe Lincoln's pants) to pay for redecorating. Wikimedia Commons

Cleveland Mustache Terms
22. Grover Cleveland is the only president to serve two non-consecutive terms.

So when anyone talks about the 45 presidents, be sure to call them out. We've only had 44.
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Harrison U.s. Presidents Facts
23. Benjamin Harrison was the grandson of ninth president William Henry Harrison. He is the only US president to be the grandchild of another president. Wikimedia Commons

Cleveland Wedding Profile
24. Grover Cleveland is the only president to ever have a wedding ceremony in the White House.

At 21, his wife became the youngest-ever first lady.
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Mckinley Carnation
25. William McKinley often wore a red carnation on his lapel for good luck.

At the 1901 Pan-American Exposition, he gave his carnation away to a little girl.

Moments later, he was assassinated.
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Roosevelt Boxer
26. Teddy Roosevelt, an avid boxer, was left blind in his left eye following a bout with a young military officer at the White House in 1905.Wikimedia Commons

Taft Arizona Presidential
27. William Howard Taft began the tradition of presidents throwing pitches when he snagged a fly ball at a 1910 Washington Senators game and threw it back onto the field.

At 340 pounds, Taft was also our heaviest president.
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Woodrow Facts
28. Woodrow Wilson is the only US president to be buried in Washington D.C. He is interred in a sarcophagus at Washington National Cathedral. Wikimedia Commons

Harding Worst
29. Warren G. Harding's scandal-ridden presidency frequently ranks as the worst in American history.

Harding himself once said, "I am not fit for this office and never should have been here."
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Coolidge Birthday
30. Calvin Coolidge is the only president who was born on the Fourth of July.Wikimedia Commons

31. Herbert Hoover, in order to remain fit while President, invented a sport called “Hooverball” where a medicine ball is thrown over a net by two teams.

The Hooverball championship is held in Hoover’s hometown of West Branch, Iowa every year.
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Fdr Stamps
32. Franklin Delano Roosevelt was a lifelong stamp collector who once said "I owe my life to my hobbies—especially stamp collecting." He began collecting stamps when he was bedridden from polio as a child, and continued to for his whole life.Wikimedia Commons

Truman Attack
33. Harry S. Truman narrowly avoided an assassination attempt in 1950 when two Puerto Rican nationalists launched an attack. A White House guard died in the process of killing one of the attackers.Wikimedia Commons

Eisenhower Golf
34. Dwight Eisenhower removed the White House’s squirrels with extreme prejudice because they were messing up his golfing.

"The next time you see one of those squirrels go near my putting green, take a gun and shoot it!" he told his men. However, the Secret Service opted not to fire guns on White House grounds and instead captured the squirrels and released them in a nearby park.
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Kennedy Book
35. A big James Bond fan, John F. Kennedy tried to write his own spy thriller — about a coup staged by Lyndon Johnson.Wikimedia Commons

Johnson Portrait
36. Lyndon Johnson acted very inappropriately with his very large penis.

Johnson's exploits with the organ he nicknamed "Jumbo" include holding a nude press conference aboard Air Force One, literally waving his penis around in the Capitol bathroom, and urinating in the parking lot of the House Office Building.
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Nixon Fbi
37. In 1937, recent law school graduate Richard Nixon applied to be a special agent with the FBI. He never heard back.Wikimedia Commons

Ford Football
38. In college, Gerald Ford turned down offers to play for two NFL teams: the Detroit Lions and the Green Bay Packers. He was an MVP center on his football team at the University of Michigan. Wikimedia Commons

Billy Beer
39. Jimmy Carter had a brother, Billy, who released a line of beer called “Billy Beer” to coincide with his brother’s inauguration. PhotoQuest/Getty Images

Reagan Jelly Beans Portrait
40. Ronald Reagan really, really loved jelly beans.

He began eating them during his California gubernatorial run as a substitute for pipe smoking. Later, when he was president, he kept a jar full of jelly beans on his desk in the Oval Office.
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Bush Cannibalized
41. George H.W. Bush was once very nearly cannibalized.

While he was a World War II Navy pilot in the Pacific, Bush's plane was shot down by the Japanese. Unlike the eight other men shot down along with him, Bush managed to narrowly escape Japanese capture. The other eight men, however, were tortured and killed by the Japanese — and some of them were eaten.
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Bill Clinton El Camino
42. As a young man, Bill Clinton lined the back of his El Camino with astro turf. “You don’t want to know why,” he once said with a sly grin, “but I did.”Wikimedia Commons

Bush Cheerleader
43. George W. Bush was a cheerleader.

During his senior year at Phillips Academy high school, Bush served as head cheerleader.
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Obama Tata
44. When Barack Obama briefly lived in Indonesia as a child, his family owned a number of unusual pets including numerous alligators, a turtle and an ape named Tata.Wikimedia Commons

Trump Check Cash
45. A satirical magazine once sent checks for 13 cents to some of the world’s richest people as a prank just to see who would cash them. Only two did: A Saudi arms dealer and Donald Trump.Wikimedia Commons

America's presidents are almost always rendered into history with stories of inspiring heroism or tragic failings — great highs and great lows.

We envision, say, Abraham Lincoln delivering the Gettysburg Address to a rapt audience as the Civil War was tearing the nation apart. Or we remember Richard Nixon leaving the White House by helicopter after the Watergate scandal ended his presidency in disgrace.

Between these great highs and great lows, the history books seldom have room for the bizarre, the droll, the presidential facts that remain positively fascinating even though they had no great impact on history as we know it.

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

Yet, facts like these are often the ones that provide the most memorable insight into the actual person behind the presidency.

From Thomas Jefferson's little-known invention to Andrew Jackson's unbelievable assassination attempt to John F. Kennedy's secret hobby, the U.S. presidents facts above reveal the single most interesting tidbit about each and every commander in chief that America has ever had.

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 is a New York City-based writer and an Editorial Intern at All That Is Interesting.