What Donald Trump and other US presidents looked like when they were young

Barack Obama with his grandparents, Stanley Armour Dunham and Madelyn Dunham, in New York in the 1980s.

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Barack Obama with his grandparents, Stanley Armour Dunham and Madelyn Dunham, in New York in the 1980s.
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Obama for America

It’s hard to picture what American presidents were like before they left their marks on domestic and foreign policy.

Here we’ve collected old photos of US presidents to give a little taste of who they once were.

Not every president is listed since photography wasn’t widely used during the United States’ earlier history. The photos are shown in reverse chronological order – starting with current US President, Donald Trump.


US President Donald Trump as a child.

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Donald Trump/Instagram

The photo caption reads: “Who knew this innocent kid would grow into a monster? #TBT #Trump”


Barack Obama with his grandparents, Stanley Armour Dunham and Madelyn Dunham, in New York in the 1980s.

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Obama for America

George W. Bush sits between his parents George H. W. Bush and Barbara Bush in Rye, NY, 1955.


Bill Clinton spent his childhood in Arkansas.

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Getty Images/Stringer

George H. W. Bush, captain of the Yale baseball team, in 1947.


Ronald Reagan, then a 27-year old actor, in 1938.


Here’s Jimmy Carter at age seven in 1932 in Plains, Georgia.


Gerald Ford on the University of Michigan football team, 1933. The team won two national championships and his teammates voted him MVP. A fellow football player remarked that his teammates “felt he was one guy who could stay and fight for a losing cause.”

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Wikimedia via Gerald R. Ford Library

Source: The Michigan Alumnus, Volumes 79-80.


Richard Nixon played the violin in his high school orchestra.

He could also play saxophone, accordion, and piano. Later when president, he presented Duke Ellington with the Presidential Medal of Freedom at the White House on the musician’s birthday, and then both played and sang ‘Happy Birthday’ for him.

You can see a clip of Nixon playing “Happy Birthday” for Ellington here.

Source: History.com, The White House Historical Association


Lyndon B. Johnson at his family home in the Texas hill country near Stonewall, Texas, 1915.

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Wikimedia via LBJ Library

After finishing a year of college, he taught at a primarily Mexican-American school in southern Texas. Recalling the experience after he signed the Higher Education Act of 1965, he said, “I shall never forget the faces of the boys and the girls in that little Welhausen Mexican School, and I remember even yet the pain of realizing and knowing then that college was closed to practically every one of those children because they were too poor.”

Source: History.com, “Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Lyndon B. Johnson, 1966.”


John F. Kennedy swimming in the backstroke event for the varsity swimming team at Harvard, where he was a student, 1938.


U.S. Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower and his wife-to-be Mamie Geneva Doud, 18, pose on a Sunday morning in November 1915, one month after their first meeting.


Postcard photo of Harry S. Truman taken in France during World War I. On the other side of the postcard it said, “Given to John A. Hatfield in France in 1918 – returned to Harry S. Truman in January, 1962.”

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Wikimedia via the Harry S. Truman Library & Museum.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt playing with a bow and arrow circa 1890.

Three years later, his father took him to meet then-president Grover Cleveland, who told FDR: “My little man, I am making a strange wish for you. It is that you may never be president of the United States.”

Source: PBS


Herbert Hoover at the age of seventeen when he was attending Stanford University.

He entered the university in 1891, the year the school officially opened, and he attended with free tuition, according to AP.


Calvin Coolidge, then-Governor of Massachusetts, milks a cow at his father’s home in Vermont, July 14, 1920.


Then-Senator of Ohio Warren G. Harding at age 33 in 1889.

He opposed the League of Nations and supported high tariffs, but otherwise didn’t take many strong stands on issues while in the Senate.

Source: History.com


Woodrow Wilson, circa 1875. Wilson’s diplomatic actions during and after WWI have left their mark on virtually all US foreign policy from the end of that war to today.

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Wikimedia

Theodore Roosevelt ranching and hunting in the Dakota Territory in 1885.

When he was younger, TR had a weak heart and was advised by a doctor from going up the stairs too quickly. “Doctor,” he replied, “I’m going to do all the things you tell me not to do. If I’ve got to live the sort of life you have described, I don’t care how short it is.”

Source: “Real Life at the White House: Two Hundred Years of Daily Life at America’s Most Famous Residence.”


William Howard Taft’s class photo from Yale College, 1878.

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Wikimedia via Yale University

Not only did Taft become president, but he was also later the Chief Justice, which makes him the only person to hold the highest seat in both the executive and judicial branches of US government.

Source: History.com


William McKinley, aged 15, circa 1858. He enlisted in the Union Army as a private after the Civil War began, and ended with the rank of brevet major.

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Wikimedia

Source: “Real Life at the White House: Two Hundred Years of Daily Life at America’s Most Famous Residence.”


An early and undated photograph of Grover Cleveland. He’s the only president to serve two non-consecutive terms.

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Wikimedia


Benjamin Harrison, probably photographed during his college years, circa 1850.

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Wikimedia

His grandfather, William Henry Harrison, was elected president (although he died from pneumonia 31 days into office) and his great-grandfather, Benjamin Harrison V, was one of the Founding Fathers.


Chester Arthur, then a young lawyer, before his marriage to Ellen Herndon in 1859.

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Wikimedia

A few years earlier, he successfully represented a black woman, Elizabeth Jennings Graham, who was denied a seat on a streetcar in New York City due to her race. This helped lead to the desegregation of all New York transit systems in 1865.

Source: History.com


James A. Garfield, circa 1847. His father died when he was two years old, and so he earned money for school by driving canal boat teams.

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Wikimedia

Source: The White House


Rutherford B. Hayes and his wife on their wedding day, December 30, 1852.

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Wikimedia

Later, he was nominated to run for Congress while he was still in the Army during the Civil War. He accepted, but would not campaign, saying: “An officer fit for duty who at this crisis would abandon his post to electioneer… ought to be scalped.”

Source: The White House


When he was younger, Abraham Lincoln would read anything he could get his hands on. Occasionally, he would walk for miles to borrow a book he hadn’t yet read. Here he is in his 30s when he was a member of the House of Representatives.

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Wikimedia Commons

Source: “The Every-Day Life of Abraham Lincoln: A narrative and descriptive biography with pen-pictures and personal recollections by those who knew him