Shocking things you didn’t know about every US president

  • There are a slew of surprising facts about all 44 US Presidents.
  • Abe Lincoln was an avid wrestler before becoming Commander-in-Chief.
  • JFK donated his entire White House salary to charity.

Forget everything you learned in history class. There’s a whole treasure trove of hidden facts about the 45 presidents that haven’t made it into middle school textbooks. From the bizarre (one Commander-in-chief owned a giant block of cheese) to the seriously cool (another won two Grammys), keep scrolling to learn everything about the country’s most important politicians throughout history.


George Washington (1789-1797)

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George Washington
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Wikimedia Commons

Washington had terrible, decaying teeth so he wore dentures made from (among other things) ivory, spring, and brass screws.

Read more: A look at the daily routine of George Washington, who drank tea and wine and spent hours on horseback


John Adams (1797-1801)

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A 1816 portrait of John Adams from Samuel Morse.
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Wikimedia Commons

John Adams’ last words were “Thomas Jefferson survives.” What he apparently didn’t know was that Jefferson had actually died a few hours prior.


Thomas Jefferson (1801-1809)

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Thomas Jefferson
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Thomas Jefferson by Rembrandt Peale (1805)

He kept pet mockingbirds because he loved to listen to them sing. His favorite of the bunch was named Dick.


James Madison (1809-1817)

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James Madison
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Wikimedia Commons

He was Princeton University’s very first graduate student, where he studied Hebrew among other subjects. At the time, he was simple staying for a year of additional studies from the school’s president, John Witherspoon, but today he is considered a grad student, and the very first at that.


James Monroe (1817-1825)

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James Monroe
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Wikimedia

Monroe was a law apprentice for another president: Thomas Jefferson. Law apparently didn’t interest him, though and he went into politics.


John Quincy Adams (1825-1829)

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A copy of a daguerreotype taken of John Quincy Adams in around 1845.
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National Archives and Records Administration

He was a big fan of skinny dipping. Every morning, the president dived into the Potomac for his daily exercise routine.


Andrew Jackson (1829-1837)

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The White House portrait of Andrew Jackson.
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Wikimedia Commons

Jackson had a giant block of cheese – which weighed 1,400 pounds – that he kept in the White House. He let the public eat the block of cheddar after his time in office was done.


Martin Van Buren (1837-1841)

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A print of Martin van Buren taken after his presidency, circa 1955.
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Wikimedia Commons

Van Buren’s wife died in 1819 and he never remarried. His daughter-in-law filled in with first lady duties.


William Henry Harrison (1841)

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William Henry Harrison
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Wikimedia Commons

Harrison’s inauguration speech was the longest to date. It went for an hour and 45 minutes and he was out in a snowstorm. He died a month later of pneumonia.


John Tyler (1841-1845)

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John Tyler
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Wikimedia Commons

Tyler had 15 children, which is the most known children by any president.

Read more: How the White House’s décor has changed over the last 109 years


James K. Polk (1845-1849)

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James K. Polk
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Wikimedia

Polk presided over the building of the Washington Monument, and oversaw the creation of the first postage stamp.


Zachary Taylor (1849-1850)

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Zachary Taylor
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Wikimedia

Taylor was nominated for president by the Whig Party, and didn’t even realize that it had happened until he received a letter with the news. He also refused to campaign after accepting.


Millard Fillmore (1850-1853)

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Millard Fillmore
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Wikimedia Commons

Fillmore didn’t have a vice president during his time in office.


Franklin Pierce (1853-1857)

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Franklin Pierce
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Wikimedia Commons

Pierce was known as “Young Hickory,” which was a reference to Andrew Jackson, who was known as “Old Hickory.”


James Buchanan (1857-1861)

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James Buchanan
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Wikimedia

He was the only completely unmarried president to serve in office.


Abraham Lincoln (1861-1865)

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Abraham Lincoln

Lincoln is in the Wrestling Hall of Fame because of his skills in the ring. As a young man, he only lost one match out of the 300 he participated in.

Read more: A look inside the daily routine of Abraham Lincoln, who started working before breakfast, forgot to eat regular meals, and was known to walk through the White House late at night


Andrew Johnson (1865-1869)

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Andrew Johnson
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Wikimedia Commons

Johnson never attended school, and had to teach himself how to read.


Ulysses S. Grant (1869-1877)

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Commanding General Grant at the Battle of Cold Harbor in 1864.
source
Library of Congress

The “S” in his name is actually a result of a clerical error when he was nominated to attend West Point. Though he tried to shake it, it stuck.


Rutherford B. Hayes (1877-1881)

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Rutherford B. Hayes
source
White House

The president was known by a shorter nickname, “Rud.”


James A. Garfield (1881)

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James A. Garfield
source
Wikimedia

Garfield became the president of his college, Eclectic Institute, at the tender age of 26.


Chester Arthur (1881-1885)

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President Chester Arthur
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Wikimedia

Arthur’s critics tried to persuade the public that the presidential hopeful was not actually an American citizen. He was born in Vermont.


Grover Cleveland (1885-1889, 1893-1897)

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James A. Garfield
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Wikimedia

Cleveland – who served two nonconsecutive terms – won his presidency by the most razor sharp of magins. He nabbed the job thanks to 1,200 votes in New York.


Benjamin Harrison (1889-1893)

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An 1896 photo of Benjamin Harrison.
source
Library of Congress

Harrison was the first president to use electricity in the White House.


William McKinley (1897-1901)

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William McKinley in his presidential portrait
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Public domain

McKinley’s team was the first to conduct telephone campaigning.


Theodore Roosevelt (1901-1909)

Roosevelt watched Lincoln’s funeral procession when he was a child.

Read more: The top 20 presidents in US history, according to historians


William Howard Taft (1909-1913)

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William Howard Taft
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Archive Photos/Getty

He once got stuck in the White House bathtub and had to be removed by members of his staff.


Woodrow Wilson (1913-1921)

Wilson nominated the first Jewish justice – Louis Brandeis – to Supreme Court.


Warren G. Harding (1921-1923)

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A photo of Warren G. Harding taken around 1920.
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Library of Congress

Harding held many jobs before taking office including being a teacher, an insurance agent, a reporter, and the owner of “The Marion Daily Star.”


Calvin Coolidge (1923-1929)

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Calvin Coolidge
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Wikimedia

Calvin was actually his middle name – he was born John Calvin Coolidge.


Herbert Hoover (1929-1933)

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Herbert Hoover
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Wikimedia Commons

Before becoming president, Hoover was a self-made millionaire. He graduated from Stanford University with a degree in geology and then globe trotted throughout his 20’s, locating valuable mineral deposits.


Franklin D. Roosevelt (1933-1945)

He was an avid stamp collector, and used that hobby as a stress reliever while he was in the White House.


Harry S. Truman (1945-1953)

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Harry S. Truman
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Wikimedia Commons

The “S” in Truman’s name didn’t actually stand for anything.


Dwight D. Eisenhower (1953-1961)

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Dwight D. Eisenhower
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Wikimedia Commons

Camp David is named after Eisenhower’s 5-year-old grandson, David.


John F. Kennedy (1961-1963)

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John F. Kennedy
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P Photo/William J. Smith

Kennedy donated his entire White House salary ($100,000 a year) to charity.

Read more: John F. Kennedy is an American icon. These 21 color photos helped define his legacy.


Lyndon B. Johnson (1963-1969)

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Lyndon B. Johnson
source
Wikimedia Commons

Johnson nearly died in World War II. He boarded a plane, then exited to use the restroom. When he came back, he boarded a different plane. The original plane he was on was destroyed in battle but the second plane survived.


Richard Nixon (1969-1974)

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Richard Nixon
source
US Government Photo

Nixon was raised as a Quaker. He attended regular Quaker meetings as a child, and enrolled in Whittier College, a Quaker institution.


Gerald Ford (1974-1977)

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Gerald Ford
source
Wikipedia

He was the only politician to serve as both president and vice president, without actually being elected to either office.


Jimmy Carter (1977-1981)

He created the Department of Energy, in response to the energy shortage crisis.


Ronald Reagan (1981-1989)

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Ronald Reagan
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Wikimedia Commons

It may be well-known that Reagan loved jelly beans, but, according to his wife, he was a fussy eater who despised brussels sprouts and tomatoes.


George H.W. Bush (1989-1993)

Bush was the youngest pilot in the Navy when he served. He flew for 58 combat missions.

Read more: Here is the life and legacy of former President George H.W. Bush in photos


Bill Clinton (1993-2001)

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Bill Clinton
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Getty Images/Samir Hussein

Clinton has won two Grammys. The first for the album “Prokofiev: Peter and the Wolf/Beintus: Wolf Tracks,” and the second for the reading of his autobiography, “My Life.”


George W. Bush (2001-2009)

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George W. Bush
source
Right To Rise

He’s the only president who has an MBA. He graduated from Harvard Business School in 1975.


Barack Obama (2009-2017)

He keeps a wooden carving of a hand holding an egg on his desk. The figurine represents the Kenyan symbol of life’s fragility.


Donald Trump (2017- )

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Donald Trump
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Reuters/Jonathan Ernst

Trump doesn’t drink alcohol.