There’s a legend that George Washington had false teeth made of wood. However, the truth is stranger than fiction--his set was actually made from ivory and real human teeth.
John Adams was the first president to live in the White House (then known as the President’s House), but he barely had time to unpack! After moving in during the June of 1800, he was defeated in the elections a few months later. That means he barely got to enjoy four months in this historic building.
Politics can be a dangerous game, but Thomas Jefferson really upped that ante by introducing a pair of grizzly bear cubs into the mix. These “pets”, which were gifted to him by explorer Zebulon Pike, spent a terrifying two months on the president’s lawn. Thankfully, after outgrowing their accommodations, Jefferson had the sense to ship them off to a natural history museum.
While James Madison had no biological children of his own, he made quite a fine First Stepdad. A year before marrying his wife, Dolly, her previous husband and one of her sons tragically died. However, our fourth president was happy to take on a parenting role with Dolly’s surviving son, John.
James Monroe may have been elected as our fifth president, but he didn’t have to fight for it nearly as much as most people have to. The reason? He ran unopposed during his 1820 reelection campaign.
John Quincy Adams
John Quincy Adams was never afraid to bare it all--literally! According to some accounts, the sixth president of the United States enjoyed skinny dipping from time to time at Tiber Creek, which flows into the Potomac River.
It’s no secret that Andrew Jackson was fond of dueling, but most people don’t realize just how into this “pastime” the president actually was. During his lifetime, Jackson initiated over 100 duels with reasons ranging from the personal to the political--but all of them were almost certainly petty grievances.
Martin Van Buren
Politicians are no strangers to smear campaigns, but Martin Van Buren’s haters got creative with their insults in the 1840 election by setting them to music and creating the historic campaign song “Tippecanoe and Tyler Too.” The lyrics refer to Van Buren as a “used up man” and emphasize the qualities of his rival William Henry Harrison--who would go on to defeat Van Buren in the election.
William Henry Harrison
William Henry Harrison has the unfortunate distinction of being the first president to die in office. He only lasted a month before succumbing to typhoid fever--which also makes him the president with the shortest time in office.
After the death of William Henry Harrison, his vice president, John Tyler, quickly stepped into the position of president. This may not sound unusual now, but at the time, the 25th Amendment (which clarifies the presidential line of succession) had not yet been created. Tyler was wading into uncharted territory with his rise to the presidency, but ultimately he set the precedent that the country still follows to this day.
James K. Polk
No one wants to be second best--not even a president. Unfortunately for James K. Polk, he only became the Democratic party’s pick after Martin Van Buren failed to clinch the nomination. Despite living in the shadow of Van Buren for a moment, history has generally regarded Polk as a much more effective president.
The Secret Service may be in place to keep the president out of danger, but even the best bodyguards can’t protect the POTUS from bacteria. President Zachary Taylor died of cholera four days after snacking on some contaminated cherries and milk at a 4th of July party.
While American politics nowadays seems like an eternal battle between Republicans and Democrats, in the country’s early years, there were a number of other political parties that rose to power. Millard Fillmore was a member of the now-defunct Whig party and was the last president without a (D) or an (R) after his name.
They might be the most powerful person in the country, but even presidents aren’t above the law. Case in point: Franklin Pierce. During his presidency, Pierce was arrested for allegedly running over someone with his horse. The charges were later dropped, however.
James Buchanan has the distinction of being the first unmarried US president to take office. Although he was engaged at one time to a woman named Ann Coleman, Buchanan ended their relationship and never wed for the rest of his life.
In a real ironic twist, President Abraham Lincoln approved legislation to create the Secret Service mere hours before he was assassinated by John Wilkes Booth. However, at the time, the agency’s mission was to stamp out counterfeit money. They would not take on the role of protecting the president until the 1900s.
Andrew Johnson was the first president to be impeached, but that’s not even the strangest thing about his presidency. That honor goes to the fact that he tailored all his own suits while serving as president.
Ulysses S. Grant
So what does the “S” in Ulysses S. Grant stand for? Not a thing. The 18th president’s given name was Hiram Ulysses Grant, but that all changed when a congressman mistakenly called him “Ulysses S. Grant” in a letter of recommendation for West Point.
Rutherford B. Hayes
There were no wild parties at the White House while Rutherford B. Hayes was in power--he instituted an alcohol ban in the building. Before you laud him for his moral conviction, keep in mind he did it mostly so that he could gain political favor with the Prohibitionists.
Not all presidential “firsts” are equally exciting. Poor James Garfield had to settle for being the first left-handed president.
Chester A. Arthur
Former President Barack Obama had to deal with the ugly “birther” movement claiming he wasn’t a natural-born citizen, but he wasn’t the first to contend with these nasty rumors. Chester Arthur’s political foes tried (unsuccessfully) to claim that he was born in either Ireland or Canada--making him ineligible to run for president.
Grover Cleveland was a president able to take a noble deed and turn it into something seriously creepy. After his law partner died, Cleveland took guardianship of his young daughter. What a great guy, right? Well, a decade later, the president married his adoptive “daughter.” Yikes.
Benjamin Harrison was the first president to have electricity in the White House. However, our commander in chief was less than thrilled about moving into the modern era--he was allegedly so scared of being electrocuted that he refused to touch the light switches himself.
Grover Cleveland (Part II)
Feeling deja vu? So was the American public when Grover Cleveland was re-elected as president for a second, non-consecutive term. To date, he’s the only president to ever do this.
William McKinley was a superstitious man--he was always seen wearing a red carnation for good luck. Unfortunately, his luck ran out on September 6th, 1901. Moments after giving a small child the flower on his lapel, he was shot by Leon Czolgosz.
Although the White House was constructed in the early 1800s, that was not its official name until Theodore Roosevelt called it that in 1901. Before the Roosevelt presidency, it was frequently referred to as the “Presidential Palace” or the “Executive Mansion.”
Despite the legends, there’s no proof that our portly 27th president ever found himself stuck in a bathtub. However, Taft absolutely enjoyed a nice dip every now and again--so much so that he had a custom tub installed on the USS North Carolina.
Woodrow Wilson has his face on our money, but chances are you’ve never seen it. Wilson adorns the $100,000 bill, which was mainly used for trades between banks before the advent of wire transfers. However, if you happen to have one laying around, it’s still technically legal tender!
Warren G. Harding
Presidential infidelity was at an all-time high during the Harding administration. Our 29th president cheated on his wife with at least two women--one of whom had a daughter from the affair. However, it took until 2005 to prove that the child was actually Harding’s.
While not mentioned in the Constitution, the Supreme Court Chief Justice typically swears in new presidents. However, after his election win, Calvin Coolidge was sworn in by his father--who also happened to be named Calvin Coolidge.
Not to be outdone by Thomas Jefferson’s grizzly bears, Herbert Hoover permitted his son to keep two pet alligators during his time in office. It’s said that Hoover sometimes "allowed" them to roam around the White House--although we’re skeptical that even someone as powerful as the president could say no to a pair of terrifying alligators.
Franklin D. Roosevelt
Despite traditional conventions, FDR’s wife, Eleanor, did not take his last name when they were married. The reason? They were cousins, so her last name was already Roosevelt. They were just one in a long line of questionable presidential relationships.
Like other presidents, Harry Truman first served as vice president before assuming the role of POTUS. However, he only lasted in the position for 82 days. Because of Franklin Roosevelt’s deteriorating health, he was sworn in as president shortly before the former president died.
While our current president is known for being a golfer, he’s got nothing on Dwight Eisenhower’s love for the game. It’s estimated that he played more than 800 rounds during his eight years in office--a presidential record that still stands.
John F. Kennedy
To date, John F. Kennedy is the only president to be awarded a Purple Heart. He received this honor for being wounded in the line of duty during World War II.
Lyndon B. Johnson
Lyndon Johnson and his wife, Claudia “Lady Bird” Johnson, had one of the strongest and most romantic relationships to ever unfold in the public eye. That being said, Johnson may have been a bit of a cheapskate. The engagement ring he bought for Lady Bird allegedly only cost $2.50--which is less than $50 when you factor in inflation.
To the displeasure of many Americans, Richard Nixon instituted year-round daylight savings time in 1974 as an attempt to gain control of the energy crisis. However, this choice was so unpopular with citizens that it was abandoned by 1975.
Although he might be most famous for pardoning former President Nixon in the Watergate scandal, Gerald Ford was more than a shrewd politician--he was also...a hunk? Despite what your eyes might be telling you, our 38th president once graced the pages of Cosmopolitan in 1942.
The truth is out there--and Jimmy Carter knows it! In 1969, the former president claims to have seen a UFO. In his official report, he said the object was as bright as the moon and changed colors several times before disappearing from the sky.
Before entering a life of politics, Ronald Reagan was quite the accomplished celebrity--starring in films such as Kings Row and Knute Rockne, All American. However, his rise to superstardom was cut short when America entered World War II and Reagan returned to active duty.
George H.W. Bush
No matter how you liked his presidency, you’ve got to feel bad that George H.W. Bush vomited all over the Japanese Prime Minister during a visit to the country in 1992. The event caused such a stir in Japan that they coined a new word--bushu-suru. It means “to do the Bush thing.”
Even though the idea of the presidency might seem stuffy, Bill Clinton was anything but. This smooth-talking southerner was quite the accomplished saxophone player--he even performed a rendition of “Heartbreak Hotel” on the Arsenio Hall Show during the 1992 campaign season.
George W. Bush
During his time as president, George W. Bush led the country through 9/11 and two wars in the Middle East (with varying degrees of success). However, after his tenure, the former president ditched foreign policy for more artistic pursuits. Bush now spends much of his time as a painter--once again, with varying degrees of success.
Barack Obama is one of only three presidents to have the distinction of being a Grammy winner. But before you go scouring the internet trying to find any Obama R&B hits, please note that he won Best Spoken Word Album for recording the audiobook version of his biography.
Love him or hate him, President Trump is living a life that many of us would enjoy. According to one tell-all memoir, the President apparently enjoys spending nights in bed eating cheeseburgers.