The history of the United States is not just a chronicle of political triumphs and global affairs; it’s also a trove of bizarre and unexpected anecdotes about the people who have occupied the highest office in the land. Some of the following weird facts about US presidents are so out there we had to do a double take.
1. George Washington’s teeth were not wooden
Contrary to popular belief, George Washington didn’t have wooden teeth. His dentures were made from a combination of materials, including human teeth, animal teeth, and ivory.
2. Calvin Coolidge’s pygmy hippo
President Calvin Coolidge had a pet pygmy hippo named Billy, which was gifted to him by Harvey Samuel Firestone in 1927. His name was William Johnson Hippopotamus or Billy for short, and he lived at the local zoo.
3. William Howard Taft’s oversized bathtub
President Taft was a large man, weighing more than 300 pounds. This meant a custom-made, oversized bathtub had to be installed in the White House to accommodate his size. A bathtub that could fit four people.
4. Andrew Jackson’s big cheese wheel
On New Year’s Day 1836, a New York farmer sent Jackson a giant 1,400-pound wheel of cheese. Jackson knew this was too much cheese for just one president so let it age for two years and then invited the public to taste a slice. It disappeared in less than two hours but the smell and the floor stain lingered for quite a while.
5. James Madison was the shortest president
Madison, the fourth president, was the shortest president at 5 feet 4 inches (163 centimeters). He was also nicknamed the “Father of the Constitution.”
6. John Quincy Adams was a fan of skinny dipping
He was known for his daily ritual of skinny-dipping in the Potomac River. Apparently he believed it invigorated him and if we take in consideration his long political career we’re a bit tempted to join in.
7. Martin Van Buren’s different First Lady
His wife, Hannah Hoes Van Buren, died before he was elected president and he never remarried. Instead, his daughter-in-law, Angelica Singleton, acted as the First Lady.
8. Thomas Jefferson collected fossils
Jefferson was an aspiring paleontologist way before the term was even invented. On top of that he was considered an expert in anatomy, civil engineering, physics, mechanics, meteorology, architecture, and botany. He would 100% beat anybody on trivia nights.
9. Benjamin Harrison’s electric lights
President Benjamin Harrison was the first president to have electric lights in the White House. However, he was so afraid of getting electrocuted that he often asked staff to turn them on and off for him.
10. William McKinley and his lucky red carnation
President William McKinley always wore a red carnation in his lapel for good luck. On the day of his assassination in 1901, he gave the carnation to a little girl moments before he was shot. He stated that he wanted to “give this flower to another little flower.”
11. Lyndon B. Johnson’s love for amphibious cars
President Lyndon B. Johnson had an amphibious car, an Amphicar, which he enjoyed surprising guests by driving straight into a lake while shouting that the brakes had failed. He used to say “The brakes don’t work! The brakes won’t hold! We’re going in! We’re going under!” and as expected, people would start to freak out big time.
12. Warren G. Harding’s poker fun
President Warren G. Harding was a big fan of poker. He once lost an entire set of priceless White House china in a poker game.
13. Chester A. Arthur’s fancy clothing
President Chester A. Arthur was known for his impeccable style. He had 80 pairs of pants and changed his pants multiple times a day. Talk about being a fashion addict!
14. Harry S. Truman’s middle name
His middle name was “S” without a period. It was not an abbreviation for a name but a compromise to honor both of his grandfathers, Anderson Shipp Truman and Solomon Young.
15. Ulysses S. Grant’s traffic ticket
Grant was pulled over for riding his horse and buggy too fast in Washington, D.C. and ended up being arrested. He paid the bond but didn’t show up in court.
16. Zachary Taylor’s milk and cherries deathly combo
He reportedly died of a stomach ailment after consuming an excessive amount of milk and cherries at a Fourth of July celebration.
17. The “bald eagle vs. wild turkey” debate
Though it is believed that Benjamin Franklin famously preferred the wild turkey over the bald eagle as the national symbol, things are a bit different. He just questions the choice of the eagle, describing it as a bird of “bad moral character” and staging it looks more like a turkey.
18. Abraham Lincoln’s wrestling career
Before becoming president, Abraham Lincoln was a skilled wrestler and lost only one of approximately 300 matches. Rumor has it his reputation as a wrestler helped him nab the presidential seat.
19. The “Curse of Tippecanoe”
An urban legend saying that every president elected in a year divisible by 20 will die in office. The rumor started after President William Henry Harrison died in 1841. Harrison’s forces defeated the Native Americans at the Battle of Tippecanoe, hence the name.
20. Millard Fillmore and his library
Fillmore along with his wife established the first permanent library in the White House. This contributed to the founding of the Library of Congress.
21. Grover Cleveland’s secret surgery
The president had secret cancer surgery to remove a tumor on the roof of his mouth. He had the surgery performed on a friend’s yacht to avoid panicking the country. A team of six surgeons and roughly 90 minutes later, the surgery was a success.
22. John Adams’ dog “Satan”
John Adams had a dog named “Satan”. Can you imagine the fun of hearing “Heel, Satan” in the White House?
23. John Adams and Thomas Jefferson’s coincidental deaths
Adams and Jefferson, the second and third U.S. presidents, both died on July 4, 1826, exactly 50 years after the signing of the Declaration of Independence.
24. Dwight D. Eisenhower’s love for golf
Dwight D. Eisenhower was an avid golfer and played over 800 rounds of golf during his two terms as president.
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25. Woodrow Wilson’s sheep grazing
Wilson had a flock of sheep graze on the White House lawn during World War I to save on grounds keeping costs. Not only that, their wool was sold and the money donated to the Red Cross.
We hope you’ve enjoyed reading about their quirkier side, shedding light on the fascinating, and at times, downright weird facts about US presidents that make these respected leaders more human and relatable.