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20 weird facts about US Presidents you probably never knew

Posted by mandyf on February 20, 2012

We never seem to know our Presidents as well as we think we do. Sure we know the big things usually like their name – although believe it or not 14% of Americans failed to correctly identify the president in a 2011 phone survey. We know the stuff they tell us when they campaign. We know the stuff they put in the history books about each president when we were in school. What we fail to know most of the time is the quirky stuff.

Presidents are men, so far at least, just like any other for the most part. They put their pants on one leg at a time, although I heard a rumor Clinton sat on the edge of his bed and made a point of putting both feet in at the same time and then executed a hop move to get in his. Probably urban legend, but it’s a part of what makes him interesting – along with the other stuff we’re pretending didn’t happen. With that in mind though, what are some of the coolest things about US Presidents you probably never knew?

1. At the height of George Washington’s presidency, there were about 350 federal employees. He was accused of “putting everyone” on the payroll. Today – for comparison – there are about 2 million federal employees.

2. Keeping with the theme, US Grant gave 13 of his relatives federally appointed jobs the day he first took the office of the President.

3. Herbert Hoover did something no other president has ever done – he did the job for free. Hoover refused his pay while in office, refused it upon leaving office and never accepted payment for being POTUS as long as he lived.

4. Gerald Ford was not only never elected to the post of Vice president, he was never elected President either – yet he held both positions. Many forget that Ford replaced VP Agnew after Agnew took a guilty plea on bribery charges stemming back to his days in Maryland politics – not in conjunction to Watergate. It was the first time the 25th amendment was used.

5. George Washington received many honors, but did you know that he was promoted to the rank of a 6 star general? It’s true, and you can look it up. What makes it odd is that the promotion came from President Jimmy Carter because Carter felt Washington deserved the extra recognition.The official title in case you are curious is 6 Star General of the Armies of Congress.

6. The only US president to have studied economics in college — drum roll please — Ronald Reagan.

7. Grover Cleavland was a draft dodger. Okay, because it was customary for men of wealth to buy their way out of military obligations by hiring someone to go fight in their place it isn’t technically draft dodging, it is still being a weasel – right?

8. Thomas Jefferson and John Adams died on the same day – July 4th, 1826.

9. While it is true that JFK was the youngest man elected president at 43, Teddy Roosevelt was the youngest to ever hold the office at age 42 after McKinley was assassinated.

10. Calvin Coolidge used to “ring and run” the White House doorbell to amuse himself.

11. Jimmy Carter was the first US President born in a hospital.

12. JQ Adams and Calvin Coolidge kept pet alligators at the White House while in office.

13. William Henry Harrison lasted only 31 days as president before dying of pneumonia.

14. No one under the height of 5’9″ has won a presidential election since prior to 1900.

15. James Garfield is the only US President that was also ever an ordained preacher.

16. Richard Nixon’s application to join the FBI was denied – so he entered politics instead.

17. One of Abraham Lincoln’s earliest jobs was as a spy – sort of. Lincoln was paid to act as a “credit correspondent” which meant he was to watch his neighbors and then report on their spending habits, work ethic etc.. so that lenders could decide who was a creditworthy risk.

18. Millard Fillmore, the 13th president, was the first to have a bathtub in the White House.

19. Zachary Taylor, the 12th president, did not vote. At least not for any presidents by his own admission including himself. It was doubted he ever voted in any election.

20. The term O.K. as in meaning that everything is going well, came from when Martin Van Buren began referring to his hometown of Old Kinderhook, NY, as OK. Sayings like “It’s the OK way”, As good as OK” etc.. eventually shortened to just OK.

There you have it – 20 mostly useless facts about US presidents. Amaze your friends! Mess with your teachers! That is what useless knowledge is for!

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6 Responses to “20 weird facts about US Presidents you probably never knew”

  1. I did not know these things and I am amused by many. Thank you.

  2. Nice piece, Mandy! I have heard numerous explanations of the origin of the expression OK, but it seems likely that Van Buren at least popularized the use of the expression in the US.

  3. txwikinger said

    Reblogged this on txwikinger's blog.

  4. Tom Laing said

    An amusing look at history – brought a smile to face numerous times while reading it. Thanks Amanda.

  5. sallykwitt said

    Fun and interesting! Thanks Amanda.

  6. Hmm.. The origins of “OK” are widely disputed. Of the *many* possible sources, this one is new.

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