February 20 is Presidents’ Day, the day we celebrate all the presidents of the United States. There have been 44 former presidents—Donald Trump is the 45th. (Grover Cleveland was both the 22nd and 24th president.) George Washington, our first president, was elected in 1788 and took office in 1789. Presidents are elected for four-year terms and can be reelected once for a second four-year term.
Here are some interesting tidbits about some of our presidents. The dates listed are the years they served. Follow the links to look each president up in the library catalog.
Ohio is the state with the most presidents: William Henry Harrison, Ulysses S. Grant, Rutherford B. Hayes, James A. Garfield, Benjamin Harrison, William McKinley, William H. Taft, and Warren G. Harding.
George Washington (1789–1797). Despite popular myth, his dentures weren’t made of wood. They were made of hippopotamus ivory, bone, animal and human teeth, lead, brass screws, and gold wire.
John Adams (1797–1801) and Thomas Jefferson (1801–1809) were political rivals who became close friends and correspondents in later life. Both died on July 4, 1826 (the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence).
James Madison (1809–1817) was the smallest president. He was 5′4″ tall and weighed 100 pounds.
Andrew Jackson (1829–1837) received a 1,400-pound wheel of cheddar cheese as a gift in 1835 and kept it in the White House lobby for two years. Before he left office in 1837, Jackson let the public consume the giant cheddar at a reception, which stunk up the building for days.
John Tyler (1841–1845) had 15 children, more than any other president. Two of his grandsons are still alive today!
Franklin Pierce (1853–1857) had a tough time guiding the nation and perhaps an even tougher time guiding his horse. During his presidency, Pierce was arrested for running over a woman with his horse. Charges were later dropped due to a lack of evidence.
James Buchanan (1857–1861) regularly bought slaves in Washington, D.C. and quietly freed them in Pennsylvania.
Abraham Lincoln (1861–1865) could throw down in the wrestling ring. As a young man, he was only defeated once out of approximately 300 matches. He made it to the Wrestling Hall of Fame with the honor of “Outstanding American.”
Ulysses S. Grant (1869–1877) smoked a ton of cigars—at least 20 a day. After a great military victory at the Battle of Shiloh, citizens sent him more than 10,000 boxes of cigars as gratitude. He died of throat cancer in 1885.
Rutherford B. Hayes (1877–1881) was the only president to be wounded in the Civil War—not once, but four times.
James A. Garfield (1881). Not only was he ambidextrous—he could write Latin with one hand and Greek with the other at the same time.
Benjamin Harrison (1889–1893) was the first president to have electricity in the White House. However, he was so scared of getting electrocuted that he would never touch the light switches himself.
Teddy Roosevelt (1901–1909) was shot in an assassination attempt while delivering a speech in Milwaukee. “I don’t know whether you fully understand that I have just been shot,” he told the stunned audience. He completed the 90-minute speech with the bullet still lodged in his chest. He recovered and lived another 10 years.
William Howard Taft (1909–1913)—also known as “Big Bill”—was the largest president in American history. He once got himself wedged into the White House bathtub and had to call his advisers for help getting out.
Woodrow Wilson (1913–1921). His face is on the $100,000 bill, which very few have ever laid hands on. The bills were mainly designed for trade between Federal Reserve banks, but fell out of use with the invention of the wire transfer. They still work as legal tender, but good luck finding someone who can make change for you.
Herbert Hoover (1929–1933). His son had two pet alligators, which were occasionally permitted to run loose throughout the White House.
Gerald Ford (1974–1977) worked as a fashion model during college, appearing on the cover of Cosmopolitan magazine.
Jimmy Carter (1977–1981) reported seeing a UFO in 1973. He called it “the darndest thing I’ve ever seen.”
Ronald Reagan (1981–1989) regularly consulted with an astrologer before making decisions and scheduling big events.
George W. Bush (2001–2009), during his senior year of high school at Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts, was captain of the cheerleading team.
Barack Obama (2009–2017). His high school nickname on the basketball team was “Barry O’Bomber,” which he earned due to his awesome jump shot.