In 1960, on the prairie below Pike’s Peak, I shook hands with the President of the United States. I was attending the National Boy Scout Jamboree in Colorado. President Dwight David Eisenhower spoke to the more than fifty thousand scouts. Senior Patrol Leaders from every troop were invited to stand along the roadway as the President’s car traveled through the city of tents. At one point, the man, affectionately known as Ike, got out of his convertible and shook hands with seventy or more of us. I was in that group.
In 1885, President Chester Arthur signed a bill making Washington’s Birthday a federal holiday. President Lincoln’s birthday on February 12 never became a federal holiday but was celebrated in many states outside the Old Confederacy. In 1968 Congress passed the Monday Holidays Act, moving the official observance of Washington’s Birthday from February 22 to the third Monday in February. Many Americans call the holiday Presidents’ Day in honor of all of our Presidents.
President’s Day is an appropriate time for Presidential trivia. A search of several online Web sites revealed some facts that are of interest to me:
Several of our Presidents were related to other Presidents.
- James Madison (the 4th President) and Zachary Taylor (the 12th President) were second cousins.
- John Quincy Adams (the 6th President) was the son of John Adams (the 2nd President).
- Benjamin Harrison (the 23rd President) was the grandson of William Henry Harrison (the 9th President).
- Franklin Delano Roosevelt (the 32nd President) was a fifth cousin of Theodore Roosevelt (the 26th President).
- FDR was distantly related to a total of 11 U.S. Presidents, 5 by blood and 6 by marriage.
- George W. Bush (the 43rd President) is the son of George H. W. Bush (the 41st President).
Twenty-six Presidents were attorneys before becoming President.
Twelve Presidents were generals, including Washington and Eisenhower.
Barack Obama is our 44th President. There actually have been only 43 Presidents. Grover Cleveland was elected for two nonconsecutive terms and is counted as both our 22nd and 24th President.
Eight Presidents were born British subjects: Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, James Monroe, John Quincy Adams, Andrew Jackson, and William Henry Harrison.
Martin Van Buren was the first President born in the United States.
Jimmy Carter was the first President to be born in a hospital.
Four Presidents were also college presidents, James Madison, James A. Garfield, Woodrow Wilson, and Dwight Eisenhower.
The college that has the most Presidents as alumni is Harvard with six. Yale is a close second, with five.
The oldest elected President was Ronald Reagan at age 69. The youngest elected was John F. Kennedy at age 43. Theodore Roosevelt was the youngest man to become President. He was 42 when he succeeded William McKinley, who had been assassinated.
The oldest living former President was Gerald Ford at age 93. The second oldest was Reagan, who also lived to be 93 years.
The tallest President was Lincoln at 6’4″. Madison was the shortest at 5’4″.
We have elected eight left-handed Presidents: James Garfield, Herbert Hoover, Harry S. Truman, Ford, Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and Obama.
Fourteen Presidents first served as Vice Presidents.
James Buchanan was the only President never to marry. Five Presidents remarried after the death of their first wives. Two, Tyler and Wilson, remarried while in the White House. Reagan was the only divorced President.
Six Presidents had no children. Tyler, the father of fifteen, had the most.
Four Presidents, Lincoln, James Garfield, William McKinley, and Kennedy were assassinated in office. Assassination attempts were made on the lives of Jackson, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt, Truman, Ford, and Reagan.
Eight Presidents died in office. William Henry Harrison died after serving only one month.
Presidents Adams, Jefferson, and Monroe all died on the 4th of July. Calvin Coolidge was born on that day.
Lincoln, Jefferson, F. Roosevelt, Washington, Kennedy, and Eisenhower are portrayed on our coins.
In these tough economic times, may I suggest that this Presidents’ Day might be a good time to start collecting Presidential portraits? You’ll find their likeness printed by the United States Mint on paper currency.
- George Washington on the $1 bill
- Thomas Jefferson on the $2 bill
- Abraham Lincoln on the $5 bill
- Alexander Hamilton on the $10 bill
- Andrew Jackson on the $20 bill
- Ulysses S. Grant on the $50 bill
- William McKinley on the $500 bill
- Grover Cleveland on the $1,000 bill
- James Madison on the $5,000 bill
- Woodrow Wilson on the $100,000 bill
Good luck with your collection!
Kirk H. Neely © February 2012