Guest Author - Debora Dyess
President’s Day, the day set aside in the United States to honor our highest office, falls on the third Monday of February. It’s a good day to remember men who’ve led the country, and in many cases the world, in good times and bad. It’s also a good time to find out some interesting things about the men who became “Mr. President”.
Everyone thinks George Washington, the first US president, had wooden teeth. In fact, in his presidential portrait, you can see how sunk in his cheeks look. He hated that portrait because it showed his dental dilemma. Wooden teeth? No! His false teeth were made of elephant and walrus tusk. How’s that for a mouth full?
John Adams and John Quincy Adams were the original father-son presidential team, and they were both ‘firsts’. John Adams, the 2nd president of the United States, was the first to live in the White House. His son, the sixth president, was the first to give up knee britches for long pants.
Martin Van Buren (our 8th president) was the first to be born a US citizen. Up until then, the presidents had been born as citizens of British colonies.
Our twelfth president, Zachary Taylor, may have wanted your vote, but he never himself never voted in a presidential election.
Lucky number 13, Millard Fillmore, was the first president to have running water and a stove inside the White House.
Abraham Lincoln was our tallest president. He stood an impressive 6’4” in his bare feet, making him a full foot taller than James Madison, our shortest president. Madison was also, logically, the lightest president at less than 100 pounds. William Taft weighed in at a whopping 332 pounds as our heftiest leader.
We’ve all seen movies with the ‘red phone’ (emergency line) sitting on the desk in the Oval Office. But who had the first White House phone? Rutherford B. Hayes, president number 19, had that honor. His phone number was 1.
While Thomas Jefferson could speak six languages (not bad, Tom), James Garfield, our 14th president, could write with both hands at one time, in different languages! Herbert Hoover (president number 31 and his wife both spoke Chinese, and used it to their advantage. They used it as their private language to keep their private conversations private in the very public life of the presidency.
Grover Cleveland was the only president to get married – in the White House. He also served as the president both before and after Benjamin Harrison.
Benjamin Harrison also had presidential roots. He was president number 23, was grandson to our 9th president. He was also the first to have electric lights in the White House. It’s a good thing he did, too – he needed them to decorate the first Christmas tree to adorn the famous presidential residence.
President 34, Franklin D. Roosevelt, was our most visibly disabled president, and the only one to serve more than two terms.
Harry S. Truman, his successor, was a bit of a bookworm. He read every book in his hometown library.
JFK, John Kennedy, was our first Catholic president, and our youngest elected president. Teddy Roosevelt, who took over at the death of William McKinley, was the youngest.
Lyndon B Johnson started his professional career as an auto mechanic, became a teacher, went into politics and ended up as our 36th president. Quite a jump, wouldn’t you say?
Amazingly, it wasn’t until our 39th president, Jimmy Carter, that we had a president born in a hospital.
Bill Clinton played the saxophone on national TV. Taking a stool on The Arsenio Hall Show, it gave his image, and his campaign, a shot in the arm. He became our 42nd president. Music may or may not have the power to soothe the savage breast, but it sure can get out the vote!
Barak Obama, our first African-American president, He collects Spider-Man comics and is a 2006 Grammy winner for his audio version of “Dreams of My Father”. He is also the first president born outside the continental US.
The Independence Connection: Calvin Coolidge was the only president to be born on Independence Day, but three of them died on July 4. Thomas Jefferson and John Adams both died in 1726 and Monroe passed away in 1731.
These facts were provided by The History Channel and by www.mistergworld.com/12-002.htm. A special thanks to both!