There are many weird but true facts out there about US presidents, past and present. Some are laughable, some are sad, and many are just plain odd. Not to mention that a number of presidential facts we learned in school are exaggerated, or simply not true. (No, George Washington's teeth were not made of wood, and he probably didn't chop down that cherry tree either.)
Nonetheless, plenty of funny facts about American commanders-in-chief are worth knowing about. We've rounded up some pretty wild info about presidents, from the founding fathers to recent leaders. In a world where presidential politics is often far too serious, these presidential facts are sure to make you giggle.
In 1798, the building we now refer to as the White House got its first whitewash to protect the sandstone during the harsh winters of Washington, DC. Even after this paint job, however, most journalists and citizens alike continued to refer to the building as the "Executive Mansion" or the "President's House." It was not officially dubbed the "White House" until President Teddy Roosevelt came along.
In a 1901 memo sent to Secretary of State John Hay, President Roosevelt instructed for all official papers to have "Executive Mansion" replaced with "White House." This memo went to all cabinet secretaries as well, and the presidential stationery was also changed to reflect the new name. And just like that, it became the White House.
If you've ever received a ticket for speeding, it might be comforting to know you're in good company. Ulysses S. Grant led the Union to victory in the Civil War and then became the youngest president the US had seen. But those weren't his only achievements: Grant also became the first and only president to receive a speeding ticket while acting as commander-in-chief.
Some time in the early years of his presidency, Grant was "pulled over" and cited for driving at dangerous speeds with his horse-drawn carriage. Upon realizing who the speedy driver was, officer William West suggested that he simply ignore the infraction. Grant, however, insisted that he must pay the $5 fine.
It was not the only fine he paid, as the expert horseman rather enjoyed speeding through the streets of Washington and challenging coachmen to races.
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Frequently considered one of the most attractive presidents, it may not be surprising to learn that President Gerald Ford was actually a model after playing football at the University of Michigan and then earning his law degree from Yale. The athletic, blond-haired, blue-eyed Ford, who stood at 6 feet tall, took up modeling for a brief period before serving in World War II.
Thanks to his model girlfriend at the time, Ford was featured in a 1940 issue of Look magazine, which kicked off his stint in the modeling world. Although not prolific, his career did land him (uncredited) on the cover of Cosmopolitan in April 1942. You can add that to his resume of being a lawyer, football coach, naval officer, congressman, vice president, and president.
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James Earl Carter, Jr., the Georgia farmer and 39th President of the United States, has lived quite the full life. In addition to his public service and policy achievements, he is also the author of 32 books, including a work of poetry, reflections on his faith, and a children's book. Titled The Little Baby Snoogle-Fleejer, his children's book is illustrated by his daughter Amy Carter.
Based on a story the former president made up for his own children long ago, it's about a little boy named Jeremy who cannot walk on his own. When he's abandoned by all the other children at the beach, he befriends a kindred lonely spirit who happens to be a baby sea monster, the little Snoogle-Fleejer. The charming tale had become Carter family lore and can now be enjoyed by families everywhere.
Although he will always be known for the Watergate scandal and his subsequent resignation, there is much more to Richard Nixon than just his ultimate fall from grace. A California native, he served as a congressman, US senator, and vice president under Dwight D. Eisenhower.
Prior to his career in politics, Nixon worked as an attorney while participating in a local theater group in southern California. It was at the theater that he met his future first lady, Pat Ryan. One night in 1938, the two were auditioning for roles in a play called The Dark Tower. Both won parts in the play, as well as each others' hearts.
Nixon proposed to Ryan later that night. However, it took her another two years and a few boyfriends in between to realize he was the one. They were married in 1940 and enjoyed 53 years together.
Some of us have been afraid to turn out the lights for fear of what the dark might bring, but it's rare that any modern American is afraid to turn on the lights. However, that's exactly what the 23rd President of the United States was afraid of.
In 1891, the Edison Company installed electricity throughout the White House for the first time. However, Benjamin Harrison and his family were wary of the new technology; the early wiring could be clumsy, and tales of people being shocked were not unheard of. The president was so wary, in fact, that he and his family were convinced they would be electrocuted if they touched any of the light switches. They outright refused to do so, and would ask staff to turn the lights on and off for them.
If nobody was around to turn the lights off, the Harrisons even slept with the lights on.