Weird History

U.S. Presidents Before and After Major Historical Events 

Mel Judson
Updated March 25, 2020 10.4k votes 2.3k voters 320.7k views 11 items

This list of US presidents before and after major historical events gives visual insight into the presidential aging process. The ways in which big decisions, political scandals, and international warfare take a toll on a president becomes abundantly clear with the photographs below. See the ways in which World War II affected the Commander in Chief or the drastic difference between a pre-Iran-Contra Ronald Reagan and a post-Iran-Contra Ronald Reagan.

From FDR to LBJ, these presidential before and after photos are astounding. This job comes with gray hairs and wrinkles, as President Bill Clinton learned the hard way, given this appearance once impeachment was on the table. Speaking of impeachment, Richard Nixon got even saggier after the Watergate scandal, just as George W. Bush became far crustier once he was knee deep in the Iraq War. Even President Barack Obama shows intense aging after Benghazi and HealthCare.gov.

Which historical events took the biggest toll on sitting US presidents? Upvote the photos below that show the most drastic difference between the appearance of these US political leaders early in their terms, and later on, after the realities of politics and government affairs wore them down.

Abraham Lincoln is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list U.S. Presidents Before and After Major Historical Events
Photo:  Alexander Gardner/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

Facing arguably the most arduous task of any executive before or since, Lincoln's years maintaining the Union took a visible toll on him. His already gaunt appearance grew even gaunter throughout the Civil War, and his previously dark beard grew more silver and wispy.

Does he look different?

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Franklin D. Roosevelt is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list U.S. Presidents Before and After Major Historical Events
Photo: Elias Goldensky/Nicholas Robbins/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain/CC BY 2.0
FDR came to office under stressful times that would age any man, but Pearl Harbor rendered him a ghost of his former self. The launch of World War II took a toll on President Roosevelt, as his hair thinned and skin wrinkled from the stress.
Does he look different?

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George W. Bush is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list U.S. Presidents Before and After Major Historical Events
Photo: Eric Draper/DoD Photo/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain
Even after September 11th, George Bush looked like your average Baby Boomer. But after the absolute stress and total chaos of the Iraq War, you can see a far grayer and wrinklier President Bush.
Does he look different?

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Barack Obama is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list U.S. Presidents Before and After Major Historical Events
Photo: Pete Souza/WDKrause/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY 3.0/CC BY-SA 4.0
On the left is a pre-Benghazi, pre-HealthCare.gov, pre-ISIS, pre-Newtown, pre-San Bernadino, pre-candidate Donald Trump president named Barack Obama (at his very first State of the Union address). On the right is noticeably grayer Obama at his last State of the Union in 2016.
Does he look different?

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