Over the past two centuries, an immense amount of American history has happened, marked by different presidents. Although each one carried the same title, they're all unique individuals who made the presidency their own. Read on to learn unusual facts about each commander-in-chief, and be ready to find out that certain stories were just myths.
Contrary to popular myth, the first president did not in fact have wooden teeth. Instead, his dentures were made of human and cow teeth, ivory, and metal. However, the president was fond of very dark wines, which may have stained his dentures, giving them the appearance of being wooden.
Adams died on July 4th, 1826, the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Coincidentally, Thomas Jefferson, his former vice president who later became his bitter political rival, died on the same day. Adams' last words reportedly were, "Thomas Jefferson survives," but Jefferson had actually passed away a few hours earlier.
Jefferson accomplished quite a lot in his lifetime. When it came time to plan his gravestone inscription, he requested that three things be put on it — and his presidency didn't even make the cut! Instead, he wanted to be remembered as: "Author of the Declaration of American Independence and the Statute of Virginia for religious freedom, and Father of the University of Virginia."
The fourth president of the United States was said to be the shortest one. He was only 5'4" and weighed about 100 pounds. And it probably didn't help that he was frequently ill, having been described by various physicians as "fragile" for most of his life.
Monroe had one of the most peaceful presidencies, as he tried to create a more unified country in the wake of the War of 1812. And it apparently worked — the time period during his presidency became known as the Era of Good Feelings and he was re-elected without opposition in 1820.
We can imagine there would be quite the controversy if any of our modern presidents went skinny-dipping in the Potomac River. But that's exactly what John Quincy Adams did every single morning as part of his daily routine. According to his journal, he regularly took a long walk and a dip in the river early in the morning before returning home for breakfast.
Van Buren was the first president to be born in the United States, to parents who immigrated from the Netherlands to Kinderhook, New York. He was born in 1782, six years after the colonists declared their independence from Britain.
Harrison had the shortest presidency in U.S. history, lasting only a month. He famously did not wear a coat to his inauguration, where he gave a lengthy 90-minute speech. This likely caused him to fall ill with pneumonia, though it was later theorized that he may have also been suffering from deadly septic shock.
To say John Tyler was not particularly well-liked is an understatement. When he died in 1862, his obituary in The New York Times called him, "the most unpopular public man that had ever held any office in the United States." Yikes. It probably didn't help that he was considered a traitor to the United States when he died, having recently been elected to the Congress of the Confederacy.
Polk's devout Presbyterian wife, Sarah, banned dancing, drinking, and card games in the White House during her time as first lady, making for a very dull presidency.
In 1848, Taylor had no idea the the Wig Party chose him as their nomination for president. Apparently, the party sent him a letter without postage, and when he refused to pay for it, he ended up going weeks without knowing the good news.
Fillmore and his wife, Abigail, were definitely book-lovers. They established the first permanent White House Library. In 1851, Fillmore personally helped fight a fire that destroyed parts of the Library of Congress. He later signed a bill to fund the replacement of all the books that had been destroyed.
The story of Abraham Lincoln's assassination is well known. But few people are aware that several hours before his death, Lincoln signed legislation to create the Secret Service, which is now responsible for protecting the president's life. However, it probably wouldn't have helped Lincoln: the original purpose wasn't to protect the president, but rather to investigate counterfeit money.
Though many presidents came from elite, well-educated backgrounds, Andrew Johnson did not. His mother sent him to work as an indentured servant when he was a child, though he and his brother later escaped. He never had a formal education, but his wife, Eliza, helped him learn to read and write.
The 18th president's birth name was Hiram Ulysses Grant, but due to a mistake made on his West Point application, he became Ulysses S. Grant. His middle initial doesn't stand for anything and in a letter to his wife he joked, "Find some name beginning with 'S' for me."
Hayes had a presidency full of "firsts," including the first White House Easter Egg Roll in 1878. He had reportedly been taking a walk when a group of children approached him and asked about the possibility of an Easter egg roll, on the South Lawn of the White House. Hayes liked the idea and it continues to be a tradition today.
Though his presidency only lasted 81 days, Garfield sticks out in many people's minds for being the first left-handed president. Apparently, he was also the first ambidextrous president.
While it may not seem like a lot for a president today, Arthur owned 80 pairs of pants, which was quite the extravagance for the time period. Other luxuries he enjoyed included: a personal valet, a White House decorated by renowned artist Louis Comfort Tiffany, and fresh flowers placed in front of his deceased wife's portrait daily.
Cleveland is the only president to serve two non-consecutive terms, as the 22nd and 24th president of the United States. He won his first election by a very narrow margin, lost the 1888 election to Benjamin Harrison, and then came back in 1892 after winning the popular vote.
Harrison and his wife Caroline were the first occupants of the White House to enjoy the wonders of electricity. But as it was a new technology, the couple was afraid of being electrocuted by the light switch, so they regularly left the lights on all day and night.
McKinley's reaction to being shot is unlike anything you've ever heard. He was shot in the torso by an anarchist in 1901 in a receiving line, and as they took him away, he said, "Don't let them hurt him," referring to a mob that was forming around the would-be assassin. He later said the shooter was, "some poor misguided fellow," and "he didn't know, poor fellow, what he was doing. He couldn't have known."
Teddy Roosevelt was one tough guy. Need proof? He was shot at close range shortly before giving a campaign speech in 1912, but instead of heading straight to the hospital, he stayed there to give his planned speech — with the bullet still lodged in his body.
Popular legend would have you believe that Taft is the president who got stuck in a White House bathtub, but that's actually not true. However, he did have an embarrassing bathtub incident at a hotel in New Jersey. The bath water displaced by his body flooded the floor in his room and trickled onto the heads of guests in the downstairs dining room.
Although Wilson was obviously used to public speaking, he was reportedly very anxious about giving his the "first live, remote, nationwide radio broadcast," in which he honored the anniversary of Armistice Day and outlined a vision for America.
Legend has it that Harding's mother wanted to name him Winfield, but when she didn't get her way, she found a loophole by giving him the nickname "Winny." Some folks also called him "Sonny."
Sometimes a person's birthday seems unusually significant. Case in point: Coolidge was born on July 4. But you probably wouldn't see him getting too wild and crazy at his birthday party — he was notoriously quiet, earning the nickname "Silent Cal."
Previous presidents were all born in the Eastern part of the county, but Hoover was the first to be born west of the Mississippi. He grew up in the very small town of West Branch, Iowa, and reportedly never even crossed the Mississippi until he was 22-years-old.