There have been 45 different U.S. Presidents since the formation of this country, including President Biden, who took office less than a month ago (Grover Cleveland was elected to non-consecutive terms; thus, he counts as the 22nd and 24th Presidents).
In the 130 years since George Washington first took to our highest office, there has been a tremendous change worldwide and in our country. Through a Civil War, World Wars, major movements, protests, pandemics, and technology advances, our Presidents have led the country through it all, and most with great success.
Although regarded as the most powerful position globally, U.S. Presidents are far from perfect and are still people first and foremost. Whether it’s bad with money, business, or at their job, Presidents are prone to many of the same things that plague everyday people.
Presidents also have their own little idiosyncrasies and odd things about them. While some peculiarities or odd stories are fairly well-known, others may not be. That is why this President’s Day, we are bringing to you the weirdest facts about each of our presidents.
From the fascinating to the downright bizarre, here are 45 weird facts about U.S. presidents.
1. George Washington
Everyone knows that George Washington had fake teeth (they were actually made of a combination of bone, ivory, and teeth and not wood), but did you know he was also a drug and alcohol hustler?
Okay, not really, but he did grow cannabis and make alcohol at his Mount Vernon estate. Specifically, Washington grew hemp, a member of the cannabis family, to make rope and canvas. He also made rye whiskey and apple and peach brandy in his distillery.
2. John Adams
John Adams and his fellow Founding Father Thomas Jefferson were our countries first famous frenemies. Despite their famous feud, the two were once close. It was only after Adams was elected Vice President under Washington and Jefferson as Secretary of State that their friendship began to erode.
You’d think their volatile relationship would be strange enough, but then there was that one time they visited Shakespeare’s home together and broke off a piece of one of Shakespeare’s chairs as a souvenir.
Maybe an argument over who got to keep the broken piece was what really splintered their relationship.
3. Thomas Jefferson
Some pretty weird facts involving Jefferson and frenemy Adams were already described above, but it doesn’t end there.
The two men, who hated each other from 1800 on when Jefferson won the Presidency (beating out Adams), died on the same day within hours of each other on the 50th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence on July 4th, 1826.
Really, you can’t make this stuff up.
4. James Madison
Although not the most well-known of the Founding Fathers, James Madison is notable for several reasons. He was the smallest President at just 5 foot 4 inches tall and weighing around 100 pounds. He also was Princeton University’s first graduate student.
But the weirdest fact about James Madison is that he once lost an election because he didn’t give alcohol to voters.
Yes, seriously. Madison lost a 1777 election to Virginia’s House of Delegates, a loss he attributed to his refusal to follow the custom known as “swilling the planters with bumbo.” This custom involved providing free alcohol to voters on Election Day, but Madison felt that bribing voters violated his principles.
5. James Monroe
James Monroe is another lesser-known President but is no less influential than many other Founding Fathers on this list.
However, the weirdest fact about James Monroe is that he once chased his Secretary of Treasury around the White House with fire tongs.
Apparently, the two men got into an argument about a list of potential appointees. William Crawford, the Secretary of Treasury, allegedly threatened the President with his cane, after which Monroe grabbed the tongs in self-defense. After Crawford refused to leave the White House, Monroe proceeded to chase him out with the fire tongs himself.
6. John Quincy Adams
John Quincy Adams is best known as the son of Thomas Jefferson’s best frenemy, John Adams.
Apparently, he was also known for skinny dipping in the Potomac River every morning. It’s also said that a reporter once took advantage of this habit and sat on his clothes until Adams granted an interview.
7. Andrew Jackson
Andrew Jackson was rough around the edges, a war hero, and a pretty tough guy by all accounts. He was reportedly involved in as many as 100 duels, surviving shots to the chest and arm and killing at least one other man. He also beat up a wannabe assassin after both of the man’s guns misfired.
But the strangest thing about Andrew Jackson was that he taught a pet parrot to swear. Even weirder and pretty funny was that the parrot evidently had to be removed from Jackson’s funeral because it wouldn’t stop cursing.
8. Martin Van Buren
Aside from his mad scientist head of hair, Van Buren is known for being the first President to be born in the United States country officially. Several nicknames also knew him.
The most endearing of these was “Old Kinderhook,” which references the town he grew up in. During his 1840 election campaign, the name was used, with the abbreviation OK being used on signage and campaign clubs. It is said that the term “O.K.” is derived from this nickname.
9. William Henry Harrison
William H. Harrison was the victim of a smear campaign by the opposition during his run for president. They tried to paint him as an older man who would rather sit in his cabin drinking hard cider. Harrison turned that criticism around and handed out hard cider in bottles shaped like log cabins during his campaign.
He won the presidency and gave the longest inauguration speech thus far, at over 90 minutes long, on a cold and wet day. He fell ill sooner after and died only 33 days into his presidency.
10. John Tyler
John Tyler ascended to the presidency after William H. Harrison, the first Vice President to do so.
While Tyler was an extremely unpopular president and outcast from his own party, he was the most prolific of presidents. He had 15 children with two wives between 1815 and 1860.
But the most amazing thing of all is that Tyler’s last living grandchild is still alive today. That’s right, grandchild.
Harrison Ruffin Tyler was born in 1928 and is still going strong at age 93. His father was Lyon Gardiner Tyler, one of John Tyler’s later children, born in 1853.
11. James K. Polk
Despite being the first dark horse candidate to win the presidency, James K. Polk got a lot done during his office. He extended the U.S. borders to the Pacific Ocean, established the Naval Academy in Annapolis, helped in the construction of the Washington Monument, and introduced the postage stamp.
He also apparently held office hours at the White House for two days each week, where anyone could stop by and discuss their concerns or ask for favors. Despite the plethora of citizens and lobbyists that dropped in on these office hours, Polk found job seekers to be the worst.
12. Zachary Taylor
Zachary Taylor was the second sitting president to die in office after eating a snack of cherries and milk that were somehow contaminated.
However, Taylor's weirdest fact was that he refused to be sworn in on inauguration day because it fell on a Sunday. Instead, he had David Rice Atchison stand in for him for a day until he could be officially sworn in on Monday.
13. Millard Fillmore
Our 13th president ascended to the office upon the death of Taylor. Besides being an Alex Baldwin look-alike, the most interesting thing about Fillmore is that he married one of his teachers at the New Hope Academy when he was 19.
14. Franklin Pierce
Another largely forgotten president, Pierce, was unpopular while in office and outcast by his party. The most remarkable thing he did while in office was allegedly run over a lady with his horse, for which he was arrested. The charges were eventually dropped because of a lack of evidence.
15. James Buchanan
History has not been good to James Buchanan. Generally regarded as one of the worst presidents for events that set the Civil War stage, Buchanan is also notable for being the only president who never married.
However, one aspect of Buchanan’s life was a bit strange for the time. Buchanan lived with his longtime friend Senator William Rufus King, for more than 10 years, even though both men were independently wealthy. This arrangement led to incessant gossip, with Andrew Jackson even referring to the pair as “Miss Nancy and Aunt Fancy.”
16. Abraham Lincoln
Honest Abe is one of the most well-known and revered presidents in American history. He was also apparently a surprisingly good wrestler in his younger days. In fact, he was defeated only once out of roughly 300 matches and later given the honor of “Outstanding American” in the National Wrestling Hall of Fame.
17. Andrew Johnson
After the assassination of Lincoln, Andrew Johnson became president and went on to be the first president to be impeached.
While he mostly kept the presidential seat warm between Lincoln and Ulysses S. Grant, Johnson was notable for one thing. He apprenticed as a tailor as a youth and applied what he learned to make his own suits while serving as president.
18. Ulysses S. Grant
Ulysses S. Grant is known as the general who led the Union to victory in the Civil War and a much less successful president. However, he did dismantle the Ku Klux Klan during Reconstruction.
Known as a skilled horseman, Grant also had a penchant for driving fast. In fact, while serving as president, he was pulled over twice in the span of 24 hours for driving his horse and buggy too fast through the streets of Washington D.C. The second offense led to an arrest that was later reduced to a fine.
19. Rutherford B. Hayes
Rutherford B. Hayes was another Civil War veteran who has wounded a total of four times. He also won one of the most contested elections of all time by a single electoral college vote.
However, the weirdest fact about Hayes is that the First Cat was a literal first. Siam was a female Siamese cat given as a gift to Hayes and his wife by the American consul in Bangkok in 1879, and the first Siamese to be owned by an American. The breed has grown to be one of the most recognized and popular since.
20. James A. Garfield
There are several strange things of note regarding Garfield. He was the second president to be assassinated, although he held on for 11 weeks. Doctors attempted to find the bullet using a newly invented metal detector, but the metal bedsprings obscured the results, and doctors ended up cutting in the wrong places. His spine was also placed on display at the National Museum of Health and Medicine in 2000, with the bullet hole from his assassination visible.
Nevertheless, the weirdest fact about James Garfield was that he was ambidextrous and could write in Greek with one hand and Latin with the other at the same time. Talk about talent!
21. Chester A. Arthur
Chester A. Arthur was probably our most fashionable president. Known as “Elegant Arthur,” he was known for his impeccable attire and owned 80 pairs of pants. Arthur found the White House too drab for his taste and wanted it to be completely redecorated. The problem was he needed to raise funds to pay for it.
How did he pay for redecorating? By selling 24 wagon loads of presidential items, of course. These relics included a pair of Lincoln’s pants and a hat belonging to John Quincy Adams.
22. Grover Cleveland
As mentioned above, Grover Cleveland is the only president to serve non-consecutive terms. While there are several interesting facts about Cleveland, the weirdest by far is that he married a woman he had previously been somewhat of a guardian.
Before becoming president, Cleveland was a lawyer. When his partner died, Cleveland became the estate and somewhat of a guardian to his partner's daughter, Francis. Cleveland had been a close family friend and had bought Francis her first baby carriage, so it’s a bit strange that he ended up marrying her while president.
23. Benjamin Harrison
Benjamin Harrison was the grandson of President William H. Harrison. A weird and rather funny fact about Harrison was that he was the first president to benefit from electricity in the White House. However, he was terrified of being electrocuted and thus refused to touch the light switches. This fear also led to him going to bed with the lights on.
24. William McKinley
William McKinley considered red carnations a good luck charm and always wore one in his jacket's lapel. In 1901 he gave the flower to a little girl while greeting a line of people. A few moments later, he was shot and died 8 days later.
25. Theodore Roosevelt
Most people are aware that the name “Teddy Bear” was inspired by a hunting story involving Teddy Roosevelt. A lifelong outdoor enthusiast, we owe our National Park System to the conservation efforts of Roosevelt.
However, the weirdest fact about the first Roosevelt was that he was shot in the chest while giving a speech and kept going. He declared to the crowd that he did “not care a rap about being shot” and finished his speech before seeking medical treatment.
26. William Howard Taft
William H. Taft was a large man who enjoyed a good soak. While legend has it that he once got stuck in the White House bathtub and had to be pulled out, historians have said that story is false.
He did, however, commission a 7-foot tub weighing a ton (literally) to be built on the ship carrying him to Panama so he’d never miss a bath while traveling.
27. Woodrow Wilson
During World War I, Woodrow Wilson was president and later suffered a series of strokes that left him partially paralyzed and nearly blind. Despite these health struggles, he was able to finish his term with the help of his wife.
He is also the president featured on a currency that most of us have never seen: the $100,000 bill. These bills were primarily designed for trade between Federal Reserve banks, but wire transfer made them obsolete.
28. Warren G. Harding
Warren G. Harding was a lady’s man who fathered a child with another woman during one of his affairs, but that is not the weirdest fact about our 29th President. That award goes to the time he lost a set of White House china in a poker game. China had been there since President Benjamin Harrison 6 terms earlier.
29. Calvin Coolidge
For a relatively obscure president, Calvin Coolidge had a lot of strange habits. He rode a mechanical horse referred to as “Thunderbolt” for exercise, had two pet raccoons, and used to push all the buttons in the Oval Office and then hide so he could watch the staff run in.
Pretty strange, but the weirdest thing about Coolidge was that he had a morning ritual of having someone rub Vaseline on his head while he had breakfast in bed. Apparently, he felt this behavior was good for his health.
30. Herbert Hoover
President Herbert Hoover also had a plethora of unusual habits. His son had two pet alligators that often escaped their bathtub habitat, and Hoover and his wife often spoke in Mandarin when they wanted to have a private conversation.
But the strangest thing of all was that Hoover believed that White House staff should not see him or he, them. The insistence that the staff is invisible led to them hiding in closets and behind bushes whenever the President came around.
31. Franklin D. Roosevelt
FDR’s battle with what was then thought to be polio (and now thought to be Guillain-Barre syndrome) and subsequent partial paralysis was actively hidden from the public and not well-known at the time of his presidency. He was also the president who led this country out of the Depression with his progressive policies and the first president to name a woman to his cabinet.
A few odd details about FDR include the fact that he married his cousin (who didn’t even have to change her name) and that he was terrified of the number 13. He even refused to participate in a dinner with 13 people or leave for a trip on the 13th of the month.
32. Harry S. Truman
Harry S. Truman became president after the death of FDR and had the arduous task of leading the country to the conclusion of World War II and the post-war era.
But the strangest thing about the president at the helm during one of our nation’s most trying times was that the “S” in his name didn’t stand for anything. The story goes that Truman’s parents couldn’t decide on a middle name, so after about a month, they decided on the letter “S” to honor his grandfathers.
33. Dwight D. Eisenhower
Although a top general by the time the U.S. entered World War II, Eisenhower never actually saw active combat despite nearly 35 years of military service. Another interesting fact about Eisenhower is that he is responsible for the name “Camp David,” which he named after his grandson.
However, Dwight D. Eisenhower's weirdest fact is that he tried to order the assassination of the squirrels that roamed the White House grounds. Eisenhower was an avid golfer and became frustrated by the squirrels ruining the putting greens he’d installed while burying their nuts. He eventually ordered his valet to shoot them, but the secret service put the kibosh on that plan, and the squirrels were trapped and released elsewhere instead.
34. John F. Kennedy
John F. Kennedy is another of our most notable presidents. Not only did he lead the country through many major movements, the launch of the space age, and the Vietnam War, but the controversies surrounding his assassination have never been fully solved.
Despite his infamy, one thing you may not know about JFK is that he was a huge James Bond fan. In fact, he had dinner with Bond series author Ian Fleming in 1960, and the two men allegedly discussed how to get rid of Fidel Castro.
35. Lyndon B. Johnson
LBJ took over after the assassination of Kennedy. Johnson was from humble roots, his first career was as a teacher, and he would have been killed in World War II if not for missing a scheduled bombing run during which the plane crashed.
LBJ is also credited with one of the weirdest facts about U.S. presidents on this list. Apparently, Johnson was quite proud of his, well, Johnson. He even went so far as to nickname it “Jumbo” and continue conversations with others while using the restroom. There is also an interesting tape of LBJ directing his tailor to leave plenty of room for Jumbo.
36. Richard Nixon
Everyone remembers Richard Nixon for the Watergate Scandal, even though many don’t know what the scandal was about. In any case, a lesser-known fact about Nixon is that he was an avid bowler and even had a one-lane alley built at the White House in 1973.
37. Gerald Ford
Gerald Ford has a myriad of interesting facts about him despite not being one of the better-known presidents. First, he is the only president never to be elected by the voting public (he became President after Vice President Spiro Agnew resigned, followed by Nixon). His real name was Leslie Lynch King, Jr. He survived two assassination attempts in the span of 17 days.
Nonetheless, the weirdest fact about Ford is that he worked as a fashion model while in college and was even on the cover of Cosmopolitan in 1942.
38. Jimmy Carter
Jimmy Carter is the oldest living president and spends his days doing charitable work at the ripe old age of 96. Since leaving office, he’s won a Nobel Peace Prize, written books, and helped build over 4,000 homes for Habitat for Humanity.
He also reported seeing a UFO while serving as the Governor of George before becoming president. He described the sighting as “the darndest thing I’ve ever seen.”
39. Ronald Reagan
Everybody’s favorite actor turned politician, Ronald Reagan, was known for his good looks and surviving an assassination attempt. He was even given the Most Nearly Perfect Male Figure Award and posed for an art class while at the University of California.
Reagan also apparently consulted with an astrologer before making many of his decisions as president.
40. George H.W. Bush
George H.W. Bush, the father of George W. Bush, inspired a Japanese slang word.
While on a trip through Asia, Bush Sr. accidentally vomited on Japan's prime minister at a state dinner in Tokyo. Thus, the term Bushusuru, meaning “to do a Bush,” was born as slang for throwing up.
41. Bill Clinton
As we progress into modern-day presidents, it’s likely you already know most of the main things about them and their presidencies.
In case you were young or not yet born, here’s a rundown of Bill Clinton: first democratic president re-elected since FDR, the only president to win a Rhodes Scholarship, and he’s best known for the scandal with Monica Lewinsky, a White House intern. He was also impeached as a result of the affair and lying under oath about it.
However, the weirdest fact about Bill Clinton is that he is a two-time Grammy-winning artist. He won Best Spoken Word Album for Children in 2004 and best Spoken Word Album in 2005 for his autobiography.
42. George W. Bush
George W. Bush, son of George H.W. Bush, was known primarily for his gaffes as president, often referred to as “Bushisms.”
But did you also know that “Dubya” was also captain of the cheerleading team at his high school?
43. Barack Obama
Barack Obama made history as the first president of color and has many other major accomplishments on his resume.
It’s also not a secret that Obama loves the game of basketball. But, what may not be well known is that his nickname in high school was “Barry O’Bomber” due to his propensity to take difficult shots.
44. Donald Trump
The words, Tweets, and actions of Donald Trump are infamous at this point, and whether you love or hate him, you must admit that it’s been quite a ride the last four years.
There are lots of strange facts about Trump, but the most interesting one of all is this. SPY Magazine once sent 13 cent checks to a group of the wealthiest people to see who would cash them.
The only people to do so? You guessed it: an arms dealer and Donald J. Trump.
45. Joe Biden
By now, most of the main things about our newest president are already well-known. He’s survived a family tragedy, overcame a stutter as a kid, and was formerly Vice President under Barack Obama. He also has two German shepherds as pets, one of which he and his wife Dr. Jill Biden adopted from a shelter.
You may know a lot about Joe Biden, but do you know his favorite snack? Apparently, our newest president eats A LOT of ice cream. In fact, Biden was quoted as saying, “I don’t drink. I don’t smoke. But I eat a lot of ice cream.”
Since George Washington first took the reins in 1789, we’ve had 45 different presidents, all with their own backgrounds, beliefs, and behaviors.
You just read 45 weird facts about U.S. presidents, one for each.
Did you realize our highest leaders were this weird?
Tawnya is a 34-year-old Special Education teacher in the sixth year of my career. Along with her partner, Sebastian, she runs the blog Money Saved is Money Earned. Tawnya has worked extremely hard to reach my goals and remain debt-free.
She holds an Honors BS in Psychology from Oregon State University and an MS in Special Education from Portland State University and has had a pretty successful writing career, first as a writing tutor at the Oregon State University Writing Center, and in recent years, as a freelance writer.
Tawnya and Sebastian have a wealth of knowledge and information about personal finance, retirement, student loans, credit cards, and many other financial topics. It is this wealth of tips and tricks that they wish to pass on to others.