Presidential trivia often pops up as a category on Jeopardy and even occasionally on Millionaire. While chances are you’ll never actually make money from knowing certain interesting or unusual tidbits out our chief executives, it never hurts to carry out that little piece of extra knowledge in your cranium. You never when it may come in handy.
Questions about the military service of both Pres. Bill Clinton and George W. Bush appear to have presented no obstacle to their both getting elected as Commander-in-Chief, but they are hardly the only ones to face charges of draft-dodging. In fact—as in the case of George W. Bush—Grover Cleveland not only faced the accusation, it was undeniably true. Cleveland’s opponent James Blaine brought to light the fact that Cleveland had hired someone to take his place in the military. Probably because this was not only perfect legal, but had also been done by Blaine itself, the accusation had as little effect on Cleveland’s getting elected as the fact that George W. Bush actually went AWOL when he wasn’t even in combat had during his second campaign. Cleveland was elected.
July 4th is an eventful day for America. Not only does it stand as the date on which our founding fathers engaged in the most outrageous and courageous act of dissent ever perpetrated against a nation’s rulers, but it is celebrated yearly as the anniversary of our independence from British rule. July 4th is also the anniversary of the deaths of three different Presidents: John Adams, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison. Making this coincidence even more startling is the fact that John Adams and Thomas Jefferson both died on the same July 4th, almost at exactly the same time!
Some would argue that the most influential position in American politics isn’t President, who can only serve eight years, but the Chief Justice of the United States, who receives a lifetime appointment. (Just another of the decision made by our founding fathers which indicates that nobody’s perfect.) The only man to ever serve as both President of the United States and Chief Justice of the United States was William Howard Taft. Taft also holds the dubious distinction of being the heaviest President so far. And in the age of the thirty second campaign commercial, it’s highly doubtful anyone heavier will ever get elected.
The only bachelor President was James Buchanan. During his term of office, his niece Harriet took over the duties traditionally carried out by the First Lady. You know, things like telling him what to say under her breath, consulting astrologers as part of policy-making, etc.
Although it is almost impossible to tell from any of his official portraits, George Washington’s face was pockmarked with scars. The cause of this disfigurement was his survival of a bout with smallpox.
The tallest President ever was Abraham Lincoln at 6 feet, four inches. James Madison was our country’s shortest leader. He was a full foot shorter than Lincoln.
The votes of the majority of American voters have not been enough to elect a President on three occasions. In 1824 Andrew Jackson won the popular vote, but lost the election when it was toss to the House of Representatives. In 1875 Samuel Tilden received more votes than Rutherford B. Hayes, yet still lost. And, of course, in 2000 the Supreme Court voted to award the electoral votes of Florida to George W. Bush rather than follow the will of the people.
Let us not even speak of 2016. Perhaps if we don’t say it out loud, it never actually happened. Oh dear god, if only that were so!