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RSVPhillippi | January 2017


Presidents Precedents

By Dennis Phillippi

​George Washington attended the Second Continental Congress wearing his spiffy colonel’s uniform. While it’s been claimed that it was a blatant implication that he wanted to be the first Commander-in-Chief, there is no written evidence that was the case. If he had not become the first boss he might just be remembered as the crank that wore his uniform around. Think about it, if he hadn’t been such a huge hero he would’ve looked like kind of a nut.

Thomas Jefferson, while clearly brilliant, what with writing the Declaration of Independence and designing his own house and all, was also a terrible public speaker, kept mockingbirds as pets, his favorite being named “Dick”, and was frequently seen in public wearing carpet slippers. Set aside the accomplishments and he’s a mumbling bird owner in house shoes. Oh, while visiting England he also stole a piece of Shakespeare’s hair. A mumbling, bird owning, slipper-wearing thief.

John Quincy Adams routinely skinny-dipped in the Potomac in the early morning. Think about that; the President of the United States took a daily naked swim in a river.

Andrew Jackson had such an out-of-control temper he participated in as many as 100 duels, in the course of which he took a bullet to the chest and one to the arm. Most of these were fought in defense of the honor of his wife, Rachel. That is literally a hair-trigger temper.

Martin Van Buren managed to write a 776-page autobiography and failed to mention either his wife or his time in the White House. He also never once mentioned his wife in any speech.

William Henry Harrison was so hard headed he refused to wear a coat or hat to his own inauguration, despite freezing, wet weather. At the event he read, outdoors, a two-hour speech. After the swearing-in he went to several balls, dancing until late in the evening. Within weeks he was dead of pneumonia.

Millard Fillmore’s first wife was his teacher at New Hope Academy in New York. Again, President Millard Fillmore married one of his teachers.

Franklin Pierce was arrested, during his presidency, for running down a woman with his horse. Not surprisingly, what with his being president and all, the charges were dropped from lack of evidence. Still, he was arrested during his presidency. No other president holds that distinction.

Andrew Johnson made his own suits.

Rutherford B. Hayes had not one, not two, not three, but four horses shot out from under him in the Civil War. That’s either heroic, or very loony horsemanship.

Chester A. Arthur owned 80 pairs of pants. Count how many pairs of pants you have. I don’t know about you, but 80 seems like a pretty insane number. I’m not sure if I own 80 garments all together.

While a sheriff of Erie County, Grover Cleveland pulled the lever on two different hangings.

Benjamin Harrison was the first president to have electricity in the White House, but neither he nor his wife would come near it because they believed that touching a light switch meant risking electrocution.

William McKinley usually wore a red carnation in his lapel for good luck. In 1901 he took it off and handed it to a little girl and seconds later was shot by an assassin, dying six days later, probably as much from doctors monkeying around with his wounds without washing their hands as from the bullet wounds themselves.

When McKinley died, his vice president, Teddy Roosevelt, became, at 42, the youngest president in US history. Among other things, Teddy Roosevelt was blinded in one eye while boxing in the White House, information he kept to himself. He did stop boxing, and took up ju jitsu instead. Oh, he was also shot on the campaign trail, and finished his ninety-minute speech with a bullet lodged in his chest. This information, by the way, he did share with his audience, saying that he “did not give a rap about being shot.”

It’s possible that William Howard Taft, who went on to become Chief Justice of the Supreme Court after being president, may have gotten his enormous girth stuck in a bathtub in the White House.

Warren G. Hardin married a widow by the name of Florence “Flossie” Mable Kling DeWolfe, five years his senior. Flossie.

Calvin Coolidge was famously shy and rarely even grinned, earning him the sarcastic nickname “Smiley”. Despite this shyness, he was often seen walking around with a raccoon perched behind his neck. He also enjoyed pretending to be a cowboy while riding a mechanical horse.

Herbert Hoover had two pet alligators—in the White House.

As many people know, Eleanor Roosevelt was Franklin Roosevelt’s fifth cousin. Just so we’re clear here, we once had a president who married his own cousin.

The “S” in Harry S. Truman doesn’t stand for anything. Truman was held in such low esteem as vice president he was never made aware of the Manhattan Project or the Atomic Bomb until he took office upon Roosevelt’s death.

JFK was a huge fan of James Bond, and even hosted Bond Author Ian Fleming at a dinner party where they allegedly kicked around ideas of how to get rid of Fidel Castro.

During his presidency, LBJ is said to have repeatedly exposed himself to people because he thought it was hilarious.

Richard Nixon, ah, do we really have to do this one?

Gerald Ford was a fashion model as a young man, and even appeared on the cover of Cosmopolitan. He also had a poor sense of balance, and hit several people with golf balls during his tenure.

Jimmy Carter claimed both to have been attacked by a rabbit while fishing, and to have seen a UFO. The UFO thing was so significant he reported it to the Air Force.

There are so many weird facts about presidents that I’ve run out of space.