18 Fun Facts about Presidents' Day
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Hail to the Chiefs1 of 19
By Natasha Burton
To celebrate Presidents' Day, we're taking a look back at some little-known facts about our Founding Fathers. Read on to find out which commander in chief could walk on stilts, who let his dog sit in on cabinet meetings and many, many more quirky details about presidents past.
Happy Holiday2 of 19
Originally, Presidents' Day was known as Washington's Birthday and honored our first commander in chief. However, after the Uniform Monday Holiday Act of 1971, which helped create more three-day weekends for American workers (score!), the holiday became popularly known as Presidents’ Day and has been celebrated on the third Monday of February each year ever since.
Speech! Speech!3 of 19
One of the most notable Presidents' Day traditions is the Senate's annual reading of President George Washington's 1796 Farewell Address. The practice started on Washington's birthday in 1862 to boost morale during the Civil War.
Bark Star4 of 19
While nearly every president since Washington had animals of some kind, the first notable presidential pet was Warren G. Harding's Airedale terrier, Laddie Boy, who became a celebrity of sorts—and even had his own special chair in which he could sit during cabinet meetings.
Tooth Story5 of 19
For years, legend had it that George Washington's teeth were made of wood. Not so. After he started losing his real pearly whites in his 20s, he had fake ones made from various materials, including gold, ivory, lead, human and animal teeth.
Rockin' Renovation6 of 19
Jackie Kennedy's White House redesign during her husband's presidency was one of the most notable and most extensive, likely because she enlisted the help of famous Parisian designer Stéphane Boudin. Together, they devised themes for each room—Federal style for the Green Room, French Empire for the Blue Room, American Empire for the Red Room—breathing new life into the iconic mansion.
Relationship Status7 of 19
Most potential presidents' love lives are scrutinized before they make it into the Oval Office—and so far there have been more married commanders in chief than there have been bachelors. James Buchanan was the first unmarried man to be elected president, while Ronald Reagan was the first to have been divorced.
Traveling Man8 of 19
Before Ulysses S. Grant, no president had viewed the Pacific Ocean nor visited Hawaii. Grant was also the first to see the Great Wall of China and visit Egypt, as well as going to many other foreign places.
Quick Learner9 of 19
Andrew Johnson never actually went to school. But he got a little help from his friends in the learning department: While working in a tailor shop, his pals allegedly taught him the letters of the alphabet. And after he married his wife, Eliza, at the age of 18, she taught him to read and write.
Having a Ball10 of 19
The White House is certainly a great place to throw a party. James and Dolley Madison were known for opening up the White House for grand events like balls and parties. (To which she famously donned gowns modeled after those worn by Josephine Bonaparte.) In 2009, the Obamas dealt with a party-related scandal when Tareq and Michaele Salahi entered a state dinner in honor of India's prime minister—and passed through two security checkpoints even though they were not on the guest list.
First Pitch11 of 19
The tradition of a president throwing the "first pitch" for baseball season started with William H. Taft, the 27th president, at an opening-day game between the Washington Senators and the Philadelphia Athletics on April 4, 1910. Since then, every president except Jimmy Carter has opened at least one baseball season during his term.
Wedding Bells12 of 19
In 1886, Grover Cleveland became the first president to marry in the White House and his wife, Frances Folsom Cleveland, became the youngest first lady at just 21. Despite a 27-year age difference, their romance bloomed when Frances and and her mother visited the president at the White House the spring after his inauguration.
First Family Fun13 of 19
Some families wear matching T-shirts when they visit Disneyland. Other families all have their own tennis rackets. But every member of Teddy Roosevelt’s family owned a pair of stilts—yes, stilts—including the first lady.
Long and Short of It14 of 19
Standing at 5'4" and just 100 pounds, James Madison was our smallest president, while Abraham Lincoln was the tallest at 6'4" and 180 pounds.
Dear Old Dad15 of 19
John Tyler had 15 children, more than any other president in history. He had eight children with his first wife, Letitia, and seven with his second, Julia—altogether, eight daughters and seven sons.
He Wore the Pants16 of 19
Chester A. Arthur was quite a trouser aficionado. Apparently, he changed his pants several times a day—and owned 80 pairs.
A Model President17 of 19
Long before becoming the 38th president, Gerald Ford moonlighted as a male model. During the year between graduating from Yale Law School and leaving for World War II, he appeared in Look Magazine and even showed up on the 1942 cover of Cosmopolitan with his then girlfriend, model Phyllis Brown.
Senior Moment18 of 19
Gerald Ford allowed his daughter, Susan, to host her senior prom in the White House's East Room in 1975. Susan, who has recently split with her boyfriend, invited a college junior she'd met less than a month before the big dance to be her date.
Make Mine a Double19 of 19
Before he was president, Abraham Lincoln was a licensed bartender (and the only president to have been one). In fact, he was the co-owner of Berry and Lincoln, a saloon in Springfield, Illinois. (The building shown here is a replica.)
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