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United States Presidents

Presidents in their official portraits and as you may not have seen them before.

Technically, John Hanson (who was President of the First Continental Congress) was really the first President of the United States. However, most people call George Washington "the Father of our Country" and name him as the first President. The United States has had 45 Presidents and many of them have been captured in leisure moments through the power of the camera, giving us a look at their more personal side. Today, we see the President dining and golfing and know many of the intimate details of his (or someday her) life.

The first dozen or so presidents, however, are just stiff, formal portraits to most of us. So here are a few details about them and their lives:

  • George Washington's dentures weren't made of wood. They were made of hippopotamus ivory, bone, or animal and human teeth with added lead, brass screws and gold wire. His love of red wine stained the dentures and made them look a little "wood-like".
  • John Adams, when he ran against Thomas Jefferson for President, called Jefferson "a mean-spirited, low-lived fellow, the son of a half-breed Indian squaw, sired by a Virginia mulatto father" and in an attack ad warned that a Jefferson presidency would result in "Murder, robbery, rape, adultery, and incest will be openly taught and practiced, the air will be rent with the cries of the distressed, the soil will be soaked with blood and the nation black with crimes." Nice.
  • Thomas Jefferson hated public speaking so much that he only gave two speeches in his presidency, one in each term. He also started a tradition of sending State of the Union speeches as written documents to be read to Congress by a clerk. Shy man.
  • James Madison was the smallest President. He was 5'4" and weighed about 100 pounds.
  • John Quincy Adams (son of President John Adams) was known for skinny dipping in the Potomac River every morning. A reporter took advantage of this and sat on his clothes until he granted her an interview.
  • Andrew Jackson is said to have been involved in around 100 duels, usually because someone said something negative about his wife. In 1806, he was shot in the chest during one of them and in 1813, he took a bullet to the arm in a bar fight with a Senator. He was a notorious hot-head.
  • Martin Van Buren was the first President born in the US. Born in Kinderhook NY, he was called "Old Kinderhook," in his 1840 election campaign and supporters carried around signs supporting "OK". The abbreviation became popular and we use it to this day - except not for Van Buren.
  • John Tyler was hated by almost everyone. He was expelled from his own party during his presidency, all but one person in his Cabinet resigned over his policies, and he was the first president who faced impeachment. One newspaper editor called him a "poor, miserable, despised imbecile" and the New York Times called him "the most unpopular public man that had ever held any office in the United States" in his obituary. When he died, President Lincoln didn't issue a mourning proclamation and flags were not placed at half-mast.
  • Franklin Pierce was unpopular while in office, leading to his own party refusing to renominate him. His reply to being cast out: "There is nothing left to do but get drunk." He was probably serious since he was, indeed, a serious drinker.
  • James Buchanan was the only bachelor to be president. At the time, there was a lot of speculation about his sexuality and his close relationship with Alabama Senator William Rufus King. The two lived together for more than 10 years although they could afford to have their own homes. President Jackson called them "Miss Nancy and Aunt Fancy" behind their backs and when Senator King left for France in 1844, Buchanan wrote: “I am now ‘solitary and alone,’ having no companion in the house with me. I have gone a wooing several gentlemen, but have not succeeded with any one of them.”
  • Rutherford Hayes lost the popular vote by 250,000 (47.9% vs his opponent's 50.9%) but won the electoral college by a single vote. He was called, during his presidency, “Rutherfraud” and “His Fraudulency.”

There are other interesting facts about the Presidents included in the following photos: Lincoln won all but one of his 300 wrestling matches; Andrew Johnson made all of his own suits when he was President; Grant couldn't stand the site of blood (although he was a General in the Civil War); Garfield was ambidextrous and could write in Greek with one hand and Latin with the other - at the same time; Cleveland was the legal guardian to his friend's 11-year-old orphaned daughter and 10 years later, they were married at the White House, making her the youngest First Lady ever at the age of 21 . . . We have had some interesting characters as President!

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