U.S. Presidents Trivia; Part 3: (1889-1953)
Nowadays, in the U.S.A., we tend to think of our elected leaders (and all politicians—local, state and federal) in a very stereotypical way: thousand dollar haircut, same boring “thumbs up” for after every speech, and the same tired campaign promises. They appear as a carbon-copy that is a dime a dozen.
However, that isn’t how it always has been. America has had many interesting and colorful characters for its president.
I thought it would be fun to share some facts about past presidents that, in today’s hypersensitive political climate and landscape, makes you wonder if they would have been able to handle the ridicule, criticism and scrutiny during their bids the presidency. Some things seem comparable to today while others are seemingly reflections of only their respective eras.
Presidents of the U.S.A: (23-33)
The post-civil war to WWII years: 1889-1952
1. Benjamin Harrison (1889-1893) was the first president to have his voice recorded (on a wax cylinder). He had electric lighting installed in the White House, but was fearful of being electrocuted, so he never touched the light switches and sleep with the lights on. After his wife, Caroline, died he married her niece, Mary, who was 25 years his junior.
2. Grover Cleveland (1893-1897) was both the 22 and 24th presidents, having two non-consecutive terms; the only president to do so. In 1893 He had a cancerous growth removed from the roof of his mouth in secret. The operation was on the yacht, “Oneida” during a trip from Long Island to New York. The cover story was that he had two bad teeth removed. The cancerous growth is on display at Philadelphia’s Mutter Museum.
3. William McKinley (1897-1901) was the third president to be assassinated (by Leon Czolgosz). He smoked so much that he was told to stop (in a time before it was considered all that unhealthy to be a smoker). “The children of America should not see their president smoke” he said once, as he hid his cigar as he had his picture taken.
4. Theodore Roosevelt (1901-1909) was the youngest president at the age of 42. Refused to shoot a captured bear during a 1902 hunting trip calling it unsportsmanlike, thus creating the “Teddy Bear”. His mother and wife both died on the same day. The entry in his diary on February 14, 1884 was “the light has gone out of my life”.
5. William Howard Taft (1909-1913) was the heaviest U.S. president, weighing in at 325 lbs. He had a special bathtub made for the White House; it was big enough to fit four grown men. He had two pet cows, Mooley Wooly and Pauline Wayne, which roamed the White House lawn.
6. Woodrow Wilson (1913-1921) had a stroke in October 1919, leaving him partially paralyzed and blind. His wife and doctor hid this information from everyone, and even worked with a reporter to give a fake interview with him. The First Lady basically ran the government for a few months while he was recovering.
7. Warren G. Harding (1921-1923) enjoyed visiting the Gayety Burlesque, sitting in a special box that hid his presence. Was accused of multiple (at least four) extramarital affairs. After he died suddenly on August 2, 1923, his wife, Florence, had many of his papers, official and private, destroyed.
8. Calvin Coolidge (1923-1929) had a pet Hippo named William Johnson Hippopotamus.
9. Herbert Hoover (1929-1933) was president during the Great Depression. His name was constantly used to describe things about the poor such as, “Hoover Ville” (shanty towns), “Hoover Flags” (outturned and empty pockets), and “Hoover Blankets” (newspapers used for warmth).
10. Franklin D Roosevelt (1933-1945) was elected president an unprecedented 4 times. Had polo since 1921, he used legs braces, canes and had his sons holding him up when he was in public. He founded the organization that would be later known as the March of Dimes. Signed Executive order 9066 on February 19, 1942 which interred first and second generations of Japanese Americans (because of national security fears after the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941).
11. Harry Truman (1945-1953) had a sign on his desk that read, “The buck stops here”. At the time he left office in 1953, he only had his military pension of $112.56 a month. He had to take out a loan to get by and set the precedent of writing and publishing his presidential memoirs, which became a commercial success.
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