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U.S. Presidents Trivia; Part 2: (1849-1889)

Updated on December 9, 2012

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: (12-22)

The Antebellum, Civil War, and Reconstruction years: 1849-1889

1. Zachary Taylor (1849-1850) died of what was called at the time “bilious diarrhea, or a bilious cholera.” Theories abound that he was poisoned. He was exhumed in 1991, and it was concluded that, "In the unhealthy climate of Washington, with its open sewers and flies, Taylor came down with cholera morbus, or acute gastroenteritis as it is now called." He could have survived but his doctors had, "drugged him with ipecac, calomel, opium and quinine, and bled and blistered him too. On July 9, he died."

2. Millard Fillmore (1850-1853) was the last president to be of the Whig Party. He was the first president to be, “distinctly middle class”. Before this, most presidents became rich through marriage or inheritance.

3. Franklin Pierce 1853-1857) was an alcoholic and died of cirrhosis of the liver. He had three children who died before he became president. His last son, Benjamin, was decapitated in a train accident and his wife, Jane, hated being the First Lady and was so removed from political and public life that was she was known as “the shadow of the White House”. She saw her son’s death as God’s Wrath against Pierce’s political career. During the Civil War Pierce sided with the Confederacy.

4. James Buchanan (1857-1861) is considered one of the worst U.S. Presidents because he didn’t attempt to deal with secession issues between the northern and southern states. He never married and so he had his niece, Harriet Lane, be his official hostess in the White House. His close friendship with William King (they shared a home for 15 years) led to speculation that he was a homosexual. Andrew Jackson even referred to King as “Miss Nancy” and “Aunt Fancy.”

5. Abraham Lincoln (1861-1865) was the first U.S. President to be assassinated (by John Wilkes Booth), and had a very realistic premonition of his death in a dream. He attended many séances after his son died attempting to speak with him. He was extremely messy; as a lawyer he had an envelope on his desk with, “When you can’t find it anywhere else, look into this,” written on it. In 1842 he had a duel with James Shields and picked broadswords as the weapon. Shields decided against the duel based on Lincoln’s 6’ 5” height and long-reaching arms.

6. Andrew Johnson (1865-1869) was apprenticed as a tailor in his youth and made his own clothes all his life. He never had schooling; his wife, Eliza, taught him to both read and write. Two of his five sons were alcoholics. He avoided being removed from office (being impeached for opposing Reconstruction) by only one vote.

7. Ulysses .S. Grant (1869-1877) issued general order No. 11 on December 17, 1862 expelling Jews from Tennessee, Kentucky, and Mississippi. Had 11 scandals during both his presidential terms. Two were best remembered as Black Friday (1869) and the Whisky Ring (1875). The term “Grantism” was used to describe the many scandal he was accused of having involvement in. He used to go to the Willard Hotel in Washington DC where he would be visited by many people who asked him for favors and money as he tried to relax in the lobby. This led to the coining of the term “Lobbyist”.

8. Rutherford B. Hayes (1877-1881) had an overbearing older sister who went to an insane asylum. His wife, Lucy, was nicknamed “Lemonade Lucy” for banning alcohol from the White House.

9. James Garfield (March 4—September 19, 1881) Second U.S. President to be assassinated (by Charles Guiteau). First Left-handed President. His mother was over-bearing and went everywhere with him (she even moved into the White House).

10. Chester A. Arthur (1881-1885) became president after the death of Garfield. He had political opponents of his presidency spread rumors that he wasn’t a natural born citizen, being born in Ireland or Canada, which would’ve made him ineligible. He refused to move into the White House until new priceless Victorian-style furniture (24 crates) was put in, and sold the old ones off. He failed to get nomination for a second term.

11. Grover Cleveland (1885-1889) wasn’t married when he became president, and had fathered an illegitimate child beforehand. In 1886, he married 21 year old Frances Folsom who he was the legal guardian of since she was 11. She is still the youngest First Lady at 21. He was the only president to have his wedding at the White House.


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