5 amazing (but true!) facts about US Presidents
John Quincy Adams was a bit of a maverick
The sixth president of the United States may well have been the most flamboyant. As well as keeping a pet alligator in the White House, he also insisted on having a pool table. Evidently, back in the early 1800s, the White House was more of a lad pad than a place of politics. Perhaps his craziest characteristic was his belief in mole people. After taking a book a bit too seriously, Adams funded an expedition to the Arctic Circle to locate these mole people as well as drilling a hole into the North Pole. Thankfully to the relief of the taxpayer, this weird journey never materialised.
The president who became a war hero
Franklin Pierce was a fighter and when the Mexican-American War broke out, he readied for battle. Serving as a Colonel and then a Brigadier-General, Pierce’s military service didn’t start well after his horse fell on him in the first battle he fought in. His second battlefield experience didn’t improve much as he passed out while leading the troops due to an injury to his leg. The USA eventually won the war but Pierce didn’t do much, on the battlefield anyway.
Grover Cleveland refused to shave off his moustache
During his second term as president, Grover Cleveland was diagnosed with cancer. He was insistent that the nation mustn’t know of his illness so he tried to hide it. When the time came for his operation, he explained that he was going on a four day fishing trip. But it wasn’t really some time out with the boys. His companions were no other than talented surgeons who would operate on him in secret. The surgeons explained that they would need to shave his moustache off for easier access to the bump in his mouth. The President baulked at the idea, if he returned without his iconic moustache, the game would be up! Instead, he instructed the men to avoid doing so. Mission accomplished, Cleveland returned to the White House and no one batted an eyelid.
Taft and the bath
The most portly president of them all, William Howard Taft soaked himself in a bath designed for four men after he (allegedly) got stuck in a standard one. His fiery wife Nessie did a great job of embarrassing him further after she showed up at Democratic national Congress with an axe to grind against the Democrats who she believed were personally attacking her husband. He was also the last president to have a facial hair, and a great ‘tache it was too. Later in his life, an elderly Taft was asked about his time in the White House and he replied “I don’t remember that I ever was president”.
For more gerat stories about the USA’s most colourful presidents, have a read of The American Presidents in 100 Facts from Amberley Publishing. The book will be reviewed in a forthcoming issue of How It Works so make sure you look out for it!