Presidential firsts, BRI style

February 15, 2010

Since Monday is Presidents Day, we thought we’d share some presidential firsts we’ve collected over the years.

Here are some presidential firsts we've collected over the years.

First to host a rock concert at the White House: Richard Nixon

Unlikely as it seems, Richard Nixon invited the Guess Who and the Turtles to play for his daughters.

The Guess Who played at the White House.

First president to see a UFO: Jimmy Carter

One evening in 1969, Jimmy Carter and a few companions saw a “bluish then redding” saucer-shaped object moving across the sky. “It seemed to move toward us from a distance,” Carter later told UFO researchers, “then it stopped and moved partially away.”

Here’s a short clip of Carter discussing the incident on Larry King Live.

First president to throw out the first pitch of the baseball season: William Howard Taft

Weighing in at over 330 pounds, Taft was our fattest president. His handlers feared his girth might make him seem weak when he ran for office again. So, in 1910, one of them suggested that he begin playing a sport to prove that he still had his youthful vigor. When Taft vetoed the idea, his aide suggested that he at least make a ceremonial appearance at a sporting event—say, to throw out the first ball slot machine of the baseball season. Taft agreed, and on April 14, 1910, he waddled out to the pitcher”s mound at Griffith Stadium in Washington D.C., and pitched a ball to home plate. (It went wild.)

First president to wear another president’s body part during his inauguration: Theodore Roosevelt

The night before he was sworn into office in 1901, Roosevelt was given an unusual gift—a ring containing strands of hair that had been cut from President Abraham Lincoln’s head the night he was assassinated. Roosevelt wore the ring to his inauguration the next day.

Theodore Roosevelt Inauguration in the Ansley Wilcox House in Buffalo, New York on September 14, 1901.

First president with a fear of electricity: Benjamin Harrison

President Harrison knew two things about electricity: The White House had just been wired for it, and it could kill people (the electric chair was becoming a common form of execution). That was all he needed to know—he didn’t want anything more to do with it. Throughout his entire term, he and his wife refused to turn the lights on and off themselves. They either had the servants do it or left the lights off or on all night.

First president to pardon a dog: Warren G. Harding

One morning Harding read a newspaper article about a Pennsylvania dog that had been ordered destroyed because it had been brought into the country illegally. Harding—who loved animals—wrote a letter to the governor of Pennsylvania. The governor saw to it that the dog”s life was spared.