It’s Presidents Day, a time to celebrate our nation’s former leaders…and to acknowledge that some of them were just as strange as the rest of us…if not stranger.
Thomas Jefferson (1801-1809)
…had a bit of a stealing problem. When he visited William Shakespeare’s birthplace in England (with fellow future president John Adams) in 1786, he broke off a piece of Shakespeare’s chair to take home. And while visited France later on, Jefferson smuggled rice out of the country by stuffing his pockets with it. That was a capital offense—had he been caught, he’d have been executed.
Andrew Jackson (1829-1837)
…was really into duels. He ostensibly won all 100 or so of them, although in an 1806 shootout he was shot in the chest, and in 1813 he was shot in the arm in a duel with Missouri senator Thomas Hart Benton.
Martin Van Buren (1837-1841)
…was not primarily an English speaker. His first language was Dutch—a descendant of immigrants from the Netherlands, he was raised in a Dutch-speaking enclave in New York.
Millard Fillmore (1850-1853)
…was married to the former Abigail Powers. They met when she was his teacher.
Ulysses S. Grant (1869-1877)
…was desperate for money during his final years, so he agreed to write his memoirs. But Grant was dying of cancer at the time and wasn’t an accomplished writer—many historians believe the book was actually written by Grant’s friend, Mark Twain.
William McKinley (1897-1901)
…was known in his day for a bold style choice: He usually wore a red carnation on his jacket lapel—he said it was his good luck charm. While greeting a crowd of people in 1901, he gave his flower to a little girl…and then he was assassination.
Harry S Truman (1945-1953)
…doesn’t have a middle name…and he also has lots of middle names. The “S” doesn’t stand for anything specifically. His parents gave him just the initial because they had a lot of relatives whose names started with that letter.
Bill Clinton (1993-2001)
…has two Grammy Awards, for spoken word and audiobook projects. That’s more than Bjork, Snoop Dogg, and Guns N’ Roses put together.
Ronald Reagan (1981-1989)
…loved jelly beans so much that he had a standing order of 720 bags be delivered once a month. (He gave most of them away as gifts to colleagues and visitors.) Jelly Belly created a blueberry-flavored jelly bean just for him—that way he could have jars full of red, white, and blue beans.