By Brian Boone
Since Presidents’ Day is today, it’s a good time to reflect on America’s most notable leaders of the past and present. Here are some little-known facts about some of these household names, achievers whose legacies are as big as history itself.
1. AND HAIR’S LINCOLN
Abraham Lincoln was the first president of the United States not to be born in one of the
original 13 colonies that comprised the early nation. (He was born in a log cabin in
Kentucky in 1809.) Lincoln is also the first president to sport a beard. The way he wore
his facial hair — a small beard around the chin with clean shaven cheeks and no
mustache — is called a “Shenandoah.” He didn’t have a beard at all until October 1860,
a few weeks before the presidential election in which he was the Republican nominee.
Lincoln received a letter from eleven-year-old Grace Bedell, who told him she thought
he’d win more votes if he proved his manly mettle by rocking some whiskers. He
Buy This Boxed Set!
2. PATENTLY PRESIDENTIAL
In 1849, more than a decade before he’d win his first presidential election, Illinois-based
attorney and politician Abraham Lincoln received a patent for an invention. His idea,
assigned patent number 6469, was for a large industrial gadget that could lift boats
above shoals. It was never mass produced, but the Smithsonian Institute built a replica
and put it on display.
3. SEE THINGS FRANKLIN’S WAY
Founding Father and constitutional framer Benjamin Franklin is almost always depicted
wearing glasses — he was both far-sighted and near-sighted, and he had little choice
but to switch between two pairs of glasses all day long, one set for up-close and the
other for distances. By the 1780s, he got tired of all that and invented what are today
known as bifocals. He cut out circles of the up-close lenses and merged them to the
bottom of the distance lenses (as Dwight Schrute would later confirm on The Office.)
4. IT ADS UP FOR FRANKLIN
Well before he helped literally create the United States, Benjamin Franklin was a
publisher, and he founded one of the first general interest publications in the colonies, a
magazine called General. In the January 1741 premiere issue, Franklin placed an ad on
the inside cover for General issue number two — that’s the first magazine ad in
5. ALEXANDER HAMILTON: MONEY MAN
As the first Secretary of the Treasury, Alexander Hamilton appears on the U.S. $10 bill.
It’s not the first time that musical-inspiring face appeared on paper money. In 1862,
Hamilton starred on the $2 bill, until 1869, when his image was replaced with that of
Thomas Jefferson. And he almost lost the tenner, too. In the 2010s, government
officials decided to replace Hamilton with a historically significant American woman, but after the popularity of the musical Hamilton, they decided to leave the $10 bill alone and
consider taking Andrew Jackson off the $20 bill.
6. MAKING THE LAW
Today it takes about three years of study at an accredited institution to earn a degree to
practice law. Alexander Hamilton passed the exams after just six months of study, and
he did it through self-education and consulting with future Supreme Court justices
William Paterson and John Jay.
Portable Press’s Show Me History! series tells the life stories of prominent
historical figures in graphic novel form. We gathered some of the best ones into
the Show Me History! Leaders! Boxed Set, and it’s available now from Portable