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Who Knew? U.S. Presidential Trivia

John Roach
for National Geographic News
August 27, 2004
 
Just 11 weeks remain in the race for the White House. Thousands of
Republican Party faithful will gather in New York City next week to
nominate George W. Bush as their candidate for a second term as U.S.
President. Last month Democrats anointed Massachusetts Senator John
Kerry as their party's choice to lead the country. Ralph Nader,
meanwhile, leads the list of independent and third-party candidates who
are seeking the nation's top political job.

Getting into the campaign spirit, National Geographic News compiled the following presidential trivia:

How They Measured Up

The smallest President was James Madison (Presidential term 1809-17). The fourth President, Madison stood 5 feet, 4 inches (163 centimeters) tall and weighed less than 100 pounds (45 kilograms).


The tallest President was Abraham Lincoln (1861-65). He stood 6 feet, 4 inches (193 centimeters) tall.

The heaviest President was William Howard Taft (1909-13), who sometimes tipped the scales at more than 300 pounds (136 kilograms) during his tenure. After he became stuck in the White House bathtub, Taft ordered a new one installed. The replacement was big enough to hold four grown men of average size.

The oldest President ever elected was Ronald Reagan (1981-89). The 40th President took office at the age of 69.

The youngest elected President was John F. Kennedy (1961-63), who reached the White House at 43. But the youngest President to ever serve was Theodore Roosevelt (1901-09), who was elected Vice President on a ticket with President William McKinley. In September 1901 a deranged anarchist shot McKinley twice in Buffalo, New York, and Roosevelt assumed the top office at 42.

At Play

Benjamin Harrison (1889-93), the 23nd President, was the first President to attend a baseball game. He saw the Cincinnati Reds beat the Washington Senators 7 to 4 on June 6, 1892.

William Taft started the tradition of the Presidential "first pitch" of baseball season. The event took place on April 4, 1910, during an opening day game between the Washington Senators and the Philadelphia Athletics.

Since Taft's first pitch, every President but one has opened at least one baseball season during their tenure. The exception: Jimmy Carter (1977-1981).

John Quincy Adams (1825-29), the sixth President, customarily took a nude early morning swim in the Potomac River.

George Washington (1789-1797), Thomas Jefferson (1801-09), and John Adams (1797-1801) were all avid collectors and players of marbles.

Assassination and Death

Four sitting Presidents have been assassinated while in office: Abraham Lincoln, James Abram Garfield (1881), William McKinley (1897-1901), and John F. Kennedy (1961-63).

Six other Presidents were luckier and survived their assassination attempts: Andrew Jackson (1829-37), Theodore Roosevelt (1901-09), Franklin Roosevelt (1933-45), Harry Truman (1945-53), Gerald Ford (1974-77), and Ronald Reagan (1981-89).

Other Presidents have died while in office:

• William Henry Harrison (1841), the ninth President, died of pneumonia one month to the day after making—in the snow—the longest U.S. presidential inauguration speech on record.

• Zachary Taylor (1849-50), the 12th President, died in 1850 of an inflamed stomach and intestines just 16 months after he took office.

• Warren Harding (1921-23), who presided over a scandal-plagued administration, died suddenly on August 2, 1923. Medical records suggest Harding battled high blood pressure and died of a heart attack. But rumors at the time claimed Harding either took his own life or was poisoned by his wife, who sought to end Harding's notorious philandering.

• John Adams (1797-1801), the second President, and Thomas Jefferson (1801-09), the third President, both died on July 4, 1826. Calvin Coolidge (1923-29), the 30th President, was born on July 4, 1872.

Geography

The first President born a U.S. citizen was Martin Van Buren (1837-41). Van Buren was delivered on December 5, 1782, making him the first President born after the Declaration of Independence was signed.

Virginia is the birthplace of the greatest number of Presidents. It boasts eight. Thirty-one states have never claimed a native son as President.

Teddy Roosevelt was the first President to travel abroad while in office; he visited the Panama Canal in 1906.

In 1943 Franklin Roosevelt made the first Presidential flight.

Richard Nixon was the first President to visit all 50 states.

Bill Clinton set a record for the most trips abroad: 133.

Elections and Politics

George W. Bush, the 43rd and current President, lost the popular vote to Al Gore in 2000. Bush is the fourth President to attain the highest office in the U.S. without the backing of the majority of the people. He shares the distinction with John Quincy Adams, Rutherford B. Hayes (1877-81), and Benjamin Harrison.

James Monroe (1817-25), the fifth President, received every Electoral College vote except one. The holdout: a New Hampshire delegate who wanted to preserve the legacy of George Washington, the first and only President elected unanimously by the Electoral College.

Gerald Ford (1974-77) was the only President to serve who was not elected by U.S. voters either as President or Vice President. In 1973 then-President Richard Nixon (1969-74) appointed Ford Vice President after former Vice President Spiro Agnew resigned. When Nixon resigned from the White House on August 9, 1974 (the only President to do so), Ford became President.

Bill Clinton (1993-2001), the 42nd President, was the second President to be impeached. In 1998 Clinton was impeached by the U.S. House of Representatives but acquitted by the Senate. Andrew Johnson was impeached by the U.S. House of Representatives in 1868, but he was also later acquitted by the Senate.

George W. Bush is the second President to follow in the footsteps of his father. George Herbert Walker Bush was the 41st President. John Quincy Adams (1825-29), the sixth President, was the son of John Adams (1797-1801), the second President.

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