If you’ve ever wondered which American president was the greatest in history, we may just have an answer for you. C-SPAN recently brought together a team of experts to figure out just that, and what they came up with is quite fascinating. They ranked the presidents on a variety of factors, including leadership during a time of crisis, foreign relations, and public opinion and examined each president who was in office since 1774.
The following list ranks American presidents from simply great to the greatest. Keep reading to find out if your favorite president earned himself a spot.
Benjamin Harrison served in the Union Army during the American Civil War but ended up being the 23rd president of the United States, a job he excelled at. He was an expert on foreign relations and had a wonderful working relationship with the US Congress during his time in office from 1889 to 1893. In the White House, he was known as “Little Ben” due to the fact that his great grandfather and namesake is founding father Benjamin Harrison.
He is the grandson of William Henry Harrison (Old Tippecanoe), which makes him the only president whose grandfather was also an American president. One of Harrison’s most important contributions as president was his work on advocating and enforcing voting rights for African Americans. He was also responsible for accepting the western states of Montana, Washington, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wyoming into the Union.
Pierce’s Hit And Run
Law and order in the 1800s were not quite as good as what we have today and investigating hit and run accidents is no exception. Before he was the 14th president of the United States, Franklin Pierce was arrested for running an elderly woman over with his carriage.
He was cleared of all charges within a year of his time at the White House and historians are unsure if the incident ever occurred.
When Andrew Johnson was sworn in as president, he had enormous shoes to fill. He became the 17th president following the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, who was adored by all.
Johnson was famous for getting into heated arguments with Congress time and time again and even faced impeachment. Surprisingly, he stayed in office due to a single vote.
Democratic president James Buchanan had nowhere to go but up after his predecessor in office, Franklin Pierce. Historians tell us that he had good intentions and even talked about living up to the incredible standards set by George Washington.
Sadly, the 15th president didn’t fulfill his aspirations and his presidency was nothing like the illustrious first president.
Martin Van Buren
Martin Van Buren was president for a single term between the years 1837 to 1841 and through the devastating economic downturn known as the Panic of 1837. The crisis began only three months after Van Buren became president and is considered the first great depression of the United States. At the time, Van Buren came up with an idea to separate the funds of the US Treasury from the government to keep them safe from political maneuvers and differing opinions. This earned him the monikers “Little Magician” and “Sly Fox.” Before he became president, Van Buren was appointed Secretary of State by President Andrew Jackson and later became the minister to Great Britain.
Despite his good work, Van Buren’s presidency was under intense scrutiny due to the financial crisis with numerous banks and businesses forced to shut their doors during his term. In the end, the policies van Buren instated proved themselves and helped the economy to recover, but by the time the change was apparent he was no longer president. Unfortunately, he never received the credit he was due for his actions.
William Henry Harrison
William Henry Harrison is the president who held the shortest term in the history of the office. He was president for only 31 days, from March 4, 1841 to April 4, 1841 and is the first president who died in office. Harrison was the last living president before the American Revolution. He gained fame by leading the military to victory in the Battle of Tippecanoe which took place in 1811, for which he earned the nickname “Old Tippecanoe”.
Although Harrison was the first president to have been photographed, the photo has regrettably been lost over the years. His grandson, Benjamin Harrison, the son of founding father Benjamin Harrison, became the 23rd president of the United States and served from 1889 until 1893.
The 14th president of the United States was sadly not beloved by the masses. Franklin Pierce was a known alcoholic and took a strong stand against the abolitionist movement. He actually called it, “a fundamental threat to the unity of the nation”.
He signed the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854, which enabled new territories to make their own decisions about the legality of slavery and in essence tore the nation in half.
Millard Fillmore was the last president from the barely remembered Whig Party before it disbanded. He grew up poor but managed to gain an education and rose in the ranks to the position of vice president to Zachary Taylor’s president. When President Taylor passed away from cholera, Fillmore became President in 1850. However, soon after Taylor’s death, all the White House cabinet members resigned, leaving the brand new 13th president to form an entirely new cabinet on his own.
Fillmore signed the Compromise of 1850 in an attempt to stop the growing divide between the South and the North, but sadly the attempt failed. He also helped build a relationship between the United States and Japan, who had previously refused all interactions including international trade. This gave the US the option of docking American ships in Japan during an emergency.
Harrison’s Untimely Passing
Harrison is well known for his surprisingly long inauguration speech, which lasted a whole two hours! He died of pneumonia from a cold he got on his inauguration day.
Some people claimed that his illness was caused by him refusing to wear a warm jacket while riding a horse on the cold and rainy day and then delivering his speech.
Buchanan Bought and Freed Slaves – But Not Really
An important part of James Buchanan’s political views was his neutrality regarding slavery, but one day he discovered that his sister was keeping two slaves.
This could harm him politically, so Buchanan bought the slaves from his sister and turned them into indentured servants in his own house. They were not slaves anymore but had contracts that kept them from leaving his employ.
The 21st president of the United States, Chester Arthur, was born in Vermont to a pair of Irish immigrants. Although some people claimed that he “looked like a president,” he only became one after James Garfield was assassinated in 1881 while Arthur held the role of vice president. He was in office between 1881 and 1885 and one of his most outstanding achievements was formally passing the Pendleton Act which made federal job allocation merit-based for the first time.
The Pendleton Civil Service Reform ensured that people were awarded federal jobs due to their qualifications and not their political affiliations and started the practice of mandatory examinations during the application process for government jobs. During his time as president, Arthur also signed the first federal immigration law, meant to keep “paupers, criminals, and lunatics” from coming to America.
John Tyler became America’s 10th president, following the death of former President William Henry Harrison. He was the first person to hold office after replacing a president who had died in office and was therefor the first president who was not elected by the people. Tyler served from 1841 to 1845. He weighed in on the issue of slavery, proclaiming that each state should make its own decision on the matter, similarly to other local issues. Tyler made himself some enemies in Congress because he refused to be a “passive” alternate president and earned the nickname “His Accidency.”
He was also the first president in American history whose detractors tried to have impeached, although they failed. As part of his foreign policy agenda, Tyler negotiated treaties with China and Britain. In his private life, he holds another record as the president with the largest number of children with a whopping 15.
America’s 31st president, Herbert Hoover, was in office during an extremely difficult time in US history. Hoover was born in Iowa, but later moved to Oregon and attended Stanford University when it first opened its doors in 1891. He went on to marry Lou Henry, his college sweetheart. Although Hoover often worked in China before he went into politics, he happened to be in Europe at the beginning of World War I and gained fame for helping to evacuate approximately 120,000 American tourists who were abroad in Germany and France.
His presidency took place between the years 1929 and 1933, which included the stock market crash and the Great Depression. Although times were tough, Hoover came up with a variety of strategies to improve the lives of the American people like lowering taxes and convincing businesses to keep on their employees. He had to put on a brave face and stay strong while waiting for the economy to recover from its terrible crisis.
Hoover’s Secret Language in the White House
Herbert Hoover and his wife spent many years living in China long before he became the 31st president of the United States.
While there, they both learned to speak Chinese Mandarin, which they talked to each other in the White House when they didn’t wish to be understood.
Zachary Taylor, or as he was more famously known “Old Rough and Ready” was America’s 12th president and is mostly known for his brief stint in the White House, but before he became a politician Taylor was a famous war hero. He showed a talent for leadership during his military service in the Mexican-American War, which earned him his boisterous nickname. Taylor was the last leader of the Whig Party to become president and started his term in March of 1849. He was committed to a public debate about slavery, and although he himself was a slave owner at the time, was leaning towards abolishing the practice.
During his term as president, Taylor encouraged California and New Mexico to become states but sadly passed away while in office on July 9th, 1850. His death was caused by cholera, which he had contracted only days earlier. People speculated that his sudden demise was caused by his consumption of contaminated ice water and milk or due to the enormous amount of cherries he devoured on July 4th.
Taylor Takes On 600 Men
During his time as commander of Fort Harrison in the War of 1812, Taylor and his garrison of about 50 men were attacked by 600 rifle-toting Native Americans.
Although most of the men under his command were sick and weak, they actually succeeded in fighting off and killing the massive enemy force. It is a testament to Taylor’s strength and leadership that he survived that battle.
George W. Bush
George W. Bush served as America’s 43rd president and he was commander in chief when the devastating terrorist attacks took place on September 11th, 2001. His reaction to the horrific events was to establish the Department of Homeland Security. Bush served two terms as president, between 2001 and 2008, and while in office he ordered an invasion into Afghanistan and the 2003 invasion of Iraq, which led to the end of Saddam Hussein’s regime. Bush served as the governor of Texas for five years before running for president. He won the presidential election in 2000, but because he only won the popular vote by 0.5% in Florida, the state initiated a recount of the votes.
After quite a long time the recount was completed and resulted in Bush as the victor, winning the electoral vote but losing the popular vote. His father, George H.W. Bush, had served as president about ten years before him, making George W. Bush the second US president in history whose father is a former president.
The Moment Bush Hears About 9/11
President Bush was spending a peaceful Tuesday morning with children from the Emma E. Booker Elementary School in Sarasota County, Florida.
The president was there to promote literacy in America while reading and listening to the children read The Pet Goat. At that exact moment, his aide interrupted and told him about the shocking attacks by Al Qaeda terrorists on the World Trade Center.
Rutherford B. Hayes
Republican President Rutherford B. Hayes was America’s 19th president from 1877 to 1881. He won the electoral vote but lost the popular vote and became president after several months of disagreement (similarly to the elections in 2000). Interestingly, one of his supporters was legendary author Mark Twain. Hayes started his political career as a member of the defunct Whig party and served three terms as the governor of Ohio before becoming president. He was a staunch supporter of expanding civil rights for the black community but unfortunately, his efforts were thwarted in the end by a largely democratic congress.
His other claim to fame was his enthusiastic support of civil service exams. Hayes believed that government workers should be chosen for their capabilities and not for their political connections. This work eventually became the basis for the Pendleton Act. Hayes was married to the first college-educated first lady and his wife was also the first to institute an alcohol-free White House.
Warren G. Harding
In the 29th US presidential election, not only was Warren G. Harding voted in as president, but women were finally allowed to vote for the first time, making it an extremely important landmark. Harding began his career in the newspaper business in Ohio. He was the owner of the Marion Star newspaper but had to leave The Buckeye State when he decided to go into politics. During his time as President of the United States, from 1921 to 1923, Harding formally ended World War I by declaring peace with Germany, Hungary, and Austria.
He also promoted a “return to normalcy” policy by trying to boost the economy and bring the country back to “normal” after the war. While he was serving his term, many scandals came to light, and Harding sadly passed away from a heart attack while in office as they were surfacing.
Harrison Was Deathly Afraid of Electrocution
It’s almost impossible for us to imagine a world without electricity, but it must have been quite frightening when first invented. President Benjamin Harrison was terrified of being electrocuted by his light switches.
He was so scared of touching them that he often went to sleep with all the lights on!
Richard M. Nixon
Richard M. Nixon served as President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s vice president from 1953 until 1961. He was a whiz at negotiating with foreign powers and had multiple successes under his belt even before becoming America’s 37th president. Nixon had many accomplishments in his years as president between 1969 to 1974. He ended America’s involvement in the Vietnam War, brought home POW’s, started a diplomatic dialogue with China and signed the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty with the USSR.
Nixon also established the Environmental Protection Agency, implemented the desegregation of the South, signed the Organized Crime Control Act, and spearheaded the “War on Cancer”. Nixon also ran for president in 1960 but lost the election to Democratic candidate John F. Kennedy. If it weren’t for his involvement in the Watergate scandal, President Richard M. Nixon would definitely have appeared higher on this list.
The Watergate Scandal
The Watergate Scandal was a defining moment in American history which led the public to look differently at what goes on in the Oval Office.
The scandal rocked the nation and led Nixon to resign before he could be impeached. His parting words were, “I have always tried to do what is best for the nation.”
James A. Garfield
America’s 20th president, James A. Garfield was the only sitting member of the United States House of Representatives to be elected president. He served as a major general for the Union during the American Civil War and fought in numerous battles including Shiloh, Chickamauga and Middle Creek. During his short time in office between March 4, 1881 to September 19, 1881 he had many impressive accomplishments such as doing away with postal service corruption and initiating Naval reform.
Garfield was also a strong advocate for the universal education system and a staunch supporter of civil rights who appointed several African American men including Fredrick Douglass to important positions within the government. His important work was brought to a sudden halt by the attempt on his life in July of 1881 which caused multiple infections and an end to his presidency.
James Garfield, the 20th president of the United States, was shot at the Baltimore and Potomac Railroad Station in Washington D.C. by Charles J. Guiteau.
He was only four months into his term when the shooting occurred. He survived the initial gunshot wound but sadly passed away later from complications.
Following the unexpected passing of President Warren Harding in 1923, Vice President Calvin Coolidge was sworn into office, but he also managed to win the presidential election in 1924 and served as president until 1929. Because Coolidge took a hands-off approach when it came to foreign policy and supported small government, he was beloved by the people who felt that his term was a much needed and dignified change from all the scandals which had plagued the White House in previous years. Coolidge had a gentle nature but fought for what he believed in with conviction and was an ardent supporter of racial equality and civil rights.
Unfortunately, the rest of the government was not always on board with his plans and he did not for example manage to convince them that lynching should become a federal crime. Coolidge successfully passed the Indian Citizenship Act, which granted full American citizenship to all Native Americans living on reservations, and his biographer wrote of him: “He embodied the spirit and hopes of the middle class, could interpret their longings and express their opinions. That he did represent the genius of the average is the most convincing proof of his strength”.
Coolidge’s Bizarre Morning Ritual
In his personal life, Coolidge was quite a character. The 30th president of the US kept two pet raccoons which he named “Reuben” and “Rebecca”.
Although that is not nearly as strange as his morning ritual of having Vaseline massaged into his scalp while enjoying breakfast in bed.
William H. Taft
William H. Taft served as the 27th president of the United Stated and he is the only man in American history to serve as chief justice after his term as president. Taft was originally from Ohio but decided to attended Yale University and study law. There are even rumors that he was part of Yale’s illustrious secret society Skull and Bones. Taft was a talented lawyer and even became a judge while he was still in his 20’s.
His term in office, from 1909 to 1913, was mainly centered on foreign affairs. He focused on East Asia over Europe but was also involved in the goings on in Latin America. This work earned him his reputation as a man who could build up or bring down foreign governments.
Taft’s Incredible Weight Loss
President Taft was famous for being the heaviest president in American history. After he was sworn in, he weighed a shocking 350 pounds!
Rumors about his weight abounded, including one about him getting stuck in the White House bathtub. After Taft finished up his time as president, he went on to lose an incredible 80 pounds!
America’s 39th president, Jimmy Carter, was raised on his family’s thriving peanut farm. While he was expanding the family business, Carter began to care deeply about the civil rights movement. This led to his career shift into politics and his eventual presidency, which took place between the years 1977 to 1981. While in office, Carter founded the Department of Education and the Department of Energy and also spearheaded the Camp David Accords, which ultimately led to the 1979 Egypt-Israel Peace Treaty. Carter received high marks from C-SPAN for his pursuit of equal justice for all and his moral authority while dealing with numerous international crises during his term including the Iran Hostage Crisis and the Energy Crisis of 1979.
Unfortunately, the people of the United States were not as impressed by the way in which Carter dealt with these events, and his approval rating went down steadily, leading to his losing the next election in 1980 to Republican candidate Ronald Reagan. Carter’s efforts were eventually recognized, and he received a Nobel Peace Prize in 2002 for the work done by The Carter Center, his NGO.
Carter’s Peace Deal
The 39th president helped negotiate a groundbreaking peace agreement in the Middle East. He sat down with Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin and Egyptian President Anwar Saddat to create a deal that was meant to ensure a lasting peace.
Israel agreed to give the Sinai area back to Egypt, after conquering it in the Yom Kippur War in 1973 and in return Egypt recognized Israel’s right to exist. The leaders of both countries received the Nobel Peace Prize for this endeavor.
Gerald R. Ford Jr.
When Richard Nixon resigned as president, Gerald Ford stepped up and became the 38th president of the United States, serving from 1974 to 1977. Ford is famous for his pardon of Richard Nixon and more importantly, for his participation in the Helsinki Accords, several agreements which were meant to improve the relationship between the Soviet Union and the West and improve the conditions of people living under the Soviet regime.
Ford was born in Grand Rapids, Michigan and was interested in becoming a lawyer, which led him to a career in politics. Ford was known for his strong values and his leadership during some tough economic times is the main reason he appears so highly on this list. He is also the only person in American history to serve as both vice president and president without being elected.
Ford’s First Assassination Attempt
President Ford had only recently been appointed commander and chief when Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme tried to end his life with a Colt M1911 revolver.
Luckily the gun didn’t actually fire, and the secret service apprehended the shooter and safely evacuated the president. Soon after, it was revealed that Fromme was part of Charles Manson’s nefarious cult.
Ford’s Second Assassination Attempt
Only 17 days later, another woman tried to take out President Ford. Her name was Sara Jane Moore and she was reportedly mentally unstable. She pulled out a gun and tried to shoot the president but an ex-marine who was at the scene moved her arm and went on to restrain her.
Unfortunately, the bullet did hit a taxi driver but luckily he survived. Read on to find out who is the next president on our list.
President Grover Cleveland served two non-consecutive terms, the first from 1885 to1889, and the second from 1893 to 1897. He lost his first bid for reelection but managed to win just four years later. Cleveland was admired by conservatives for his economic policies and for his support of political reform. In his second term, Cleveland was faced with the Panic of 1893, an extremely difficult economic recession and with a nationwide railroad strike known as the Pullman Strike of 1894. Cleveland was a direct ancestor to one of the first families to immigrate to the New Word.
They traveled across the ocean from England and settled in Massachusetts in 1635. He was also known for his knack for public speaking, his biographer describes him in the following words: “He possessed honesty, courage, firmness, independence, and common sense. But he possessed them to a degree other men do not”. Although his second term was more challenging, Grover Cleveland is still considered one of the better presidents the country has had.
In his personal life, Grover Cleveland did what no other American president has ever done, he got married when he was already in the White House. He married a much younger woman named Frances Folsom Preston when she was only 21 – 28 years his junior.
The American public didn’t seem to mind the age gap. They found the president’s new wife to be very mature and felt that they were a good match.
Ulysses S. Grant
The 18th president of the United States, Ulysses S. Grant, was the Union Army’s commanding general during the Civil War. He was one of the most popular presidents during his time in office between the years 1869 and 1877. Grant attended West Point and found himself in combat in the Mexican-American War just a few years later. The war began his rise to fame and helped him to become one of the youngest presidents in history, being sworn in at the age of 47.
Grant owes his high score to his morality, excellent foreign relations, and good rhetorical ability, which often swayed the public and his pursuit for equal justice for all Americans. He was known as an honest president, the first to appoint African Americans and Jewish Americans to higher office, and as a man who opposed the KKK publicly and vehemently.
Grant’s Inaugural Ball
The traditional inaugural ball was held for President Ulysses S. Grant in 1873. Everything was in place to make the evening memorable and beautiful and canaries were brought in to enhance the experience.
Unfortunately, a severe cold front came in and all of the birds froze to death. Although some attendees took the bird’s fate as a sign, others simply continued to enjoy their night.
John Quincy Adams
John Quincy Adams, also known as JQA, was the 6th US president and served between the years 1825 to 1829. He was the son of founding father and former president, John Adams. Adams strongly supported equal rights and was an anti-slavery activist and even dubbed himself as “the acutest, the astutest, the archest enemy of southern slavery that ever existed.”
Adams believed in non-intervention whenever possible and elected not to involve America in European political affairs. He strongly opposed the annexation of Texas and has the oldest surviving presidential photograph in history, which was taken in 1843, when he was 76 years old.
Adams’ Early Morning Swim
John Quincy Adams used to go skinny-dipping in the Potomac River every morning as part of his daily routine. This was not an uncommon practice at the time, but one morning during his swim a strange thing occurred.
A female journalist, who was extremely eager for an interview with the president, decided to sit on the rock which held his clothes and would not get up until he promised her an interview. Unsurprisingly, he agreed.
George H. W. Bush
George Herbert Walker Bush was the 41st president of the United States and is the father of President George W. Bush. He was in office for a single term, from 1989 to 1993. Prior to his presidency, George Bush Sr. was Ronald Reagan’s vice president for 8 years. George H. W. Bush is famous for his leadership skills, especially in troubled times and his negotiation tactics, which led to a good relationship with foreign powers.
During his time in office, a variety of momentous historical events took place including the end of the Cold War, the fall of the Berlin Wall and the first Gulf War. Bush Sr. led the way on numerous historic acts, such as the Clean Air Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the North American Free Trade Agreement with Canada and Mexico. He broke another record in his personal life with the longest presidential marriage in history, which lasted 73 years!
John Adams was the 2nd US president and was in office from 1979 to 1801. He was one of the founding fathers of America and some of his achievements include the official founding of the US Navy, earning him the nickname “the father of the American Navy”.
He is also famous for settling a dispute between France and America, but only served one term as he was beaten out by Thomas Jefferson in the subsequent presidential election.
Adams’ Shakespeare Memento
John Adams and Thomas Jefferson used to be quite close before political rivalry got between them. When the two visited the home of renowned playwright William Shakespeare, they decided to chip off a piece of The Bard’s chair.
They wanted to keep a souvenir so they could remember the visit.
If you feel like Andrew Jackson’s face looks familiar, you are right, we see the former presidents face quite frequently, on the $20 bill. Jackson, America’s 7th president, was in office between 1829 and 1837. Ironically, he was adamantly against the use of paper money and believed gold and silver coins should be used instead.
He was held captive by the British at the tender age of 13 during the Revolutionary War, making him the only US president who ever spent time as a prisoner of war. Jackson is also known for keeping South Carolina from seceding from the Union and is the only American president to have ever paid off the national debt – in its entirety.
Andrew Jackson’s Wild Inauguration Party
Andrew Jackson famously knew how to get along with people, making each person he talked to feel like they had a special connection. The American public also felt this special connection. When the inauguration speech was completed, Jackson and his companions went on to an executive mansion for what was supposed to be an intimate gathering.
A huge crowd of supports of all ages and all walks of life followed them and crashed the reception. The crowd drank copiously, looted the kitchen and left dirt on the floors and carpets. They finally got them to leave only by removing the liquor from the premises.
One of America’s founding fathers and the 4th president of the United States, James Madison was nicknamed the “father of the constitution” and held office from 1809 to 1817. Madison attended Princeton University and was an excellent student. He acquired his degree in only two years, after which he stayed on for a year to study with the university president, making him Princeton’s first graduate student.
Madison was well known for his amazing leadership, he committed America to the War of 1812, strengthened the government, established a professional military, and founded the national bank. His wife Dolly also helped define the role of the first lady. She is known for redecorating the White House and setting up outreach programs for orphans and served as a role model for the first ladies that followed.
Madison’s Financial Problems
Although it is common knowledge that James Madison was a good president, his financial state after leaving office was often precarious.
He was frequently in debt and had a hard time making a profit from his plantation due to bad weather and low market prices. His stepson exacerbated the problem by wasting the family’s money on gambling and alcohol.
William McKinley Jr.
William McKinley Jr., the 25th president of the United States, held office in the years 1897 to 1901. He is remembered for leading the country to victory in the Spanish-American War. A conflict that ended with the Philippines, Guam, and Puerto Rico all becoming US territories.
In addition to being a bold statesman, McKinley believed in promoting American prosperity and was in charge of numerous measures to strengthen the US economy. Unfortunately, he did not champion equal justice for all citizens.
Shortly after his second inauguration, McKinley embarked on a tour of the western states which led him to the Pan-American exhibition in Buffalo, New York to deliver a speech for 50,000 people. The following day, on September 6th, 1901, he was shot twice in the chest by unemployed mill worker and anarchist Leon Czolgosz.
The president was hospitalized, and his prognosis was initially good, but there were complications and he passed away 8 days after the attack.
The 42nd president of the United States, Bill Clinton, served two terms from 1993 to 2001. While he was in office, America enjoyed an unprecedented time of economic expansion, record job creation, and a decline in poverty. White House reporter Helen Thomas says of Clinton, “he has brought on the greatest prosperity we have ever known and he doesn’t get the credit for it and that’s too bad.”
Clinton also had one of the highest approval ratings of any president since World War II, which stood at 60%.
Clinton’s Impeachment Proceedings
President Clinton’s affair with Monica Lewinsky was big news all over the world and is still the first thing that comes to mind when his name comes up. At first, he denied having a relationship with the young intern but in the end, he came clean simply saying, “even presidents have private lives.”
Impeachment proceedings began in December 1998 and after a five-week trial, Clinton was acquitted by the Senate.
James K. Polk
James K. Polk, the 11th president of the United States, was in office between 1845 to 1849. His inauguration was the first in American history to be broadcast on the news using a telegraph! Folk is also remembered as the president who led the nation to victory in the US-Mexican War and was responsible for the territorial expansion of the United States through the Texas Annexation in 1845 and the Mexican Cession in 1848.
Polk also has some financial accomplishments; he reestablished an independent treasury system and reduced tariffs.
Polk’s Strict Rules
Being president is no joke, but James K. Polk may have gone a little overboard. His wife was religious, and they were intent on keeping the White House a fun-free zone.
They went so far as to ban alcohol, dancing, and card playing at all White House receptions. In order to respect their wishes, dancing at the inaugural ball only began once the president and his wife left.
Founding father James Monroe was America’s 5th president and served between 1817 and 1825. Monroe was a very popular candidate and won the election by a landslide. He was also the first American president to remain in office for two terms.
Monroe was president during “The Era of Good Feelings”, which took place after the War of 1812, and in which the political hatchet between Federalists and Republicans was buried. He fought in the American Revolutionary War and made great advancements in foreign policy, the pinnacle of which was “The Monroe Doctrine.”
Monroe Traveled Extensively by Mule
These days, a presidential motorcade means massive traffic jams and a procession of bullet-proof vehicles, but things were very different in the 1800s. President James Monroe traveled to Madrid in 1805 and it was quite an unusual journey. The reason for the trip was his intention to persuade the Spanish to give up the land which is now Florida to the United States.
He made his way from Paris to Madrid on the back of a mule, but his slow and probably uncomfortable journey did not convince the Spanish to make any concessions.
The 44th president of the United States, Barack Obama, made history by becoming the first ever African-American president. During his time in office, in the years 2009 to 2017, Obama made some momentous changes, including signing the Affordable Care Act which strived to bring health care to all Americans.
He was instrumental in brokering the Iran nuclear deal, revoking the “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy in the military and restoring relations between the U.S. and Cuba. Obama left behind a legacy of tolerance and inclusion.
President Obama’s inauguration was an inspiring event. Over 1 million people turned up and Beyoncé gave an emotional rendition of the national anthem.
Obama stirred the hearts of many during his speech when he said, “Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law.”
Woodrow Wilson was the 28th president of the United States and his term, which took place between 1913 and 1921, coincided with World War I. Wilson helped draft the Treaty of Versailles, which hastened the end of the war. His famous quote on the matter was: “At last the world knows America as the savior of the world!”
He is also known for his stance that America should join the League of Nations, which later changed its name to the United Nations, but Congress at the time was not in favor. Wilson was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1919 for his efforts to promote international peace.
Wilson’s Love of Golf
Wilson cared deeply about democracy and peace around the world, but there was something that he loved almost as much – the sport of golf.
Wilson was so passionate about the game that not even snow on the ground could keep him from teeing off. In winter, he would paint his golf balls black in order to see and retrieve them even when the course was completely covered in snow.
Lyndon Baines Johnson
Lyndon Baines Johnson, more commonly known as LBJ, was America’s 36th president, in office from 1963 to 1969. He was John F. Kennedy’s vice president and stepped in after Kennedy was assassinated. LBJ left behind a strong legacy of social reform. He signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, The Voting Rights Act of 1965, passed laws for gun control and welfare. He also signed the Social Security Act of 1965, which established Medicaid and Medicare.
Johnson’s public appeal took a hit when he committed hundreds of thousands of troops to the war in Vietnam and his decision divided the nation.
Johnson’s Life Saving Bathroom Break
President Johnson almost died during the Second World War while taking part in a bombing mission in the South Pacific. He was supposed to board a plane named the Wabash Cannonball but decided to take a quick bathroom break before setting out.
He came back and discovered that his flight had taken off without him. Only later did he find out that the bomber crashed and none of the passengers survived.
The 40th president of the United States, Ronald Reagan, was in office from 1981 to 1989. Many people remember him as the man who instituted a new economic policy nicknamed Reaganomics. The plan prescribed allocating more funds to the military, less for social programs, extensive tax cuts and deregulation of domestic markets.
He is also known as the president who helped bring about the end of the Cold War and for the Iran-Contra scandal which took place on his watch. One of the most iconic moments of his presidency took place at the Berlin Wall, where he famously told Soviet General Secretary Gorbachev to “Tear down this wall!”
Reagan’s Assassination Attempt
John Hinckley Jr. made an attempt on President Ronald Reagan’s life on March 30th, 1981. He took several shots at the president and tried to end his life. Strangely enough, Hinckley thought the act would impress young actress Jodie Foster.
One of the bullets hit Reagan in the chest but luckily, he survived. Hinckley made no attempt to flee and was arrested immediately.
John F. Kennedy
John F. Kennedy, or JFK as he was often referred to, was the 35th American President and was in office from 1961 to 1963. He was the only Roman Catholic president and also the youngest and was sworn in at the age of 43. Kennedy’s time in the White House ended prematurely due to his tragic assassination in November 1963.
Kennedy is remembered for his calm and levelheaded leadership during the Cuban Missile Crisis and for his founding of the Peace Corps. He also supported equal rights for African Americans and equal pay for women.
Lee Harvey Oswald fired two shots at President Kennedy’s presidential motorcade on November 22nd, 1963 in Dealey Plaza in Dallas. Both shots hit Kennedy and although he was rushed to the hospital, the president didn’t recover.
Oswald was swiftly apprehended but never stood trial because while being transferred, he was shot and killed by nightclub owner Jack Ruby.
One of the most renowned founding fathers, Thomas Jefferson, was the 2nd American vice president and the 3rd American president from 1801 to 1809. Jefferson is famous for his pivotal role in writing the Declaration of Independence and for signing the Louisiana Purchase with France, which almost doubled the size of the nation.
He was a strong supporter of freedom, equality, and justice for all.
Jefferson’s Obsession With the Weather
If Thomas Jefferson had not won the election, he could have easily become a meteorologist. The president was obsessed with the weather and kept a diary in which he documented the amount of rainfall and other weather patterns that occurred throughout the day.
He did not limit his observations to the White House but documented the climate wherever he went.
Harry S. Truman
The 33rd president of the United States, Harry Truman, was in office from 1945 to 1953. He was Franklin D. Roosevelt vice president and was sworn in after his death. Truman served in the military in World War I and is the only president to have ever used nuclear weapons. He dropped an atomic bomb on Japan and effectively ended World War II.
The Truman Doctrine helped fight communism around the world and his Marshall Plan helped the European economy recover from the war. He was also well known for his stubbornness, and while in office used his presidential veto power a whopping 180 times!
Dwight D. Eisenhower
Dwight D. Eisenhower served as the 34th president of the United States from 1953 to 1961. He rose to fame as the supreme commander who led the Allied forces in the invasion of Nazi-occupied Europe. He is also known for desegregating the military of which he wrote, “There must be no second class citizens in this country.”
In foreign policy, he obtained a truce in Korea and worked tirelessly to ease the tensions of the Cold War. Eisenhower, who was also known as Ike, was an immensely popular president with an approval rating that has rarely been matched.
Eisenhower Hated Squirrels
President Eisenhower was an avid golfer but got very frustrated when squirrels kept digging up his putting green. He decided to get rid of them at all costs and ordered his valet to shoot them all.
Fortunately, the Secret Service had a better idea, they got the groundskeepers to round them up and release them in Rock Creek Park.
America’s 26th president, Theodore Roosevelt, also affectionately known as Teddy, was in office from 1901 to 1909. He was well known for his talent for public speaking, administrative skills, and foreign relations. He made the top of the list due to his overall vision and expertise in economic management. He is the first president to make conservation a national issue and established numerous national parks, forests, and monuments.
He also strengthened the Navy and facilitated the construction of the Panama Canal. Roosevelt was also an active participant in the negotiations that lead to the end of the Russo-Japanese War and even won a Nobel Peace Prize.
Teddy Roosevelt’s Dangerous Hobby
President Roosevelt enjoyed active pursuits during his downtime and playing physical sports. One time at the White House he decided to spar with a Navy Officer.
The tussle got quite intense and Roosevelt took a strong hit to his left eye. The blow actually blinded him, but he didn’t let anyone know the truth for several weeks.
Franklin D. Roosevelt
Franklin D. Roosevelt, also known as FDR, was America’s 32nd president from 1933 to 1945. He was immensely popular and is the only president in America who ever served and was elected for four terms. FDR is known for leading the nation through the trying times of the Great Depression and World War II.
He also established a series of social and economic reforms that gave the Federal government more power and were known as the New Deal.
President Roosevelt was stricken with polio at the age of 39 and spent most of his adult life in a wheelchair. He used a specially designed car which allowed him to drive using only his hands.
He passed away in 1945, while in office from intracerebral hemorrhage and sadly did not get the chance to see the end of World War II.
The most famous founding father and a familiar face from the $1 bill, George Washington was America’s very first president. While in office from 1789 to 1797 he played an integral part in the foundation of the United States government, implementing a tax system and establishing the national bank.
He also served as commander in chief of the Continental Army in the American Revolutionary War and was ranked as the 2nd best president in United States history.
George Washington suffered from dental issues from a young age. He lost his first tooth at the age of 24 and had a full set of dentures by the age of 57. While many believe that George Washington’s teeth were made of wood, that is simply not true, but his dentures were still pretty frightening.
They were constructed from animal teeth, lead, screws, gold wire, bone and even ivory from a hippopotamus!
Abraham Lincoln, also known as “Honest Abe,” was the 16th president of the United States from 1861 to 1865 and led the nation through some difficult times. Lincoln is well known for preserving the Union during the Civil War and issuing the momentous Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, which led to slavery being abolished and changed the status of enslaved African Americans in the South to free people.
He was also responsible for the 13th amendment to the constitution which officially made slavery illegal. Lincoln’s life ended tragically in 1865 when he was assassinated, and sadly he never got the chance to see the impact of his work, but his legacy lives on and he is widely considered the most beloved, admired and all-around greatest president in the history of the United States.
On the evening of April 14th, 1865, Abraham Lincoln was attending a special presentation of Our American Cousin at Ford’s Theatre in Washington D.C. Famous actor and Confederate sympathizer John Wilkes Booth came up behind him with a gun.
He shot and killed the president, who only five days earlier had ended the Civil War.
When Donald J. Trump won the presidential election in 2016, many were elated, while an equal number were devastated. His race for the presidency opposite Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton, was definitely never before seen in American politics.
Trump is the first American president in history with no previous experience in government or the military.
President Trump was sworn in as the 45th President of the United States on January 27th, 2017. At the heart of his 17-minute-long speech was his belief that America should be focused on Americans.
He said, “From this day forward, it’s going to be only America first, America first.”
Presidents of the Future
The 45th president of the United States is now steering the nation, which leads us to wonder what the future holds for the presidency.
Will a woman serve as Commander-in-Chief anytime soon? The world is changing, and the presidents of the future may surprise us.