History

Facts about U.S. presidents that will shock you

Arguably the most powerful people in the country, the Presidents of the United States of America, have scrutinizing eyes on them at all times.

It shouldn’t surprise you that at least a few shocking facts have jumped out of history to give us strange insights into some presidents’ lives. Here are just a few.

George Washington’s teeth were not made of wood

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Common folklore tells us that the first President of the United States, George Washington, wore a set of false teeth. More specifically, legend says those teeth were made of wood.

George Washington’s false teeth were actually made of hippopotamus ivory and held real human teeth (believed to be purchased from his enslaved workers) with gold wire springs and brass screws.

John Quincy Adams liked to skinny dip in the Potomac River

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There’s apparently nothing quite like shedding the presidential clothing and hopping into the Potomac River for a swim or a bath.

John Quincy Adams made a habit of breaking from his daily duties to take a dip in the Potomac every morning, weather permitting, and he liked to do so in the nude. It was pretty common at the time.

Andrew Jackson dueled—a lot

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The man had a tendency for taking things outside. One of his most publicized duels saw Andrew Jackson take a bullet to the chest and go on to kill his opponent, but that was only one of many.

It’s estimated that Jackson took part in anywhere from five to 100 duels in his time (New World Encyclopedia says it was 103), often over insults made toward his wife.    

Abraham Lincoln is in the Wrestling Hall of Fame

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While Jackson had a penchant for dueling, Abraham Lincoln was fond of wrestling. Lincoln was considered a local wrestling champion by the time he was 21, and when he was 29 he “cautiously” called himself “possibly the second best wrestler in southern Illinois.”

It’s rumored (but not confirmed) that Lincoln lost only one of 300 matches. Regardless of whether that’s true or not, the 16th president was renowned enough for his wrestling skills that in 1992 he was the National Wrestling Hall of Fame’s Outstanding American honoree.

Cherries and milk killed Zachary Taylor

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Well, not exactly. In July 1850, Taylor attended the festivities surrounding the newly dedicated Washington Monument grounds. While there, he filled up on a large quantity of cherries and chased them down with iced milk.

It’s believed that either cholera bacteria in the milk or gastroenteritis caused by the acidic cherries/milk combination were the cause of his death only four days later.

James Garfield was very ambidextrous

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Ambidexterity is being able to use the left and right hands equally. James Garfield was so ambidextrous that he could write Latin with one hand and Greek with the other at the same time.

That’s right, James Garfield was so ambidextrous that he could write a sentence of Greek and a sentence of Latin simultaneously.

William McKinley was shot immediately after removing his lucky rose

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William McKinley loved red carnation roses so much that he wore them as a good luck charm, and one could almost always be seen on his lapel.

In a cruel twist of fate, McKinley was shot only seconds after removing his good luck carnation on September 6, 1901.

President McKinley was attending the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, New York, when a young girl from a procession of well-wishers asked for his trademark rose. He removed the flower and gave it to her, and seconds later he was shot twice in the stomach by assassin Leon Czolgosz. McKinley died eight days later.

Woodrow Wilson is on the $100,000 bill

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You’ve probably never seen one, and you would have a hard time finding someone to make change, but the $100,000 bill actually exists.

Woodrow Wilson’s bust decorates the front of the bill, and they were originally printed for trade between Federal Reserve banks. The $100,000 bill fell out of use when the wire transfer system was invented, but it is still valid currency today.

Jimmy Carter says he saw a UFO

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“The darndest thing I’ve ever seen,” said Jimmy Carter when he filed a report for an Unidentified Flying Object (UFO) sighting in 1973.

Carter and approximately a dozen others outside of a Lion’s Club Meeting one night saw an object in the sky. It was “very bright [with] changing colors and about the size of the moon,” Carter said. “The object hovered about 30 degrees above the horizon and moved in toward Earth and away before disappearing into the distance.”

Bill Clinton has two Grammy Awards

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You may remember Bill Clinton’s saxophone playing on "The Arsenio Hall Show" in 1992, but you probably didn’t know the man has a couple Grammy Awards decorating his mantle somewhere.

Clinton has been nominated for four Grammy Awards, and he’s taken home two of those. He was awarded the Grammy for Best Spoken Word Album for “Prokofiev: Peter and The Wolf/Beintus: Wolf Tracks” in 2003 and again for “My Life” in 2004.

Presidents do the darndest things

More fun facts and shocking revelations are bound to come to light as we continue to learn about presidents both new and old. Can you imagine a modern president stripping down for a dip in the river or taking to the streets for a duel?