Presidential Oddities.

George Washington was a consistent disappointment to his mother, Mary. She complained frequently to anyone who would listen that he was lax in supporting her and, much to his embarrassment, once begged the Virginia legislature for a little spending money.

John Adams spoke with a lisp because he stubbornly refused to wear dentures.

Thomas Jefferson, despite his otherwise refined tastes, was a notoriously lousy dresser with poor posture. He once shocked a British minister with his slovenly appearance.

"Hail to the Chief" was written written specifically for James Madison, because he was so short that no one ever noticed when he entered the room.

James Monroe was driven to the brink of bankruptcy by his spendthrift wife and daughters; Monroe's wife then compounded matters by developing an expensive, and eventually fatal, illness.

Partial to skinny-dipping in the Potomac, J.Q. Adams was once surprised mid swim by an enterprising female reporter, who forced him into a naked interview.

Andrew Jackson made his wife, Rachel, a bigamist by illegally marrying her before she'd divorced her first husband.

Martin Van Buren liked to gamble on the outcome of elections.

William Henry Harrison was the biggest vote getter in the American history if calculating by what percentage of eligible voters chose him - but was only president for 31 days.

John Tyler holds the presidential paternity record. He had 14 children live to maturity, the youngest born when Tyler was 70.

James K. Polk was plagued with diarrhea throughout his single term. He eventually died of what he described as a "derangement of the stomach and bowels."

Zachary Taylor received so much fan mail after his Mexican War victories that he started refusing all postage-due letters. As a result, he didn't find out he'd won the Whig nomination for president for almost a month.

Millard Fillmore had a historic audience with the pope shortly before being nominated for president on a violently anti-Catholic ticket.

Franklin Pierce was pals with author Nathaniel Hawthorne. In fact, the two were vacationing together in the White Mountains when Hawthorne died in his sleep.

James Buchanan had one eye set higher in his head than the other, so he walked around with his neck cocked to one side.

Abraham Lincoln had a twangy high-pitched voice - nothing at all like Sam Waterston's.

Andrew Johnson loved the circus.

Ulysses S. Grant changed his name from Hiram Ulysses because he was ashamed of the initials H.U.G. Also, he hated music. All music.

Rutherford B. Hayes was a huge fan of croquet.

James A. Garfield, a former classics teacher, could simultaneously write Greek with one hand and Latin with the other.

Chester A. Arthur had over 80 pairs of pants and insisted on changing several times a day.

Grover Cleveland had a prosthetic jaw and an illegitimate daughter, neither of which seriously affected his popularity. He's also the only president to have been elected to two non-consecutive terms.

Benjamin Harrison had the first electric lights in the White House, but was scared to turn them on or off for fear of electrocution. Instead, he made the servants do it.

William McKinley's wife was an epileptic whose contorted face he sometimes covered up with a handkerchief during formal dinner parties.

Theodore Roosevelt's mother and first wife died on the same day, in the same house, on the fourth anniversary of his engagement, which was also Valentine's Day. Rough.

As president, William Howard Taft weighed 326 pounds and got stuck in the White House bathtub. He had a bigger one installed.

Woodrow Wilson was a gifted mimic fond of telling racist jokes in Irish dialect. He also liked to imitate drunks.

Warren G. Harding kept his romantic trysts in the closet - literally. He often met his mistress in a closet off the presidential office.

Calvin Coolidge, while president, enjoyed riding on a mechanical horse and whooping like a cowboy. He also thought it was great fun to hit the buzzer for the servants and then hide.

Herbert Hoover and his wife were both proficient in Chinese and would often use it to talk privately in the presence of guests.

Franklin D. Roosevelt had a collection of 25,000 stamps. He added to it by simply having the Postmaster General and State Department mail him every new issue.

Harry S Truman once wrote a threatening letter to the music critic of the Washington Post in response to a negative review of his daughter's voice recital, stating "I never met you, but if I do, you'll need a new nose ..." His entire middle name, incidentally, was S.

Dwight D. Eisenhower hated cats. In retirement in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, he enjoyed shooting at any that came near his house.

John F. Kennedy only watched the first halves of movies. Then he'd get bored.

Lyndon B. Johnson proposed to his wife, Lady Bird, on their first date, a breakfast, then bought her a wedding ring for $2.50.

Richard M. Nixon loved football. As president, he'd occasionally called up NFL coaches to chat and offer strategic advice.

Gerald R. Ford was originally named Leslie Lynch King Jr. after his biological father, who abandoned the family when Ford was an infant. The next time Ford saw him was 15 years later, when Leslie Sr. showed up without warning and gave the kid 25 bucks.

Jimmy Carter wrote a children's book called "The Little Baby Snoogle-Fleejer."

Ronald Reagan's 1965 personal memoir, Where's the Rest of Me? opens with the line, "The story begins with the close up of a bottom."

George H.W. Bush was the first president to use any of the following words in his inaugural addresses: "cocaine," bacteria," and "easygoingness."

Bill Clinton was eight years old when he was beaten up by a sheep. That was the day, according to his autobiography, that he learned that he could take a hard hit.

George W. Bush was the first sitting president to acquire an iPod and correspondingly the first to admit a weakness for Blackie & the Rodeo Kings.

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From mental_floss' book Scatterbrained, published in Neatorama with permission.

Be sure to visit mental_floss' extremely entertaining website and blog!


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With regard to President Madison and Hail to the Chief, we have our own bit of fiction about that song in Canada. The myth goes that during WWII, FDR paid a call to Prime Minister MacKenzie King in Ottawa. Upon entering the room, the band struck up Hail to the Chief, causing FDR to ask King if the song was how the Canadian Prime Minister was officially greeted. King replied, no, nothing official, I just like it. FDR, upon returning to the US, had Congress sponsor a bill officially naming Hail as the offical song to be played whenever the president entered a function.
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