When talking about the Presidents of the United States, you’ll often hear about their rise to the top, what accomplishments (or lack thereof) they had during their time in office and the overall effect they had on the world whilst being the most powerful men in American History.
However it is worth remembering that the presidents of the past and present-day are still people and like most people, they tend to experience situations that are often too crazy to make up…and thankfully for all of us, most of their strange tales have been well documented by historians for future generations to discovery
Here are just a few of them
#10. The Need For Speed
Civil War Leader, Author and Commander-In-Chief are just some of the many accolades that the 18th President of the United States, Ulysses S. Grant has on his records. Unfortunately for the former military hero, there’s another accolade that’s on his record…being the first president to be caught speeding on the road.
Around the same time he was running for re-election in 1872, Grant was being pulled over by an African American police officer by the name of William West. The officer informed the President that he was going way too fast whilst riding his horse and carriage past the corner of M and 13th Streets leading to Grant apologizing for his actions and getting a stern warning not to do it again.
Now let’s just take a moment to understand the importance of this moment. Not only was Grant the first U.S. President in recorded history to be pulled over for reckless driving (or riding if you will), but an African American told a well-known and powerful white man to cut his antics out at a time when most black people would’ve been killed for way less.
Anyhow, despite his apologies, Grant went on to ride his horse and carriage recklessly the next day. Yet again that same officer caught him and sent Grant to the police station where he paid off his 20-dollar fine before being released. Both Grant and West would go on to become friends following the whole ordeal with each man having respect for the other’s cordial actions during the whole thing.
#9. The Quiet Pet Owner
President Calvin Coolidge was known back in his time for his quiet and taciturn nature, thus leading to the nickname “Silent Cal”. But while Coolidge wasn’t one to waste words during his time in office, he was notable for a number of things that many of us would see today as unusual even for the most powerful man in the world.
From him buzzing the secret service to his office only to hide as a prank to rubbing vaseline on his head for health-related reasons to installing a riding a mechanical horse in the White House…Coolidge’s presidency was certainly an interesting one especially when you consider his love for pets.
While the story of how Silent Cal and his wife, Grace got a Racoon for thanksgiving only to keep it as a pet is known to some many may not be aware of the other animals that the mute president had during his time in office. They ranged from having a wide assortment of birds, dogs and cats to even having pets like:
- A Goose named Enoch
- Bruno the Black Bear
- A Donkey named Ebenezer
- Smoky the Bobcat
- A Pygmy Hippopotamus named Billy
He even had two lion cubs called and I’m not making this up ‘Budget Bureau and Tax Reduction’. Safe to say it’s a good thing social media wasn’t around during Calvin Coolidge’s time otherwise people would have way too much fun mocking the President for making the White House less like a place of power and more like a zoo.
#8. Swimming Trip Gone Wrong
The first son of a President to become POTUS himself, John Quincy Adams’ time in office might not be the most remarkable but his favourite pastime certainly was. This, of course, was swimming, but not just your run-of-the-mill breaststrokes or lounging in the water instead Quincy Adams enjoyed skinny dipping with his favourite spot being the Potomac River.
Nowadays it is absolutely illegal to swim in that river, which might have something to do with a bad experience involving the former head of state. Back in 1825, Quincy Adams along with a servant named Antoine got into a boat where they planned to go to the other side of the Potomac when their boat got capsized resulting in both men stripping off their clothing as quickly as possible.
The reasoning behind this was the fact that their soaking wet clothes were beginning to get too heavy which would have made it harder for them to swim away from the current that was dragging them. Upon making it to safety, it’s reported that the President gave his remaining wet clothes to Antoine and asked him to get him some new ones. All while the boat and some of their clothing continue to sink with Adams writing about the whole event in his diary.
#7. Foul-Mouthed Birdy
Many U.S. Presidents have had pet birds before but perhaps the most infamous would have to be Andrew Jackson’s African Grey Parrot named Poll. Upon Jackson’s death in June of 1845 would carve his way into notoriety thanks to his very colourful vocabulary.
You see, the 7th president of the United States took care of the parrot following the death of his wife, Rachel and well…let’s just say that ‘Old Hickory’ wasn’t afraid to use some harsh language when came to friends or opponents and it appears that some of that language began to rub off onto Poll.
At the time of Jackson’s funeral, a reverend by the name of William M. Norment presided over the event only for him and the crowd in attendance to be horrified by the bird’s voracious words leading to the parrot needing to be escorted from the funeral. While it’s unknown to this day what kind of words Poll the Parrot used at Jackson’s funeral, according to Reverend Norment the bird had been:
“Excited by the multitude and…let loose perfect gusts of cuss words.”
#6. The Story Behind Billy Possum
The animosity between former friends William Howard Taft and Theodore Roosevelt had gotten so bad that during the 1912 Presidential election, Roosevelt ran with the Progressive Party also known as “The Bull Moose Party” as a way to ensure that his old buddy failed to win a second term. It also led to the creation of one of the weirdest bits of merchandising ever used by a political campaign.
Many Taft supporters wanted to create a stuffed toy animal that would compete with the Teddy Bear. This led to the creation of “Billy Possum” which was inspired by William Howard Taft’s interest in eating the animal with taters for dinner…The past was a really weird time.
This led to a Georgia-based toy company called ‘The Georgia Billy Possum Company’ creating a large number of possum toys in order to replace the popular Teddy Bear, even using the slogan “Goodbye Teddy Bear, Hello Billy Possum.”. The toy possum craze died a year into Taft’s Presidency and by the time of the 1912 election, Taft had failed spectacularly resulting in the Democrats taking the White House for the first time in decades.
#5. Avoiding Death
John Tyler holds a unique distinction when it comes to U.S. Presidents as he is the first Vice President to become President following the death of his predecessor. In doing so he set the standards for all future presidents who became POTUS upon the death or resignation of their previous boss.
Keep in mind, this was before the 25th amendment meaning that Presidents from the 19th to the first half of the 20th century could serve without having a second in command. This was because there wasn’t any reason to replace the Vice President if they either died or ascended to the top job like Tyler. However, had things gone differently on February 28th 1844 then Tyler would have become the second sitting President to die in office.
That’s because on this date President Tyler and a few members of his cabinet boarded the USS Princeton. A cannon referred to as the ‘Peacemaker’ exploded at the top deck of the ship spraying huge amounts of hot metal all over the deck and injuring 16-20 people. While only a handful of people died from the catastrophe which included the Secretary of State, Abel Upsher and Secretary of the Navy, Thomas Navy both of whom were a part of John Tyler’s presidential cabinet.
Tyler himself wasn’t injured from the explosion as he had decided to stay at the lower decks to enjoy some music. Had he taken the advice of his allies to join the festivities during the canon fire then it’s highly possible that Tyler would’ve died or been severely injured.
An interesting side note to the whole thing is that John Tyler would meet Julia Gardiner. She reportedly fainted during the accident, the President decided to take care of her and a few months later the two would get married.
#4. When The King Met The President
Before defaming his legacy with the Watergate Scandal, Richard Nixon was a well-respected President and politician who in the early 1970s had a very bizarre encounter with the King of Rock n’ Roll, Elvis Presley.
The story goes that Elvis wished to meet with the President in order to obtain a badge that made him a federal agent of the Bureau of Narcotics & Dangerous Drugs. This was so that Elvis could be able to transport his drugs and guns anywhere he wanted and in exchange Presley not only brought over a gun as a gift to give to the President but he would also ‘help’ Nixon in taming the rising counterculture movement and the musicians that inspired them.
Now there are a few problems with Elvis’ plan:
- 1. Richard Nixon had no clue who Elvis was
- 2. Federal agents didn’t have the ability to take guns and drugs wherever they pleased (badge or not)
- 3. The Bureau of Narcotics & Dangerous Drugs didn’t exist
Despite all of this, Nixon would go on to commission a badge for Elvis and his associates. That famous photo of Nixon shaking hands with Elvis was taken to commemorate this rather unusual moment in history.
#3. The War on Squirrels
Whether it’s getting into conflict with another nation or declaring battle on things like poverty or drug use, many U.S. Presidents have officially or unofficially declared war with varying degrees of success. However of all the things the commander-in-chief has gone to war against, Dwight D. Eisenhower’s ‘War on Squirrels’ might be the most comical.
Following his time as the Supreme Allied Commander during World War II and upon winning the presidency in 1952 Eisenhower had to deal with a number of issues both at home and aboard. So what was the best way to reduce the stress that Eisenhower was dealing with at the time easy…golfing.
‘Ike’ as he was known to his friends was a big fan of golf so much so that in 1954 he had a putting green placed outside the White House and would routinely play a few rounds to ease his mind. Unfortunately for ‘Ike’ his games of golf would constantly get interrupted by wild squirrels who became a fixture outside the Oval office thanks to former president Harry Truman’s habit of feeding the bushy-tailed animals during his time in office.
The squirrels became an absolute nightmare for the former Military General as they would either drop their nuts in the way of a shot or distract the President to the point of losing his focus. In fact, things got so bad that Eisenhower once infamously told a secret service member:
“The next time you see one of those Squirrels go need my putting green, take a gun and shoot it.”
Instead of committing the secret service or ground troops to gun down every squirrel within 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, a plan was hatched to capture and release the animals to areas far out of reach of Ike’s putting green, but that really didn’t do much. When news of Eisenhower’s hatred of Squirrels became known to the public. He was of course mocked mercilessly, especially by his rivals in the Democratic Party, but it didn’t hurt him too bad as Eisenhower would win a second term as president in a landslide in 1956.
#2. Losing The Biscuit
Now look, we all have forgotten or misplaced stuff before it’s a thing that just happens to everyone, however when you are the president of the United States there are certain things you can’t lose. Especially when the thing in question could lead to the deaths of millions of people…Such was the case for the 42nd U.S. President, Bill Clinton.
In a story revealed in 2010 by former Chairman of the Chief of Staff Hugh Shelton. Around the time of Bill Clinton’s second term, a White House official asked to see the President so that he could obtain the codes needed to launch the nuclear missiles and replace them with a new code. Much to that official and the White House’s terror, it was revealed that the President had lost the card that contained the nuclear launch codes which are referred to as “The Biscuit”.
Realizing that a story like this would be an absolute nightmare for the country if it were released to the public, that White House official along with the Department of Defense quickly created a new code and changed the way how the process would be done.
Unfortunately, Clinton isn’t the only president to lose such important cargo as presidents Jimmy Carter and Ronald Regan also have allegedly lost the biscuit. Carter supposedly dropped one of his coats off at the cleaners which contained the codes and Reagan had his clothes (which again contained the codes) thrown into a hospital trash bin in the midst of Reagan getting surgery following an assassination attempt. Thankfully for the 40th commander-in-chief, the codes were found.
#1. The Era of Bad Feelings
James Monroe was the 5th President of the United States and the last of the Founding Fathers to ascend to the highest office in the land. His time in the office saw a period of peace and nationalism for most, in time that has become known as “The Era of Good Feelings”; That being said, there were some who didn’t share those good feelings when it came to Monroe with the first incident occurring in late 18th century.
Founding Father and inspiration for a famous musical, Alexander Hamilton had an affair with a woman that was married. This led to an investigation as the future Secretary of the Treasury was paying off the husband of the lady he was sleeping with as part of a blackmail scheme. One of the people involved in these investigations was James Monroe and soon a period of animosity would begin between Monroe and Hamilton which almost led to a duel taking place between the two only for the duel to be called off thanks to the intervention of get this…Aaron Burr, irony at its highest.
Another conflict involving Monroe saw the now 5th President taking on his then Secretary of the Treasury, William H. Crawford after Monroe refuse to appoint several people that Crawford had selected to be a part of the president’s cabinet.
This led to the hot-headed Crawford calling Monroe an ‘old scoundrel’ and pulling out his cane with the aim of fighting the President. Monroe responded to this by pulling out a fire poker nearby and getting into a quick scuffle before telling Crawford that he would be escorted out of the building if he didn’t leave of his own free will. Incredibly, Crawford wasn’t kicked out of Monroe’s cabinet for this as he was able to apologize for his actions which the President accepted before the former left the building with his colleagues in sheer embarrassment.
So what do you think of this article? Which unbelievable story regarding a U.S. President is your favorite?
Leave your thoughts down below in the comment section and for more content like this and be sure to follow Lace ‘Em Up on Twiter @laceemupoffice and you can follow me also on Twitter @hakeemfullerton.