Monday, September 27, 2010
--Franklin Roosevelt is the only President to serve more than two terms (he died about three months into his 4th term). The two-term tradition had been an unwritten rule (until the 22nd Amendment after FDR's presidency) since George Washington declined to run for a third term in 1796, and both Ulysses S. Grant and Theodore Roosevelt were attacked for trying to obtain a third non-consecutive term.
--Eleanor Roosevelt disliked sex, and considered it "an ordeal to be endured". Perhaps not coincidentally, FDR had affairs outside the marriage, including a recurring one with Eleanor's social secretary, Lucy Mercer. Though they supposedly stopped seeing each other (his mother threatened to cut FDR off financially if he got a divorce), they hooked back up years later--Lucy was even given the code name "Mrs. Johnson" by the Secret Service.
--Franklin's first cousin, Ellen Roosevelt, was the 1890 U.S. Open Championships women's singles and doubles tennis champion and is a member of the International Tennis Hall of Fame.
--In August 1921, while the Roosevelts were vacationing at Campobello Island, New Brunswick, Canada, Roosevelt contracted an illness diagnosed at the time as polio, but since then the subject of considerable debate, which resulted in permanent paralysis from the waist down. In the public mind, Roosevelt has been by far the most famous polio survivor. However, his age at onset (39 years) and the majority of symptoms of his illness are more consistent with a diagnosis of Guillain-Barré syndrome. Since Roosevelt's cerebrospinal fluid was not examined, the cause may never be known for certain.
Fitting his hips and legs with iron braces, Roosevelt taught himself to walk a short distance by swiveling his torso while supporting himself with a cane. In private, he used a wheelchair, but he was careful never to be seen in it in public. He usually appeared in public standing upright, supported on one side by an aide or one of his sons. FDR used a car with specially designed hand controls, which provided him further mobility.
--It is a little known fact that in the first draft of his Dec. 8th address to Congress, the line "December 7th, 1941, a date that will live in infamy..." was instead "Man, I have a serious case of biscuit-mouth today..."
Wednesday, September 22, 2010
--Madison was the chief architect of the U.S. Constitution. The first president to have served in the United States Congress, he was a leader in the 1st U.S. Congress, drafting many basic laws, and was responsible for the first ten amendments to the Constitution and thus is also known as the "Father of the Bill of Rights". As a political theorist, Madison's most distinctive belief was that the new republic needed checks and balances to protect individual rights from the tyranny of the majority.
--Madison was 5' 6" tall, and never weighed much more than 100 lbs. Nevertheless, he lived into his mid-eighties and was the last of the Founding Founders to die.
--He was the first president to wear long trousers (all the previous presidents wore knee breeches).
--Madison is the only U.S. President to authorize an invasion of Canada (so far...).
--Along with his authorship of the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and a sizable chunk of the Federalist Papers, James Madison also invented the word "xenomorph".
Friday, September 17, 2010
--The K stood for 'Knox', his mother's maiden name.
--Polk is noted for his foreign policy successes. He threatened war with Britain then backed away and split the ownership of the Oregon region (the Pacific Northwest) with Britain. When Mexico rejected American annexation of Texas, Polk led the nation to a sweeping victory in the Mexican–American War, followed by purchase of California, Arizona, and New Mexico.
--During his presidency James K. Polk was known as "Young Hickory", an allusion to his mentor Andrew Jackson, and "Napoleon of the Stump" for his speaking skills.
--He promised to serve only one term and did not run for reelection. He died of cholera three months after his term ended. Polk had the shortest retirement of all Presidents at 103 days. He was the youngest former president to die in retirement at the age of 53.
--It is commonly known that Polk was the first werewolf President.
Monday, September 13, 2010
--Wilson is one of only three presidents to be widowed while in office (Tyler, Wilson, and Andrew Jackson, though his wife died while he was still formally President-Elect). He married Edith Galt, a descendant of Pocahontas, a year after the death of his first wife. Galt has been labeled "the Secret President" and "the first woman to run the government" for the role she played when Wilson suffered prolonged and disabling illness after a serious stroke in October 1919. Some even refer to her as "the first female president of the United States."
--Wilson was the first person identified with the South to be elected President since Zachary Taylor and the first Southerner in the White House since Andrew Johnson left in 1868. He was the first president to deliver his State of the Union address before Congress personally since John Adams in 1799. Wilson was also the first Democrat elected to the presidency since Grover Cleveland in 1892 and only the second Democrat in the White House since the Civil War.
--He was an early automobile enthusiast, and a big baseball fan (Wilson was the first President to throw out a ball at a World Series game). As President, Wilson took to playing golf, although he played with more enthusiasm than skill. Wilson holds the record of all the presidents for the most rounds of golf, over 1,000, or almost one every other day. During the winter, the Secret Service would paint golf balls with black paint so Wilson could hit them around in the snow on the White House lawn.
--Wilson's stance on civil rights was expressly segregationist. A quote from his "History of the American Peoples" was used in W.D. Griffith's film The Birth of a Nation: "The white men were roused by a mere instinct of self-preservation...until at last there had sprung into existence a great Ku Klux Klan, a veritable empire of the South, to protect the Southern country."
He also wasn't that crazy about Irish and German immigrants, whom he blamed for lack of popular support for the League of Nations ("I cannot say too often, any man who carries a hyphen about with him carries a dagger that he is ready to plunge into the vitals of this Republic whenever he gets ready").
--Every time he traveled north of the Mason-Dixon line Wilson was hounded by a pack of spectral wolves.
Wednesday, September 8, 2010
--In 1942, at 18 years old, Bush became the youngest aviator in the U.S. Navy at the time. He was the last WWII veteran to serve as President.
--Bush was one of three U.S. Presidents who served as a member of the Skull and Bones secret society at Yale University (William Howard Taft and George W. Bush are the others). Bush's Skull and Bones nickname was "Magog". Creepy.
--Bush became the first Vice President to become 'Acting President' when, on July 13, 1985, Ronald Reagan underwent surgery to remove polyps from his colon. Bush served as Acting President for approximately eight hours.
--In 1988 Bush became the first serving Vice President to be elected President since Martin Van Buren in 1836, as well as the first person to succeed someone from his own party to the Presidency via election to the office in his own right since Herbert Hoover in 1929.
--George Bush's sweat is a powerful natural hallucinogen.
Wednesday, September 1, 2010
--Buchanan served as James K. Polk's Secretary of State, and so far remains the last former Secretary of State to become President. Born in 1791, he was also the last President born in the 18th century.
--Buchanan regularly tops the list of a lot of "Worst Presidents" rankings. Like Franklin Pierce before him he was a Northerner with apparent Southern sympathies, and his efforts to maintain a peaceful status quo between the North and the South alienated both sides and, combined with Abraham Lincoln's election, helped to move the Southern states to declare succession a few months before Buchanan left office.
Buchanan both denied the legal right of states to secede and also held that the Federal Government legally could not prevent them. Furthermore, he placed the blame for the crisis solely on "intemperate interference of the Northern people with the question of slavery in the Southern States." Buchanan's specific, last-ditch solution to the crisis was that the Congress call for a constitutional convention which would give the people of the country the opportunity to vote specifically on an amendment to the constitution regarding the slavery issue. However, there was no ability to reach agreement on this approach as a solution to be pursued.
--Buchanan remains the only Presidential bachelor. When his ex-fiancee, Ann Coleman, died (of hysteria, how weird is that?), Buchanan vowed to never marry. He lived in Washington D.C. with Alabama senator William King for fifteen years, until King, who was elected as Franklin Pierce's VP, died suddenly of tuberculosis. Both Buchanan and King's nieces burned the two men's correspondence after Buchanan's death, and many have claimed that the two were a couple (it was a popular rumor at the time, in fact--many spoke of them as "Buchanan and his wife" and Andrew Jackson often referred to King and Buchanan as "Miss Nancy" and "Aunt Fancy"), and that, therefore, Buchanan was the first gay President. However, there's not enough evidence to definitively say one way or the other.
--When you Google 'James Buchanan' the 4th thing that comes up is a "Gothic Gay Erotic Romance" website. So...now you know that.