One Surprising Fact You Might Not Know About Each of the 44 Presidents


How much do you know about The Presidents? Who is your favorite obscure president? We've compiled an usual fact for each of the Commander in Chiefs. Want to learn more? Just watch the 60 Second Presidents videos below for an overview of each U.S. leader.


Looking for a deeper experience? Visit American Experience's Presidents collection for clips, articles and more than 30 hours of documentaries about The Presidents.


Want resources to teach your kids about The Presidents? Or to use in the classroom? Check out the PBSLearningMedia collection.

While George Washington was already famous for fighting the British in the French & Indian War, he didn't become wealthy until he married Martha Custis in 1759.

Before the Revolutionary War, John Adams was a Boston lawyer who successfully defended the British soldiers involved in the Boston Massacre.

Thomas Jefferson, known for his small government philosophy, completed the Louisiana Purchase in 1803 even though the government had no power to buy or hold land. It was just too great a deal to pass up. 

At the Constitutional Convention in 1787, James Madison designed the federal system of government we know and love. He's the father of checks and balances!

In the famous depiction of Washington crossing the Delaware River, a teenaged James Monroe is holding the flag. He had dropped out of college to fight.

John Quincy Adams was president despite not receiving enough electoral votes to win. Luckily for him, none of his three competitors did either, and Adams was chosen by the House of Representatives to be the 6th president.

Andrew Jackson changed the philosophy around the veto. While his predecessors used the veto only on laws they thought would be unconsititutional, Jackson vetoed anything he didn't agree with.

Martin Van Buren is the father of the modern presidential campaign, in which he helped his good friend Andrew Jackson get elected. Van Buren was nominated as Vice President as a result.

A former war hero who did not have a distinguished political career, William Henry Harrison became America's first celebrity candidate -- his campaign largely ignored policy in favor of personality.

John Tyler became the second President (after Washington) to not be a member of any political party. He was kicked out of the Whig party after vetoing a bill to create a new national bank.

James K. Polk served over the largest land growth of any president -- he ran on a platform of expanding America to West based on manifest destiny.

Zachary Taylor was the second president to die in office -- he suffered stomach pains after celebrations on July 4, 1850 and died 5 days later.

Millard Fillmore's chance at re-election was dashed when he displayed the quintessential American political ideal of compromise. Both Northern and Southern states so hated the Compromise of 1850, Fillmore was denied the Whig party nomination in 1850.

Franklin Pierce's presidency started tragically, when his family was involved in a fatal train accident shortly before Inauguration Day and his son was killed. Pierce's resulting depression was an issue throughout his presidency.

James Buchanan was known to hate conflict, yet he presided over the most divisive era in America's history. Predictably, he did nothing when South Carolina succeeeded in 1864 after the election of Northerner Abraham Lincoln.

Abraham Lincoln often overstepped his power as President including expanding the army without Congressional consent and allowing citizens to be arrested without warrants. He did stand for re-election in 1864 to allow voters a say in whether he had gone too far.

While the Civil War ended in 1865, Andrew Johnson was perpetually in war with Congress over reconstruction, which led to his eventual impeachment in 1868.

Known as one of the strongest generals in American history, Ulysses S. Grant was one of America's weakest presidents, largely deferring to Congress during his time in office.

The election of Rutherford B. Hayes is one of the shadiest in history. He lost the popular vote, but received just enough electoral votes after the Republican Party brokered a deal to resolve disputed votes in a number of states.

James Garfield was only President for six months when he was shot and killed by a man who opposed Garfield's attempts at civil service reforms.

While domestic affairs ruled his term, Chester Arthur is the father of the modern navy -- he was the first president to build steel warships.

Elected to clean up government, Grover Cleveland vetoed more bills than the previous Presidents combined. Any bill that provided preferential treatment to any person or group was automatically vetoed.

Many vactioners and honeymooners should say "mahalo" to Benjamin Harrison. He spearheaded the effort to annex Hawaii.

Grover Cleveland was the first person to win three straight presidential popular votes. After losing the electoral vote in 1888, Cleveland won again in 1892.

William McKinley was in some ways the first modern President. His inauguration was the first to be recorded by a movie camera.

When William McKinley was killed in 1901, 42-year-old Teddy Roosevelt became America's youngest President.

Before serving as Secretary of War under Teddy Roosevelt, William Howard Taft was governor of the Phillipines.

Woodrow Wilson was a former political science professor at Princeton University.

Much of Warren G. Harding's political success came from knowing how to reach his audience. His background was as a newspaper publisher.

While Calvin Coolidge is not remembered by history as a orator, he actually gave more press conferences than any president before him.

As a younger man, Herber Hoover was a famous mining engineer, who organized operations around the world.

In just his first 100 days, Franklin D. Roosevelt passed more than 15 major pieces of legislation, mostly aimed at stabalizing the economy.

Before finding his niche in politics, Harry Truman floundered as a farmer and shopowner in Missouri.

Dwight Eisenhower was so popular from his military service, both parties recruited him to run for president. He eventually chose to run with the GOP.

John F. Kennedy's legislative agenda, dubbed The New Frontier, was largely ineffective despite a Democratic Congress.

Before serving as JFK's Vice President, Lyndon B. Johnson was the powerful Senate Majority Leader known for his influence and persuasion.

In 1970, Richard Nixon established the Environmental Protection Agency.

Gerald Ford became president without being part of a campaign. He replaced Vice President Spiro Agnew in 1974 and Nixon in 1975.

Jimmy Carter was the first president to establish a National Energy Policy.

Ronald Reagan's first taste of leadership came when he served as the head of the Screen Actor's Guild in Hollywood.

Prior to serving as Reagan's Vice President, George H.W. Bush was ambassador to China and the United Nations.

Bill Clinton was known for his triangulation strategy, in which he took credit for both Republican and Democratic ideas.

Prior to the September 11 attacks, George W. Bush had focused on domestic issues, including an overhaul of the education system.

Barack Obama's election was politically historic -- the Democrats also controlled both houses and had a supermajority in the Senate.

Support your local PBS station

PBS Video App

Stream the best of PBS.
Anytime, anywhere.

television laptop tablet phone
Download the Free App