Many subscribers know I’m a huge fan of presidential history.
In fact, I learned the names of the presidents before the alphabet.
True story, well documented.
A book my grandfather and grandmother Rhodenbaugh had in their home when I was growing up was called Peculiarities of the Presidents, Strange Facts Not Usually Found In History.
It was written in 1938 by a local Van Wert, Ohio author Don Smith.
The book fascinated me with interesting factoids about our top leaders, including the fact no president with the last name beginning with ‘H’ has ever been reelected.
Thus the reason I’ve never run for president, I mean what’s the point? (He wrote laughing).
I’ve whipped out that random piece of knowledge at parties for over 40 years.
Smith wrote the book during the presidency of Franklin D. Roosevelt, and it’s interesting to see FDR referred to in the present tense.
Here are some other peculiarities:
- Jefferson created his own bible by ripping up the New Testament.
- Taft is the only American to have served as president and Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.
- Zachary Taylor, our 12th president, never voted until he was 62 years old.
- Taylor’s wife also smoked a corn-cob pipe in the White House.
- Hoover was married by a Catholic Priest, even though he and his wife were protestant.
- John Q. Adams had the first billiard table in the White House.
- Lincoln had smallpox while president.
- Arthur’s wife died one year before he became president.
- Hayes was secretly sworn into office after a close and bitter election.
- Washington had false teeth made from rhinoceros ivory.
- Coolidge insisted on 11 hours of a sleep a day.
- Grant installed chandeliers in the East Room.
- Jackson caused the bend in Pennsylvania Avenue.
- FDR enjoyed stamp-collecting as a hobby.
My grandma Mill autographed the inside of the book and sent it to me for my High School graduation, and it remains one of my most cherished items to this day.
I’ve loved studying American history from a very early age.
In fact, a set of miniature presidents have traveled with me since my grandmother Heath gave me the set when I was five years old.
From Ohio to Arizona to South Carolina back to Ohio, my presidents have always been near by.
In fact, I started my recent book Front Row Seat at the Circus by mentioning them:
My love of presidential history started over forty years earlier at my Grandma Heath’s house in Van Wert, Ohio.
In the late 1960s she had spent months collecting a set of miniature U.S. presidents from the local Kroger grocery store, which had been releasing a new one each week. She hand-numbered them, and when I was just two, she let me play with them alongside the little green plastic soldiers and dinosaurs in the bathtub. Thanks to those statues, my mom likes to tell everyone I learned the names of the presidents before I learned the alphabet.
When we left Ohio and moved to Arizona, my Grandma gave me the set of presidents to take along. As a kid I would stage mock debates— think Andrew Jackson versus Abraham Lincoln, (how awesome would that be?)—and used the presidents as newscasters on the “news sets” I made out of my Lego blocks (Jefferson was great on weather because his arm stretched out as if pointing to a map.)
The figurines—made by the Marx toy company—still sit proudly on my refrigerator at home to this day. Occasionally they make a special appearance on my Facebook page.
Weird, I know.
But from then until now, there is nothing I enjoy more than studying and debating presidential history.
True then, still true to this day.
My hope is every child will have an opportunity to grow up with the same optimism and interest in our past leaders as I did.