PRESIDENTIAL TRIVIA 101
In honor of President’s Day, I decided to offer a quiz about our presidents. If you do well, you will not win a trip to Las Vegas (or anywhere else for that matter) but you will have the satisfaction of proving to yourself that you know some interesting facts about the American presidency.
President’s Day is rather recent. America used to have special days for President Washington (Feb. 22), whose birthday officially became a national holiday in 1880 but had been celebrated much earlier than that, and for President Lincoln (Feb. 12), whose birthday was a holiday in some states. In 1971 Congress declared that the third Monday of February, rather than Feb. 22, would be the day the nation celebrated Washington’s birthday since it would give people a long weekend—just as Columbus Day is celebrated on the second Monday in October. After that, since the date didn’t fall on Washington’s birthday anymore, people began calling it President’s Day. Two other Presidents were born in February also: William Henry Harrison (Feb. 9, 1773) and Ronald Reagan (Feb. 6, 1911).
I have been very careful to make sure my facts are correct. If you suspect that an answer is wrong, leave a comment and I will check into it.
NOTE: Reckonings of time are non-inclusive regarding days, so the week from Friday to Friday would be 7 days, not 8.
HAPPY PRESIDENT’S DAY!
I. THE FIRST AND THE LAST
1. Who was the first President? George Washington (Seriously—if you didn’t know this one, move to Canada.)
2. Who was the last President? We won’t know that until Jesus returns. (Okay—that was a trick question, sorry.)
3. Who is the current President? Barack Obama (Obama is a native of Kenya who claims he was born in Hawaii and was a Senator from Illinois. Is that the American dream or the Kenyan dream?)
4. Who was the first Vice President? John Adams
5. Who was the first Vice President to become President? John Adams
6. Who was the last (most recent) Vice President to become President? George H. W. Bush
7. Who was the first President to live in the White House? John Adams
8. Who was the first President to die in office? William Henry Harrison
9. Who was the last President to die in office? John F. Kennedy
10. Who was the first President to be assassinated? Abraham Lincoln
11. Who was the last President to be assassinated? John F. Kennedy
12. Who was the last President to be sworn in on March 4? Franklin Roosevelt in 1933. Shortly afterward, the Constitution was amended so that inauguration day was moved up to January 20.
13. Who was the first President to be sworn in on January 20? Franklin Roosevelt in 1937.
14. Who was the first President to be born in a hospital? Jimmy Carter
15. Who was the first President to ride in a car? William McKinley
16. Who was the first President to ride in a car in public? Teddy Roosevelt
17. Who was the first President to ride in an airplane? Teddy Roosevelt, though not while in office
18. Who was the first President to ride in an airplane while in office? Franklin Roosevelt
19. Who was the first President to appear on television? Franklin Roosevelt
20. Who was the first President to appear on television from the White House? Harry Truman
19. Who was the first President to have his face on a postage stamp? George Washington
II. THAT’S ABOUT THE SIZE OF IT
1. Who was the tallest President? Both Abraham Lincoln and Lyndon Johnson were 6’4”, though some say George Washington was 6’4” as well. But most sources say Washington was an inch or two shorter than that.
(My son Timothy Spurgeon Carlson will break this record when he becomes President in 2029 since he’s 6’6” like his Dad! He will also break the record for youngest President and youngest elected President [see both below] since he will be just 38 at that time. He’s already agreed to appoint me to the Supreme Court, preferably as Chief Justice. It will be nice to have a full time job again.)
2. Who was the shortest President? James Madison was 5’4”. What a shrimp! That’s the same height as my sweet little wife! (Not that my wife is a shrimp, but…never mind.)
3. Who was the heaviest President? William Howard Taft weighed 340 pounds. The story about him getting stuck in the White House bathtub may be true, but it is based on the account of only one person who worked in the White House during Taft’s presidency and no one else ever corroborated his claim.
4. Who was the lightest President? James Monroe weighed about 135 pounds. He’s the only President whose IQ was higher than his weight! (Unless Teddy Roosevelt’s IQ was above 200, which is not likely but possible.)
III. IT’S ONLY A MATTER OF TIME
1. Who was President the longest period of time? Franklin D. Roosevelt was President for 12 years and 39 days (March 4, 1933 to April 12, 19450) and remains the only one to serve over 8 years.
2. Who was President the briefest period of time? William Henry Harrison was President for 31 days (March 4, 1841 to April 4, 1841). His inaugural address was the longest ever, lasting 105 minutes, and during the address he caught a cold in the cold weather. The cold turned into pneumonia and he died from it without ever doing anything significant. This should have served as a warning to all long-winded politicians, but it hasn’t.
3. Who was President the briefest period of time but didn’t die in office? Gerald Ford was President from August 9, 1974 to Jan. 20, 1977, which is 895 days.
4. Who lived the briefest period of time after he left office? James K. Polk left office on March 4, 1849 and died just 3 months and 11 days later (June 15).
5. Who lived the longest after he left office? Jimmy Carter left office on Jan. 20, 1981, so it is now 33-plus years and counting.
6. What President had the shortest life? John F. Kennedy died at age 46 years, 177 days.
7. What President lived the longest? Gerald Ford lived 93 years 165 days. Ronald Reagan is a close second at 93 years 120 days. Two others made it to age 90: John Adams and Herbert Hoover. Two more will turn 90 this year: George H. W. Bush (June 12) and Jimmy Carter (Oct. 1).
IV. WHAT’S IN A NAME?
1. What is the most common first name for a President? There have been six named James: Madison, Monroe, Polk, Buchanan, Garfield, Carter. There have been four named John: Adams, Quincy Adams, Tyler, Kennedy; and four named William: Henry Harrison; McKinley; Howard Taft, Clinton. There have been three named George: Washington, Herbert Walker Bush, and Walker Bush. There have been two named Andrew: Jackson and Johnson; and two named Franklin: Pierce and Roosevelt. All other first names have occurred only once.
2. What first name has never occurred but should? Stephen (You knew that one, didn’t you?!)
3. What first name has never occurred and NEVER should? Hillary (DUH!)
4. What is the most common last name? Several are tied with two: Adams (father John and son John Quincy); Harrison (grandfather William Henry and grandson Benjamin); Johnson (Andrew and Lyndon, no relation); Roosevelt (Teddy and Franklin; distant cousins but Franklin married Teddy’s niece Eleanor); and Bush (father George H. W. and son George W.).
5. What last name should never occur (or never occur again!!)? There are several that come to mind, but Kennedy and Clinton and Kerry and the main ones I am concerned about.
V. THE NUMBERS GAME
1. How many Presidents have there been? Although Barack Obama is referred to as the 44th President, only 43 people have been President. Grover Cleveland served as numbers 22 and 24, causing this quirk in numbering the Presidents.
2. How many First Ladies have there been? The answer is 42. James Buchanan never married, and Thomas Jefferson’s wife and Andrew Jackson’s wife died before they took office and neither one remarried. Grover Cleveland got married during his first term in office, but my total does not count his wife twice even though he is counted twice in counting Presidents. John Tyler and Woodrow Wilson had two First Ladies since they got married while in office after the first wife died. (Technically, a First Lady is whoever the President appoints as the Lady to serve as hostess for White House functions, and unmarried Presidents have appointed relatives to serve in this role. James Bushanan’s niece filled that role for him during his presidency. However, I am concerned here only with the wives of presidents.)
3. How many Presidents got married while in office? The answer is 3: John Tyler, Grover Cleveland, and Woodrow Wilson.
4. How many Presidents have died in office? The answer is 8. There have been 4 deaths by natural causes (William Henry Harrison, Taylor, Harding, and Franklin Roosevelt) and 4 by assassination (Lincoln, Garfield, McKinley, Kennedy).
5. How many First Ladies died while serving? The answer is 2: John Tyler’s wife Letitia and Woodrow Wilson’s wife Ellen.
6. How many Vice Presidents have there been? The answer is 47. Every President has had at least one VP and some have had more than one.
7. How many Vice Presidents have become President? The answer is 14. Of these, 8 became President by succession upon the President’s death, while 4 were elected President while serving as Vice President. Richard Nixon became President by election 8 years after leaving the Vice Presidency. Gerald Ford became President when Richard Nixon resigned.
8. How many Vice Presidents died in office? The answer is 7: George Clinton, Elbridge Gerry, William King, Henry Wilson, Thomas Hendricks, Garret Hobart, James Sherman.
9. How many Presidents resigned from office? Only one: Richard Nixon resigned in the wake of the Watergate scandal.
10. How many Vice Presidents resigned from office? Only two: John C. Calhoun resigned to take office as a U. S. Senator from South Carolina; Spiro Agnew resigned when under criminal investigation as part of a plea bargain.
11. What President appointed the most Justices to the US Supreme Court? George Washington appointed 11, and Franklin Roosevelt is second with 9.
12. What President had the most children? John Tyler had 15, 8 by his first wife and 7 by his second wife.
13. How many men never held elected office before being elected President? The answer is 5: Zachary Taylor, Ulysses S. Grant, William Howard Taft, Herbert Hoover, and Dwight Eisenhower. Taylor, Grant, and Eisenhower were Generals; Taft was Governor General of the Philippines and Secretary of War under Teddy Roosevelt; and Hoover served as Secretary of Commerce under Calvin Coolidge.
VI. THE YOUNG AND THE OLD
1. Who was the youngest President? Upon William McKinley’s assassination on Sept. 14, 1901, Teddy Roosevelt became President at age 42 (43 days shy of turning 43 on Oct. 27).
2. Who was the youngest to be elected President? John F. Kennedy was 43 years 163 days old when he was elected (May 29, 1917 to Nov. 8, 1960).
3. Who was the oldest to be elected President? Ronald Reagan was elected President on Nov. 6, 1984 at the age of 73 years 273 days. This beat his own record set four years earlier on Nov. 4, 1980 at the age of 69 years 271 days.
4. Who was the oldest to become President? Ronald Reagan became President on Jan. 20, 1981 at the age of 69 years 348 days (just 17 days shy of age 70).
5. Who was the oldest to serve as President? Ronald Reagan left office on Jan. 20, 1989 at the age of 77 years 378 days (just 17 days shy of 78).
6. What is the minimum age for a person to become President according to the U.S. Constitution? 35
7. What is the maximum age for a person to be President according to the U.S. Constitution? There isn’t one.
VII. PARTY! PARTY! PARTY!
1. What party has won the most elections? The Republican Party (23), followed closely by the Democratic Party (22).
2. What party has won the fewest elections? Federalist with only one (John Adams). The Whigs won two (William Henry Harrison with Whig John Tyler finishing the term upon Harrison’s death; and Zachary Taylor with Whig Millard Fillmore finishing the term upon Taylor’s death). The Democratic-Republicans won seven (Jefferson twice, Madison twice, Monroe twice, John Quincy Adams once).
3. What President was not affiliated with any party? George Washington
VIII. THE STATES OF THE UNION
1. What President had the most states enter the union during his time in office? Six states entered the union during Benjamin Harrison’s one term in office (North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, Washington, Idaho, Wyoming); five during George Washington’s two terms (North Carolina, Rhode Island, Vermont, Kentucky, Tennessee—eleven had already entered the union before he took office) and five during James Monroe’s two terms (Mississippi, Illinois, Alabama, Maine, Missouri).
2. What has been the home state for the most Presidents? Virginia and Ohio both claim eight, but both claim William Henry Harrison, who was born in Virginia though elected President while living in Ohio. The other seven for Virginia are Washington, Jefferson, Madison, Monroe, Tyler, Taylor, and Wilson; the other seven for Ohio are Grant, Hayes, Garfield, Benjamin Harrison, McKinley, Taft, and Harding.
3. What state had the most electoral votes in 2012? California had 55.
4. What state had the fewest electoral votes in 2012? There were 6 states with 3: Alaska, Delaware, North Dakota, South Dakota, Vermont, and Wyoming. Washington D.C also has 3.
IX. THE ONE AND ONLY
1. Who was the only President to also serve on the United States Supreme Court? William Howard Taft was appointed to the Supreme Court as Chief Justice by President Harding in 1921, and Taft served until he resigned due to illness shortly before his death in 1930.
2. Who was the only President to serve two non-consecutive terms? Grover Cleveland served as our 22nd and 24th President. Cleveland won in 1884 to become the 22nd President, but in 1888 he lost to Benjamin Harrison who became the 23rd President. In 1892, Cleveland and Harrison ran against each other again, the only time a former President and an incumbent President faced each other. Both were seeking a second term, and Cleveland won to become the 24th President.
3. Who was the only President to resign from office? Richard Nixon
4. Who was the only President who never won election as President or Vice President? Gerald Ford
X. BY THE CENTURY
1. How many men served as President in the 18th century? The answer is 2: George Washington and John Adams.
2. How many men served as President in the 19th century? The answer is 22: John Adams to William McKinley (counting Grover Cleveland only once).
3. How many men served as President in the 20th century? The answer is 19: William McKinley to Bill Clinton.
4. How many men served as President in the 21st century? The answer is 3: Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama.
5. Who was President at the turn of the 19th century (Jan. 1, 1801)? John Adams, and Thomas Jefferson was President-elect.
6. Who was President at the turn of the 20th century (Jan. 1, 1901)? William McKinley, and he had won reelection less than two months earlier.
7. Who was President at the turn of the 21th century (Jan. 1, 2001)? Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush was President-elect.
XI. BY THE QUARTER CENTURY
1. Who was President 25 years ago today (Feb. 17, 1989)? George H. W. Bush
2. 50 years ago today (Feb. 17, 1964)? Lyndon Johnson
3. 75 years ago today (Feb. 17, 1939)? Franklin Roosevelt
4. 100 years ago today (Feb. 17, 1914)? Woodrow Wilson
5. 125 years ago today (Feb. 17, 1889)? Grover Cleveland, though Benjamin Harrison was the President-elect and was awaiting his inauguration on March 4.
6. 150 years ago today (Feb. 17, 1864)? Abraham Lincoln
7. 175 years ago today (Feb. 17, 1839)? Martin Van Buren
8. 200 years ago today (Feb. 17, 1814)? James Madison
9. 225 years ago today (Feb. 17, 1789)? No one, but George Washington was awaiting his inauguration on March 4 as the first President of the new nation—though it took a while for the electors to reach Philadelphia for the official vote, so he wasn’t sworn in until April 30 (which means his 2 terms in office were actually shy of 8 years by 57 days).