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    46 Extremely Strange And Exceptionally Fascinating Facts About Each And Every US President

    We should all aspire to be as cool as Teddy Roosevelt's daughter.

    1. One of George Washington's friends, the physician Dr. William Thornton, tried to bring him back to life.

    the presidential portrait of George Washington, with text overlay: Nearly a zombie
    Smith Collection / Getty Images

    Washington died of acute epiglottitis, a bacterial throat infection, in 1799. Thornton was summoned to treat him with an 18th century tracheotomy, which I think we can all agree would be a bummer, but he arrived after Washington's death.

    Print Collector / Heritage Images / Via Getty

    Thornton's plan B involved a zombified George Washington. He proposed that they "thaw him in cold water," then "produce an artificial respiration" via "open[ing] a passage to the lungs by the trachaea," and as his grand and grim finale, "transfuse blood into him from a lamb." Somehow, no one was thrilled with this idea, and Dr. Thornton never got his mad scientist moment with the first president.

    The plaque marking the tomb of George Washington
    Robert Alexander / Getty Images

    2. John Adams' last words were super wrong.

    John Adams, who didn't fact check his last words
    Stock Montage / Via Getty

    On July 4, 1826, Adams spoke his last words: "Thomas Jefferson still survives."

    Universal History Archive / Getty Images

    But what he didn't know was that Jefferson had just died five hours before him. They both perished exactly 50 years after the signing of the Declaration of Independence.

    The grave of Thomas Jefferson
    Joe Sohm / Universal Images Group via Getty Images

    3. While he was an ambassador in France, Thomas Jefferson asked John Sullivan, the governor of New Hampshire, to send him a dead moose (along with a caribou and an elk) to prove a point.

    Thomas Jefferson, with caption: ask him about the size of his moose
    GraphicaArtis / Getty Images

    Apparently, the scientific consensus in Europe was that "animals, vegetation, and even humankind degenerated on the American continent due to the climate." Scientists believed that American animals were smaller (and probably less sophisticated) than their counterparts in Europe. Therefore, Jefferson felt honor bound to defend the noble American moose.

    A moose in America
    Hawk Buckman / Getty Images / 500px Prime

    The specimens arrived in good shape, though the moose was missing a lot of its hair. Jefferson promptly sent them to a natural history center called the Jardin du Roi, in the hopes that they would contribute to a "positive image that would encourage immigration and commerce" to the United States.

    A moose in the water in Maine
    Jose Azel / Getty Images / Aurora Open

    4. James Madison was so sure that his army was going to win a battle against the British during the War of 1812 that he and his wife, Dolley, "ordered a lavish dinner to be prepared."

    Madison, with caption: optimistic to a fault
    traveler1116 / Getty

    But when the Americans were quickly defeated, the Madisons were forced to flee. The British found a victory feast intended for 40 guests, which they thoroughly enjoyed. They even toasted to "the success of his Majesty's arms" with Madison's "best wine."

    The Madisons fleeing the White House
    Mpi / Getty Images

    After they were done, they burned down the White House.

    The British army burns down Washington D.C.
    Heritage Images / Getty Images

    5. James Monroe makes a cameo appearance in one of the most famous paintings of a (different) US president: Emanuel Leutze's 1851 work Washington Crossing the Delaware.

    James Monroe, who was literally in George Washington's shadow
    Archive Photos / via Getty

    James Monroe is the soldier holding the flag. He was 18 years old during the crossing of the Delaware River in 1776.

    The painting, with James Monroe holding the flag
    Bettmann / Via Getty

    The painting isn't particularly accurate. For one thing, Washington and his soldiers crossed the Delaware during a nighttime snowstorm, and for another, Leutze based the appearance of the river on the Rhine in Germany, "where he painted it."

    Another image of Washington crossing the Delaware
    Archive Photos / Getty Images

    6. In the warmer months, John Quincy Adams would skinny-dip in the Potomac River as part of his presidential morning routine.

    John Quincy Adams, possibly the last president to regularly be naked in public
    GraphicaArtis / Via Getty

    In his diary, he wrote that he started his day with a 2-mile walk to the Potomac, followed by a swim and then a 2-mile walk home. The fact that he swam naked, while it may seem eccentric to us, was par for the course back in the day. According to what the historian Neal Millikan told Business Insider, "It wasn't really that odd that he bathed naked."

    The Potomac River
    Murat Taner / Getty Images

    Anne Royall, "one of the first female journalists in the nation’s capital," once took the president's clothes while he was on his swim and wouldn't return them unless he allowed her to interview him. Naturally, Adams accepted her offer, and he answered her questions "with only his head showing above the water."

    A daguerrotype of John Quincy Adams
    Graphicaartis / Getty Images

    7. Andrew Jackson displayed a truly massive hunk of cheese at the White House for a year.

    Andrew Jackson, who was very proud of his giant cheese
    Stock Montage / via Getty

    The cheese was donated by some rural New Yorkers, who got the idea from a gift Thomas Jefferson received: "an awe-inspiring 1,600-pound cheese behemoth from western Massachusetts." Jackson's cheese went on a nationwide tour, after which the president showed it off at the executive mansion.

    Bhofack2 / Getty Images / iStockphoto

    And at an 1837 party — his last as president — Jackson told everyone to help themselves. In his 1886 book Perley’s Reminiscences of Sixty Years in the National Metropolis, Benjamin Perley Poore wrote that, "When they commenced, the cheese weighed one thousand four hundred pounds, and only a small piece was saved for the President’s use. The air was redolent with cheese, the carpet was slippery with cheese, and nothing else was talked about at Washington that day."

    Andrew Jackson as a general going to war
    Stock Montage / Getty Images

    8. Martin Van Buren's wife, Hannah Van Buren, died of tuberculosis 18 years before he became president, and Van Buren didn't mention her a single time in his "nearly 800-page published autobiography."

    Martin van Buren, who knows he forgot something, but not quite sure what that something is
    PhotoQuest / Via Getty

    Van Buren never married again and spoke so little of his wife that when his second-eldest son wanted to name a child after her, he "asked his father to verify her name."

    A portrait of Hannah Van Buren
    Mpi / Getty Images

    Van Buren's daughter-in-law Angelica Singleton, the wife of his son Abraham, filled the "social role" of First Lady. Since the Van Burens had a reputation as a loving couple, historians believe that Martin's silence can be explained by the fact that speaking about Hannah was "simply too painful."

    Angelica Singleton in formalwear
    Fine Art / Corbis via Getty Images

    9. In 1840, William Henry Harrison campaigned for president using a "huge ball covered with campaign slogans."

    William Henry Harrison, who had a ball during his campaign
    Getty / Smith Collection / Gado

    It's the origin of the phrase, "Keep the ball rolling." Benjamin Harrison, the 23rd president and one of William's 25 grandchildren, later repeated the stunt in his successful 1888 presidential campaign.

    Benjamin Harrison's giant ball
    Education Images / Universal History Archive / Universal Images Group via Getty Images

    The ball was referenced in the Season 7 Parks and Recreation episode "William Henry Harrison." (Though, if you look closely, this is actually a replica of the one Benjamin Harrison used. The year is '88, and it references "gallant BEN.")

    Leslie Knope speaking in front of the giant ball
    NBC

    10. John Tyler, who was born in 1790, has a grandson who is still alive today.

    John Tyler, who had more children than every other president
    GraphicaArtis / Getty

    As of November 2020, Harrison Ruffin Tyler was 91 and living in a nursing home. In September of that year, his brother Lyon Gardiner Tyler Jr. died at the age of 95.

    Descendants of past presidents pose for a photo
    The Washington Post via Getty Images

    Lyon Gardiner Tyler Jr. is sitting in the center of this image. 

    One of John Tyler's 15 children, Lyon Gardiner Tyler Sr., was born in 1853, when Tyler was in his early 60s. Lyon then had his son, Harrison, when he was 75.

    A photograph of John Tyler
    National Archives / Getty Images

    11. James K. Polk was operated on without anesthesia when he was just a teenager.

    James K. Polk, who's thinking about the time he survived a saw trap as a child
    MPI / Stringer /

    Polk was a "sickly" child who suffered from "urinary stones" as a teenager. These stones were removed in a surgery that was performed "before the advent of modern antiseptics and anesthesia."

    the illustration of a 19th-century surgery
    Clu / Getty Images

    This isn't a depiction of Polk's operation; it was just the first image I could find after looking up "19th century surgery" that didn't make me nauseous.

    Instead, he drank some brandy to dull his senses.

    A crystal brandy decanter
    Anton Petrus / Getty Images

    12. Zachary Taylor was the first president to popularize the term "First Lady."

    Taylor, a linguistic trendsetter
    Bettmann / via Getty

    He used the term to eulogize Dolley Madison in 1849, when he said, "She will never be forgotten because she was truly our First Lady for a half-century."

    a portrait of Dolley Madison
    Stock Montage / Getty Images

    Before then, the wife of a president was referred to as a "presidentress."

    Five living first ladies stand in a row together
    Alex Wong / Getty Images

    13. Everyone thought Millard Fillmore was hot.

    Millard Fillmore, with overlay text: Ladies?
    Library of Congress / via Getty

    Allegedly, Queen Victoria thought that Fillmore was "the handsomest man she had ever seen."

    A young queen Victoria
    Imagno / Getty Images

    Marie Schnurr, a curator at the Millard Fillmore House Museum, said that while the Queen Victoria story is "disputed," Fillmore was "considered a very handsome man."

    a portrait of a young millard fillmore
    Bettmann / Bettmann Archive / Getty

    14. Franklin Pierce refused to take the oath of office on the Bible for a uniquely tragic reason.

    Franklin Pierce, who believed God was punishing him
    GraphicaArtis / via Getty

    Immediately following the election, the Pierce's 11-year-old son, Benny, was killed in a "freak train accident" when some wood struck him on the head.

    Pierce sitting for a portrait
    Library Of Congress / Corbis / VCG via Getty Images

    Using the Bible to take the oath isn't required, but Pierce decided not to specifically because he believed "his son’s death to be God’s judgment for his political campaigning."

    Afp / POOL / AFP via Getty Images

    Pictured is Joe Biden taking the Vice Presidential Oath of Office in 2013 on his family's Bible. 

    15. You may have heard that James Buchanan "purchased then freed slaves out of his personal hatred of the institution," but his motivations weren't driven by morality.

    Buchanan, who is remembered as a truly terrible president for a reason
    Bettmann / via Getty

    While the future president was running for the Senate in 1834, he wanted to appear "neutral" on the issue of slavery. So when he discovered that his sister Harriet owned two slaves — the 22-year-old Daphne Cook and her 5-year-old daughter, Ann — Buchanan feared political backlash.

    Buchanan posing with his cabinet
    Bettmann / Bettmann Archive / via Getty

    His solution was to purchase and free the Cooks. But instead of, you know, actually freeing them, he instead forced them into indentured servitude: Daphne for 7 years, and little Ann for 23. James Buchanan Henry, Buchanan's nephew, later claimed that the former president did buy and free other slaves, but those stories are unverified.

    Buchanan as a young man
    Heritage Images / Heritage Images via Getty Images

    16. Abraham Lincoln came this close to being a part of the most famous tale of cannibalism that America has to offer.

    Abraham Lincoln, who was very happy he listened to Mary Todd about that one
    Corbis Historical / via Getty

    The Donner Party was an ill-fated group of settlers hoping to find a new life in California. When bad advice and even worse weather led them to get trapped in the Sierra Nevada Mountains for a long and brutal winter, the members of the party turned to cannibalism to survive. Only 45 people out of the original 89 actually made it to California.

    The Donner Party trying to summit the Sierra Nevadas
    Fotosearch / Getty Images

    And in his book The Best Land Under Heaven: The Donner Party in the Age of Manifest Destiny, author Michael Wallis claims that Abraham Lincoln was almost one of them. Lincoln wanted to go, but ultimately decided against it because of "his toddler son and pregnant wife Mary Todd Lincoln."

    Bettmann / Bettmann Archive / via Getty

    17. Andrew Johnson showed up absolutely wasted to Lincoln's second inauguration, during which he was sworn in as vice president.

    Andrew Johnson, who hated typhoid and loved whiskey
    Universal Images Group Editorial / Getty

    Johnson spent the night before the March 1865 ceremony drinking whiskey, in an attempt to self-medicate his typhoid diagnosis. By the time he was sworn in, he was "red-faced and sweating." Then, Johnson was supposed to introduce president-elect Lincoln with a "short, polite" speech.

    Universal History Archive / Universal Images Group via Getty Images

    However, the combined effects of typhoid and a bunch of whiskey didn't make Johnson particularly courteous, and he instead "harangue[d] the distinguished crowd about his humble origins and his triumph over the rebel aristocracy." Then he kissed the Bible, or "slobbered the Holy Book with a drunken kiss," as one senator put it. Another senator recalled that Lincoln watched the scene with "unutterable sorrow."

    A copy of Lincoln's inaugural address
    Photo 12 / Universal Images Group via Getty Images

    18. Speaking of presidents and their booze habits, Ulysses S. Grant "gargled with wine laced with cocaine" at the end of his life.

    Grant, who used cocaine as a mixer
    Universal Images Group Editorial / via Getty

    This potent mixture was Grant's attempt to soothe the pain caused by his throat cancer and therefore give him the presence of mind he needed to finish writing his memoirs.

    Grant working on his memoirs while sick
    Hulton Archive / Getty Images

    19. Paraguay loves Rutherford B. Hayes.

    Hayes, an American president and Paraguayan hero
    Corbis Historical / via Getty

    Maria Teresa Garozzo, the director of the Villa Hayes Museum, told NPR that after Hayes sided with Paraguay in a land dispute against Argentina, he "guarantee[d] its survival as a nation." She added, "Hayes is a giant. He is a spectacular, immortal figure for us."

    A map of South America, with the landlocked Paraguay highlighted
    Encyclopaedia Britannica / Universal Images Group via Getty Images

    The Villa Hayes Museum is located in the industrial city of Villa Hayes (which, translated from Spanish, means "Hayesville"). And the name of the state of which Villa Hayes is capital? Presidente Hayes.

    Hayes and his wife, Lucy
    Fotosearch / Getty Images

    20. After James Garfield was shot in 1881, his "condition worsened as doctors made repeated probes with unsterilized fingers and instruments" in order to find the bullet.

    Garfield, who made the common mistake of existing before modern medicine
    Hulton Archive / via Getty

    Alexander Graham Bell, best known as the inventor of the telephone, had a solution: a "rudimentary metal detector" that he believed would be a "less barbarous method" than simply poking a dying man over and over again.

    Bell posing with one of his inventions
    Historical / Corbis via Getty Images

    Bell examined the president twice, but couldn't locate the bullet, both because metal wires in the mattress interfered with the machine's reading, and the president's doctor only allowed him to search the right side of Garfield's body, where he thought the bullet was. Following the president's death, the bullet was located...on the left side of his body.

    Garfield on his death bed surrounded by doctors and his family
    Bettmann / Bettmann Archive / via Getty

    21. In 1854, a 24-year-old Black schoolteacher named Elizabeth Jennings refused to get off of a segregated "horse-drawn streetcar." She was late to church, where she played the organ, and said that she told the conductor, "I was a respectable person, born and raised in New York, did not know where he was born, and that he was a good for nothing impudent fellow for insulting decent persons while on their way to church."

    Chester A. Arthur, who is 100% not the most important or interesting part of this story (sorry, chester)
    Bettmann / via Getty

    When a police officer forcibly removed Jennings, she went public with her story. She wrote a letter about it that was published in both the New York Daily Tribune and Frederick Douglass' Paper, and her father, Thomas L. Jennings, got into contact with a young white lawyer to help his daughter fight back. That lawyer was Chester A. Arthur, the future 21st president.

    Chester A. Arthur
    Hulton Archive / via Getty

    Arthur won the case, and a judge ruled that non-white people couldn't be "excluded from public conveyances 'by any rules of the Company, nor by force or violence.'" Jennings' victory was the city's first step toward integration of public transport, and by 1860 "nearly all the city's streetcar lines were open to African Americans." Jennings, by then Elizabeth Jennings Graham, later founded New York City's first kindergarten for Black children.

    A photo of Elizabeth Jennings
    Wikimedia Commons / Tonymartin

    22. Grover Cleveland was unmarried when he became president, so his sister Rose acted as his First Lady until he married his "21-year-old ward, Frances Folsom."

    Grover Cleveland's whose sister may have been the first gay First Lady
    Corbis Historical / Oscar White / via Getty

    Rose Cleveland had a romantic relationship with another woman, Evangeline Simpson Whipple, that "spanned nearly 30 years." Extensive love letters exchanged between the two "make clear that they were more than just friends."

    a portrait of Rose Elizabeth Cleveland
    Library Of Congress / Corbis / VCG via Getty Images

    They lived together as "true partners" in Tuscany toward the end of their romance, prior to Cleveland's death in the 1918 flu pandemic.

    Another portrait of Rose
    Education Images / Universal Images Group via Getty Images

    23. Benjamin Harrison purposefully didn't tell anyone whether he made South or North Dakota a state first.

    Harrison, who brought some mystique to the state-making process
    Kean Collection / via Getty

    He signed the "almost identical statehood proclamations" in 1889, and "covered and shuffled the documents before and after signing them." Afterward he declared, "They were born together — they are one and I will make them twins." Despite Harrison's attempts at twin-hood, North and South Dakota aren't tied for 39th place in the statehood race; they're listed alphabetically, with North Dakota taking the 39th spot and South Dakota taking the 40th. But there's really no way to know for sure which came first.

    A map of the Dakotas
    Klenger / Getty Images / iStockphoto

    24. Grover Cleveland is the only president who served two nonconsecutive terms, so that means he's counted as two presidents (the 22nd and the 24th).

    Grover Cleveland, who's greedy for facts
    Corbis Historical / Library of Congress / via Getty

    So here's another Grover fact: He once "disappeared for four days to have secret surgery on a yacht." Cleveland needed a tumor removed from his mouth, but due to both the stigma around cancer at the time and the fact that the country's economy was flailing, he thought it best if the people didn't know about their president's condition.

    Grover sitting by a fireplace
    Library Of Congress / Corbis / VCG via Getty Images

    The operation worked, and it remained a closely guarded secret for over two decades, until one of Cleveland's doctors, William Williams Keen, finally came clean.

    Grover Cleveland standing with his spotted dog
    Bettmann Archive / via Getty

    25. But as William McKinley knows best, not all presidential surgeries are a success.

    McKinley, whose surgeon blew him off
    Hulton Archive / via Getty

    At the Pan-American Exposition of 1901, McKinley was shot by the anarchist Leon Czolgosz two times at close range, with one bullet entering his stomach and the other hitting a coat button and bouncing off. People heard McKinley tell the furious crowd, "Go easy on him, boys!"

    A portrait of McKinley's assassination
    Archive Photos / Getty Images

    McKinley was operated on by a gynecologist who lacked the right surgical experience to save him. The doctor who should've operated on him was in surgery, and when he was told he was needed elsewhere, said to the voice on the other side of the phone, "Don’t you see that I can’t leave this case, even if it were for the president of the United States?" The voice, "now lost to history," then told him it was for the president.

    McKinley greeting people on a train
    Archive Photos / Getty Images

    But it was too late, and after a few days of looking like he was recovering, McKinley died from gangrene in his pancreas and stomach.

    McKinley's casket being carried to a train
    Hulton Archive / Getty Images

    26. Theodore Roosevelt's daughter was an absolute badass.

    Bettmann / via Getty

    Alice Lee Roosevelt was a "headline-maker, risk-taker, rabble-rouser, and trendsetter" who became a national celebrity during her time in the White House. Alice often carried a snake in her purse named Emily Spinach, and smoked cigarettes on the White House roof when her father banned her from doing it inside.

    Alice in a yellow gown
    Universal History Archive / Universal Images Group via Getty Images

    Alice's popularity resulted in her working as a hostess and diplomat for Roosevelt's administration. She remained a fixture in the capital city after the end of her father's presidency, and was nicknamed "the other Washington Monument" for it.

    A formal portrait of Alice sitting in a chair
    Culture Club / Getty Images

    Theodore Roosevelt once said, "I can do one of two things. I can be President of the United States, or I can control Alice. I cannot possibly do both." (He chose being president.)

    Alice's wedding photos, posing with her father and father in law
    Print Collector / Getty Images

    27. A gun stolen from William Howard Taft was used in "at least 10 murders."

    Taft, who should've hidden his gun better
    MPI / Stringer / Getty

    Taft's New Haven home was robbed in 1920 by Carl Panzram, "one of America's most vicious serial killers." Panzram sold everything he stole but the handgun, which he then put to grim use by murdering around 10 sailors he lured aboard a yacht (purchased with the proceeds from his theft of Taft's home).

    Bettmann Archive / via Getty

    When the boat was sunk in a storm, Panzram survived but the gun was lost. He was ultimately executed in 1930, after confessing to killing "at least 22 people." Taft died the same year.

    Taft sitting on his porch
    Hulton Archive / Getty Images

    28. Woodrow Wilson's wedding ceremony was catered by Chef Boyardee.

    Woodrow Wilson, looking very serious, because we're still in the part of history where no one smiles
    Hulton Archive / Tony Essex / via Getty

    Kind of. The chef's real name was Hector Boiardi, an Italian immigrant who eventually started the canned pasta company and became the inspiration for its brand identity. But before Chef Boyardee, Boiardi really did cater Wilson's reception at West Virginia's Greenbrier Hotel.

    Chef Boyardee canned pasta
    Dorann Weber / Moment Editorial / Getty Images

    29. Warren G. Harding nicknamed his penis "Jerry."

    Warren G. Harding, with caption: sigh
    Corbis Historical / Library of Congress / via Getty

    Yup. That historical tidbit was discovered when love letters he wrote to his mistress Carrie Fulton Phillips were finally released to the public in 2014.

    some of Harding's letters
    Fpg / Getty Images

    Previously, his family sued a biographer to keep the letters out of the public sphere. The New York Times described the released documents as "unabashedly carnal" and "perhaps the most sexually explicit ever by an American president."

    a Harding campaign button
    Blank Archives / Getty Images

    30. Calvin Coolidge loved his pet raccoon, Rebecca.

    Bettmann / via Getty

    In 1926, a person from Mississippi gifted the Coolidge family the raccoon and suggested that it "be served up for Thanksgiving dinner." But she was just too cute to eat, and for Christmas, Coolidge gifted her "an embroidered collar with the title, 'White House Raccoon.'"

    Grace holding Rebecca on her leash
    Photoquest / Getty Images

    During the 1927 White House Egg Roll, First Lady Grace Coolidge showed off Rebecca to gathered children while the raccoon was on a short leash or in her arms. According to the First Lady, Rebecca loved nothing more than "playing in a partly filled bathtub with a cake of soap.”

    Rebecca and Grace Coolidge
    Photoquest / Getty Images

    31. Herbert Hoover and his wife, Lou Henry, used to speak to each other in Chinese "as a way of having private conversations in the White House."

    Hoover, who wasn't bilingual, unless there was an eavesdropper around
    Hulton Archive / via Getty

    In his younger days, Hoover worked as a mining engineer in China, and picked up only around 100 words of Mandarin while he was there. Lou Henry, on the other hand, studied the language carefully, and as a result "had a good grasp" on it.

    Lou Henry and Herbert Hoover standing together at an event
    Chicago History Museum / Getty Images

    32. Franklin Roosevelt once saw Winston Churchill naked.

    FDR, with caption: one benefit of black and white photos is that you can't see someone blushing
    Hulton Archive / Keystone Features / Getty

    There are a couple of different versions of this story, but here's the gist. Churchill came to stay at the White House during the holiday season of 1941–42. Together, Roosevelt, Churchill, and other Allied diplomats and leaders worked on a "joint declaration that they [the Allies] would fight the Axis powers together, and that none would negotiate a separate peace."

    Churchill and FDR laughing at the White House
    Keystone / Getty Images

    Roosevelt came up with the idea to call it a "A Declaration by the United Nations." He was so thrilled with this turn of phrase that he rushed into Churchill's quarters, ignored an aide who told him that Churchill was bathing, and discovered a prime minister in the buff.

    Roosevelt and Churchill in a car together, with Churchill smoking
    Bettmann Archive / via Getty

    In one version of the story, Roosevelt joked, "Don't mind me." And in another, Churchill got out of the bath and said, "The prime minister of Great Britain has nothing to hide from the president of the United States!" That's probably apocryphal, though.

    Churchill and FDR at a press conference in the white house
    Bettmann Archive / via Getty

    33. Harry Truman hated Dumbo.

    Truman, a known elephant hater
    Bettmann / via Getty

    Well, not exactly. But he did refuse to get on the Dumbo ride when he visited Disneyland in 1957, because as a Democrat, he didn't want to be photographed having the time of his life in an elephant, otherwise known as the symbol of the Republican Party.

    The dumbo ride at Disneyland
    Jeff Gritchen / MediaNews Group / Orange County Register via Getty Images

    34. Dwight D. Eisenhower prepared a speech that he intended to give to take responsibility if the 1944 Allied invasion of Normandy failed.

    remember the guy who prepared a victory feast for a war he hadn't won yet? this is not that guy. and if you don't recognize that fact, go back and read all the facts! they're juicy, I promise
    Bettmann / via Getty

    It read, "Our landings in the Cherbourg-Havre area have failed to gain a satisfactory foothold and I have withdrawn the troops. My decision to attack at this time and place was based upon the best information available. The troops, the air and the Navy did all that bravery and devotion to duty could do. If any blame or fault attaches to the attempt it is mine alone." He underlined "mine alone."

    Allied troops at Normandy
    Keystone / Getty Images

    The invasion didn't fail, and Eisenhower never had to give the speech, but it remains a creepy artifact of an alternate history.

    Eisenhower talks to troops during the war
    Bettmann Archive / via Getty

    35. John F. Kennedy's brain is missing.

    JFK, with caption: I'd hate to be the person who misplaced JFK's brain
    New York Daily News Archive / via Getty

    Following JFK's autopsy, his brain was stored in the National Archives, which apparently has a section for brains. But in 1966, someone noticed that it was gone.

    The National Archives in DC
    Shannon Finney / Getty Images

    Some conspiracy theorists think that the brain went missing because it "would have proved Kennedy was not shot from the back by Lee Harvey Oswald, but from the front," but author James Swanson told the Guardian that he believes JFK's brother Robert took the organ to "conceal evidence of the true extent of President Kennedy's illnesses, or perhaps to conceal evidence of the number of medications that President Kennedy was taking."

    JFK and Robert Kennedy discuss something at a hearing
    Bettmann / Bettmann Archive / via Getty

    36. Lyndon B. Johnson owned a "land-to-water" vehicle known as an Amphicar, and he used to trick passengers into thinking that they were all going to crash and drown in it.

    LBJ, a big fan of high stakes pranks
    Bettmann / via Getty

    Johnson wouldn't reveal the car's amphibious nature, and when he started driving toward the water, he'd scream, "The brakes don’t work! The brakes won’t hold! We’re going in! We’re going under!"

    Someone demonstrating an amphicar driving into the water
    James D. Morgan / Getty Images

    Of course, then the car would smoothly transition to the water, keeping its passengers safe (if a tad traumatized).

    LBJ laughing in a cowboy hat
    Bettmann Archive / via Getty

    37. Richard Nixon tried to jazz up the uniforms of the White House staff, but gave up the idea after he was mocked by the press.

    Nixon giving peace signs. The uniforms were bad, but at least they're not what he's remembered for
    Bettmann / via Getty

    The media compared the white-and-gold costumes to those you might see in a "banana republic," and a short while after he instated them, Nixon gave up.

    The white and gold braided uniformuniform
    Division of Political and Military History, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution / Via whitehousehistory.org

    The uniforms ultimately ended up in the possession of a nearby high school's marching band.

    a high school marching band
    Sean Justice / Getty Images

    38. There are only two attempted female presidential assassins in history, and they both tried to kill Gerald Ford "within 17 days of each other."

    Gerald Ford, who had a very difficult couple of weeks in 1975
    Bettmann / via Getty

    First, there was Lynnette “Squeaky” Fromme, a 26-year-old follower of Charles Manson who thought killing Ford would win her the cult leader's approval. On September 5, 1975, she pointed a gun at Ford, but a Secret Service agent wrestled it away from her before she fired. She said, "It didn't go off. Can you believe it? It didn't go off."

    Fromme being detained by secret service agents
    Bettmann Archive / via Getty

    Ford went ahead with his scheduled afternoon meeting with California governor Jerry Brown and didn't even mention his brush with death until they finished "talking business."

    Bettmann Archive / via Getty

    Seventeen days later, Sara Jane Moore tried to assassinate Ford, but the one shot she fired missed. Oliver Sipple, an ex-Marine and bystander, saved the president's life when he grabbed Moore's arm after she raised it to fire. Both Fromme and Moore were sent to the same prison for their technically unrelated but nearly identical crimes.

    Sarah Jane Moore posing in her home
    Janet Fries / Getty Images

    39. Jimmy Carter believed he saw a UFO in 1969, describing it as "the darndest thing I’ve ever seen." During his presidential campaign in 1976, he pledged to release "every piece of information" about UFOs to the public.

    Carter, a man who knows so much about aliens
    Universal History Archive / via Getty

    But after he won, Carter decided against releasing the documents, explaining that the information had "defense implications" that could "pose a threat to national security."

    Hulton Archive / Getty Images

    40. Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev made a deal that if the US were invaded by aliens, the Soviet Union would come to its aid.

    Ronald Reagan, who was just covering his bases
    Universal Images Group Editorial / via Getty

    Reagan posed the question at the 1985 Geneva Summit, and the world leaders agreed that the Cold War could be put aside in the case of an extraterrestrial attack.

    Reagan and Gorbachev chat next to a fire together
    David Hume Kennerly / Getty Images

    41. George H. W. Bush despised broccoli so much that he banned it from Air Force One and (accidentally) started a feud with some Californian farmers.

    George Bush with wide open arms, which is how much he hates broccoli
    Corbis Historical / Shepard Sherbell / via Getty

    In 1990, Bush said, "I do not like broccoli...and I haven’t liked it since I was a little kid and my mother made me eat it. And I’m President of the United States, and I’m not going to eat any more broccoli!” Which, fair.

    some kids hold a sign that says "we love George and broccoli too!"
    Diana Walker / Getty Images

    Except not really, according to some proud Californian broccoli farmers. They sent 10 tons of broccoli to the White House to protest the president's position on their veggie of choice. That's 20,000 pounds of broccoli, most of which was promptly donated to "local homeless shelters."

    Barbara Bush inspecting the gift of broccoli
    Diana Walker / Getty Images

    42. Bill Clinton only sent two emails while he was president.

    Bill Clinton, who was more of a pager guy, I guess
    AFP / Joyce Naltchayan / via Getty

    During a speech at the Wired for Change conference in 2011, Clinton said, "I sent a grand total of two emails as president: one to our troops in the Adriatic, and one to John Glenn when he was 77 years old in outer space. I figured it was OK if Congress subpoenaed those."

    Bill Clinton looking at a computer in the oval office
    Consolidated News Pictures / Getty Images

    The email to Glenn read in part, "Hillary and I had a great time at the launch. We are very proud of you and the entire crew, and a little jealous."

    John Glenn preparing to go into space again
    Roberto Schmidt / AFP via Getty Images

    43. Tom Petty sent George W. Bush a cease and desist letter to get him to stop playing his song at campaign rallies.

    Bush, who was actually heartbroken by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
    Bill Pugliano / via Getty

    The song in question was "I Won't Back Down," which Petty later played at the home of Bush's opponent Al Gore.

    Tom Petty in concert
    Jerod Harris / Getty Images

    44. Barack Obama is insured against crocodile attacks (in Australia, at least, which tends to be where they're a problem).

    Obama, who's smiling cause he knows the crocs can't get him
    Bill Pugliano / via Getty

    During a 2011 visit to Australia's Northern Territory, the Chief Minister Paul Henderson gave Obama a policy that would have "paid out $50,000 AUD to his wife, Michelle, if the president had been attacked by a crocodile." The gift was worth around $10 AUD, and Henderson presented it in the form of a certificate.

    a crocodile in the water
    Scott Barbour / Getty Images

    Afterward, Obama said in a speech to Australian and US troops, "I was just presented with the most unique gift I have ever received as president — crocodile insurance. My wife, Michelle, will be relieved."

    Obama addressing the troops
    Scott Barbour / Getty Images

    45. And now, for an incomplete list of Donald Trump's failed business endeavors.

    maybe if people bought his game, or his magazine, or his steaks, or anything else he tried to sell, we wouldn't have been in that mess
    Chip Somodevilla / via Getty

    Trump Airlines, which started in 1988 and folded in 1992:

    A Trump plane
    Bettmann Archive / via Getty

    Trump: The Game, which was discontinued after two years when the company sold "less than half the 2 million units" it expected to:

    Trump posing with his board game
    Stan Honda / AFP via Getty Images

    The game pictured here is Hasbro's 2004 re-release of the failed original. It also failed. 

    And Trump Steaks, which were pulled from the shelf after two months of "abysmal sales."

    Trump steaks
    Stephen Lovekin / WireImage for Hill & Knowlton

    46. Finally: When a teacher mocked a young Joe Biden over his stutter, his mother, Catherine, took exactly zero prisoners.

    Joe Biden, who inspired his mom to fight a nun
    Scott Olson / Getty Images

    Biden once said about his stutter, "I can think of nothing else that has ever stripped me of my dignity as quickly and as profoundly and as thoroughly." The teacher, who was a nun, called the future president "Mr. Bu-bu-bu-Biden." Biden, understandably pissed, responded to the teasing one day by simply walking out.

    Joe Biden looking out the window of the white house
    Olivier Douliery-Pool / Getty Images

    His mother later told the nun in question, "If you ever speak to my son like that again, I’ll come back and rip that bonnet off your head."

    Biden talking to reporters with his arm around his mother
    Bettmann Archive / via Getty

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