Presidential Secrets, Quirks and Facts Most Americans Don’t Know

 In 2017, President Donald J. Trump hinted that he might finally release classified information about the 1963 assassination of President Kennedy.

“Subject to the receipt of further information,” he tweeted in October 2017, “I will be allowing, as president, the long blocked and classified JFK FILES to be opened.”

What changed his mind?

Ultimately he did release some information, but concluded that some documents represented a threat “of such gravity” to U.S. national security that any public disclosure benefit was outweighed.

Donald J. Trump

One of the most secret tools of modern days presidents is the “nuclear football” briefcase that contains authentication codes to launch a nuclear weapon. That briefcase is handled by a military aide who accompanies the president whenever they travel. The briefcase also includes the Presidential Decision Handbook, a top-secret document with plans for deploying nuclear weapons against different enemies and in different situations.

Zachary Taylor was the second president to die in office. Taylor spent July 4, 1850, at a ceremony at the Washington Monument. He became ill from the heat and died five days later of intestinal ailments. Recently, his body was exhumed because some believed he was poisoned, but this was proved to be false.

George Washington died peacefully at home on December 14, 1799. The first dinosaur fossil was discovered in 1824. Washington never knew dinosaurs existed.

He, like anyone else at the time, didn’t know that dinosaurs existed because they were not scientifically recognized as such until 1824, when British naturalist William Buckland first described Megalosaurus, now regarded to be the first dinosaur to be scientifically named.

When Thomas Jefferson sent Lewis and Clark on their great westward expedition, they planned on the possibility of encountering dinosaurs.

Abraham Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln was assassinated on April 15th, 1865, just months before the Secret Service was founded. The legislation to create the Secret Service was on Lincoln’s desk on the night he died, perhaps if they were created a few months earlier they might have foiled the plot to assassinate him.

Major Henry Rathbone was a guest in the presidential booth when John Wilkes Booth fired the shot at President Lincoln. Rathbone tried to tackle him to the ground, but Booth was able to get free by slicing Rathbone in the arm with a dagger. Rathbone was never free of the guilt till his death.

Chester A. Arthur was nicknamed “Elegant Arthur” because of his fashion sense. He enjoyed walking at night and seldom went to bed before 2 a.m.

Chester Arthur

Franklin Pierce was the first president to have a Christmas tree in the White House.

The next time someone says “OK” think of Martin Van Buren. He was raised in Kinderhook, New York. After he went into politics, Van Buren became known as “Old Kinderhook.” Soon people were using the term O.K. referring to Van Buren and the word “okay” was derived.

President Reagan left a message in the Oval Office that read, “Don’t let the turkeys get you down,” for his successor and vice president, George H.W. Bush.

William Henry Harrison served the shortest presidency, dying just 32 days after he was elected.

Calvin Coolidge refused to use the telephone while in office.

Grover Cleveland personally answered the White House phone.

John F. Kennedy was the first president to hold a press conference on television.

John F. Kennedy

John Tyler was the first vice president to ascend to the presidency upon the death of a president. He did not make an inaugural address, and he never ran for the office of the Presidency.

Jimmy Carter was the first president born in a hospital. He is a speed reader, having been recorded reading 2,000 words per minute.

Herbert Hoover approved “The Star-Spangled Banner” as the national anthem.

Warren Harding was the first to speak over the radio.

Franklin Pierce was the only president to have no turnover in his cabinet.

Ulysess S. Grant was the first president to view the Pacific Ocean in 1852. He would freak out at the sight of blood and always showered in his tent away from other soldiers during the Civil War.

Ulysses S. Grant

James Buchanan was America’s first (and only) bachelor President. His niece, Harriet, acted as First Lady.

Teddy Roosevelt took a break from the presidency to go camping with Scottish-American naturalist John Muir for 4 days. They explored without any supervision/security. Roosevelt was so inspired by the trip that it eventually led to the creation of the National Park Service. 

But back in the White House he would walk around with a pistol on his person at all times. He was also a black belt in jujitsu and champion boxer.

Theodore Roosevelt

While campaigning for a third term, Roosevelt was shot by a would be assassin. Instead of treating the wound, delivered his campaign speech with the bleeding, undressed bullet hole in his chest.

Lyndon B. Johnson constantly asked the flight crew of Air Force One to change the temperature of the cabin. Eventually, they installed a fake control knob for him to ‘control’ the temperature himself. Then he stopped complaining.

Before he got into politics, Gerald Ford was a male model and actually owned a modeling agency. He married a model named Elizabeth Bloomer Warren, we knew as First Lady Betty Ford. 

Gerald Ford

Richard Nixon had the Secret Service uniform redesigned to closely resemble that of European palace guards. The “toy soldier” uniforms were universally ridiculed and only used for a few months before being mothballed. After a decade in storage, they were sold to an Iowa high school marching band. 

John Adams and Thomas Jefferson both died on the 50th Anniversary of the Declaration of Independence in 1826. Not knowing that Thomas Jefferson has already passed John Adams was quoted as saying “Jefferson survives,” when he whispered his last words.

John Quincy Adams, the son of John Adams, thought the Earth was hollow. His successor, Andrew Jackson thought it was flat and actually called off an expedition to the North Pole to find the entrance to inner Earth.

John Quincy Adams

He also regularly would swim across the Potomac River, usually in the nude. At 58 years old, Adams was clocked at swimming the width of the Potomac in an hour.

William McKinley was the first president to campaign by telephone.

Franklin Pierce gave his 3,319-word inaugural address from memory, without the aid of notes.

James Madison was the shortest and lightest president at 5 feet, 4 inches and about 100 pounds.

Thomas Jefferson wrote his own epitaph never mentioning that he served as president. His epitaph read, “Author of the Declaration of American Independence, Author of the Statute of Virginia for Religious Freedom and the Father of the University of Virginia.

Andrew Jackson kept a bullet lodged in his body for 19 years after he was shot in a pistol duel.

Andrew Jackson

Lyndon B. Johnson was the only president to take the oath of office from a female official, Judge Sarah T. Hughes.

Harry S. Truman used to get up at 5 o’clock in the morning to practice the piano for two hours.


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