In some ways, all 46 U.S. presidents have been very much alike. So far they’ve all been men, for one, not lacking in ambition or charisma, and with a certain knack for self-promotion and networking.
At the same time, each commander in chief brims with uniqueness. Read facts about every president, in order of their service, from a 19th-century hotshot with a taste for dueling to a 20th-century veteran who nearly died after being hit by anti-aircraft fire in World War II.
1. George Washington (1789-1797): The first U.S. president and Revolutionary War hero was an enthusiastic dog breeder, particularly of hunting hounds, to which he gave names like “Sweet Lips” and “Drunkard.”
2. John Adams (1797-1801): Adams and his wife, Abigail, exchanged more than 1,100 letters over the course of their lengthy relationship.
3. Thomas Jefferson (1801-1809): Jefferson, the principal author of the Declaration of Independence, died on July 4, in 1826, within hours of his “frenemy” John Adams.
4. James Madison (1809-1817): Madison was the shortest president at 5’4” and weighed barely over 100 pounds.
5. James Monroe (1817-1825): Other than Washington, Monroe was the only president to ever run essentially unopposed, coasting to re-election in the 1820 race.
6. John Quincy Adams (1825-1829): Years after leaving the White House, Quincy Adams argued a famous Supreme Court case that freed the captive Africans who had rebelled aboard the Amistad slave ship.
7. Andrew Jackson (1829-1837): Jackson once killed a man in a duel.
8. Martin Van Buren (1837-1841): Van Buren was the first president to be born an American. All previous presidents were originally British subjects, having been born prior to 1776.
9. William Henry Harrison (1841): Harrison lasted only 32 days in office, the shortest stint of any president.
10. John Tyler (1841-1845): Tyler fathered 15 children, the most of any president.
11. James K. Polk (1845-1849): During his term, Polk secretly purchased a number of enslaved children for his Mississippi cotton plantation.
12. Zachary Taylor (1849-1850): “Old Rough and Ready” never voted in an election prior to being on the ballot himself.
13. Millard Fillmore (1850-1853): Fillmore was the last Whig president; the party imploded soon after he left office.
14. Franklin Pierce (1853-1857): The only president from New Hampshire also attended college in New England—Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine.
15. James Buchanan (1857-1861): In 1853, while serving as minister to Great Britain, Buchanan helped draft the 1854 Ostend Manifesto, which advocated for an American invasion of Cuba.
16. Abraham Lincoln (1861-1865): “Honest Abe,” the tallest president at 6’4”, may have had Marfan Syndrome, a genetic disorder that causes people to be very tall, thin and long limbed.
17. Andrew Johnson (1865-1869): Though one of the few presidents without a pet, Johnson apparently cared for a family of White House mice, which he called “the little fellows.”
18. Ulysses S. Grant (1869-1877): Civil War General Grant was invited to join Abraham Lincoln at Ford’s Theatre on the fateful evening of April 14, 1865, but was forced to decline after he and his wife made plans to visit their children in New Jersey.
19. Rutherford B. Hayes (1877-1881): Hayes was the first president to have a telephone in the White House.
20. James A. Garfield (1881): Garfield (who was the first known left-handed president) was elected to the U.S. Senate, but he never served as Ohio senator because he then won the Republican nomination for president.
21. Chester A. Arthur (1881-1885): Arthur was named in honor of Chester Abell, the doctor who delivered him.
22. and 24. Grover Cleveland (1885-1889, 1893-1897): No president except Cleveland has ever served non-consecutive terms: He defeated James G. Blaine in 1884, lost to Benjamin Harrison in 1888 (despite winning the popular vote), and then came back to defeat Harrison in 1892.
23. Benjamin Harrison (1889-1893): Harrison was the first president to hire a female White House staffer.
25. William McKinley (1897-1901): McKinley’s likeness appears on the $500 bill, which was discontinued in 1969.
26. Theodore Roosevelt (1901-1909): Roosevelt was the youngest president, taking office at age 42.
27. William Howard Taft (1909-1913): Famous for his corpulence, Taft was the first president to hurl the ceremonial first pitch at a Major League Baseball game.
28. Woodrow Wilson (1913-1921): In a 1914 proclamation, Wilson officially established the second Sunday in May as Mother’s Day.
29. Warren G. Harding (1921-1923): Prior to taking office, Harding wrote a series of lurid love letters to his mistress, the wife of one of his best friends.
30. Calvin Coolidge (1923-1929): A quiet man, Coolidge purportedly replied, “You lose,” to a visitor who bet she could get at least three words out of him.
31. Herbert Hoover (1929-1933): An Iowa native who spent part of his boyhood in Oregon, Hoover was the first president to hail from west of the Mississippi River.
32. Franklin D. Roosevelt (1933-1945): The longest-serving commander-in-chief claimed to be distantly related to 11 other presidents, including his fifth cousin Theodore Roosevelt.
33. Harry S. Truman (1945-1953): The “S” in Harry S. Truman was just an initial; it didn’t stand for any name. (The “S” in Ulysses S. Grant didn’t stand for anything either.)
34. Dwight D. Eisenhower (1953-1961): World War II hero “Ike” was the first president to ride in a helicopter.
35. John F. Kennedy (1961-1963): After being injured and honorably discharged in World War II, Kennedy was briefly employed as a journalist during the waning weeks of the war.
36. Lyndon B. Johnson (1963-1969): Johnson's first career was as a teacher. He worked at a school near the U.S.-Mexico border for four years before launching a career in politics.
37. Richard M. Nixon (1969-1974): Nixon became such a skillful poker player while stationed in the Solomon Islands during World War II that his winnings helped launch his political career upon his return to the United States.
38: Gerald Ford (1974-1977): A star football player at the University of Michigan, Ford turned down offers from both the Detroit Lions and Green Bay Packers.
39. Jimmy Carter (1977-1981): When his father died in 1953, Carter gave up his successful military career to move back to Georgia and work on their family's peanut farm.
40. Ronald Reagan (1981-1989): Reagan worked as a lifeguard and sportscaster before becoming an actor and, later, a politician.
41. George Bush (1989-1993): While a student at Yale University, Bush was captain of the baseball team and a member of Skull and Bones, an elite secret student society.
42. Bill Clinton (1993-2001): Clinton played the saxophone and famously performed on the Arsenio Hall Show when he was a candidate for president.
43. George W. Bush (2001-2009): Post-presidency, Bush took up oil painting, exhibiting his work at the Museum of the Southwest in Texas.
44. Barack Obama (2009-2017): Prior to becoming the first African American president, Obama won two Grammy Awards for “Best Spoken Word Album.” His wife, Michelle, has likewise won a Grammy.
45. Donald J. Trump (2017-2021): Before becoming president, Trump was a real estate developer, entrepreneur and host of the NBC reality show, "The Apprentice."
46: Joe Biden (2021-present): Biden overcame a debilitating childhood stutter after enduring bullying over the condition in grade school.
The American Presidency with Bill Clinton
Explore the history of the U.S. presidency across six themed episodes: race, extremism, the struggle for rights, presidential vision and global power.