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Top 10 tidbits you didn’t know about US presidents

Time to add some Presidents’ Day trivia to your repertoire

<p>Today, we celebrate Presidents’ Day, the federal holiday that pays tribute to all U.S. presidents.&nbsp;</p>

Today, we celebrate Presidents’ Day, the federal holiday that pays tribute to all U.S. presidents. 

Today, we celebrate Presidents’ Day, the federal holiday that pays tribute to all U.S. presidents. Though some may look at the long list of 46 presidents and see a dry, formulaic history of policy, controversy and occasional scandal, there are many interesting facts about these nuanced figures that probably weren't shared in your history class. For the low-down on all things presidential — or less so, in many cases — check out these lesser-known facts about U.S. presidents.

1. Abraham Lincoln — Rocky Balboa’s wrestling counterpart

Yes, you read that right. Good ol’ Honest Abe, the lanky 6-foot-4 16th president of the United States, competed in wrestling matches as a young lad. And he fared pretty well, too — Lincoln was widely known for his skills and had only one recorded defeat in 12 years. Better yet, in 1992, Lincoln was inducted into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame as an “Outstanding American” in the sport.

2. No vocal runs or riffs for these Grammy winners

An astounding three U.S. presidents have won Grammy awards, but not for their impeccable vocals. Jimmy Carter leads with a total of nine nominations and three Grammy awards for Best Spoken Word Album. Bill Clinton won two Grammy awards, one for Best Spoken Word Album for Children and one for Best Spoken Word Album. Barack Obama also holds two wins for “Dreams from My Father” and “The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream.” Obama also has two Emmys, clinching him the “EG” of the coveted EGOT title — and though it doesn’t count, I see an “OT” in POTUS.

3. Gerald Ford served for all, but was confirmed for office by few

Gerald Ford had the most unconventional ascension to the presidency. The 25th Amendment, a lasting legacy of Kennedy’s assassination, was the constitutional mechanism responsible for Ford’s fortune. After Vice President Spiro Agnew’s resignation in 1973, the 25th Amendment gave President Richard Nixon the power to name Ford as the new vice president with the permission of Congress. Once Nixon resigned, the office of the president fell to Ford. Had it not been for the 25th Amendment promoting Ford to VP, Speaker of the House Carl Albert would have become acting president.

4. Jefferson was a founding foodie

Many know of Thomas Jefferson’s love of France — his well-known ambassadorship to France exposed him to European architecture, botany and technology, among other novelties. This love, however, transcends relationships and ideas and makes its way to food. Jefferson brought many French culinary ideas to the United States, popularizing many staples of American food today. Mac and cheese, french fries and ice cream are all connected to Jefferson. Though he did not invent ice cream, he loved serving it at dinner parties, particularly "inside of a crust or pastry." Jefferson ended up writing his own ice cream recipe inspired from his time in France, marking the first known recipe recorded by an American.

5. James Garfield had some next-level communication skills

James Garfield is best known for being one of the four assassinated U.S. presidents, but don’t let that grim fact overshadow his other talents. His fluidity with writing and languages was quite fascinating. Garfield was ambidextrous and multilingual, and he was able to write in Greek with one hand and Latin in the other at the same time. Multi-tasking has never looked so impressive.

6. Frenemies depart hours apart

John Adams, the second president of the United States, and Thomas Jefferson developed a close friendship and eventual political rivalry in the span of five decades. The two collaborated on the committee to draft the Declaration of Independence in 1776 and completed diplomatic service together in France. But later, Adams’ well-known Midnight Appointments caused a rift in their relationship, as he appointed some of Jefferson’s political adversaries in the wee hours prior to Jefferson taking office. The two made amends later in life, and eerily, both died hours apart from each other — on the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence.

7. Ronald Reagan saved seventy-seven lives as a lifeguard

Father of trickle-down economics and Mr. Movie Star Ronald Reagan not only made a splash on the big screen and in politics, but also in Rock River in Dixon, Ill. Reagan worked on the shore of the river as a lifeguard for seven summers, saving a total of seventy-seven swimmers from drowning. Reagan even showed Oval Office visitors a picture of Rock River and noted that lifeguarding was one of the best jobs he’d ever had.

8. Agent 035 — Call him Kennedy … Jack Kennedy

John F. Kennedy, one of the first U.S. presidents with real charisma, was a big fan of Ian Fleming’s James Bond spy novels. JFK first read “Casino Royale” in 1954, and after naming “From Russia with Love” as one of his top ten favorite books in a Life Magazine article, the series soared to fame in the U.S. Though JFK did not receive any monetary benefits from the endorsement, Fleming gave a nod to the president in his next book, “The Spy Who Loved Me,” with the line "We need some more Jack Kennedys."

9. Ulysses S. Grant — National Park Pioneer

In March of 1872, Ulysses S. Grant signed the Yellowstone National Park Protection Act into law, creating the first national park. Grant’s time in the U.S. Army allowed him to see much of the western landscape, which may have served as the underlying inspiration for this action. His championing of the Yellowstone protection legislation safeguarded the natural wonders of the park, including Old Faithful, the famous cone geyser that still evokes awe from thousands in Wyoming today.

10. Herbert Hoover has his own sport

In order to keep Herbert Hoover in good physical health, his White House physician invented Hoover-ball, a combination of tennis, volleyball and medicine ball. Originating in 1928 after Hoover saw a similar sport played on naval ships, Hoover-ball is more intensive than boxing, wrestling and football and requires less ability than tennis. Hoover-ball sounds like a natural fit for the University’s Hoos — any takers on forming a team?


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