The U.S. marks Presidents Day on the third Monday of February every year, a holiday more commonly known for its many sales than presidential history. While the holiday may have originated as a celebration of George Washington’s birthday, it has also become a way to honor the achievements of all U.S. presidents, with many using the occasion to stage re-enactments and other patriotic events focusing on the lives of America’s 43 commanders in chief. In observance of Presidents Day, here are some interesting facts about U.S. presidents:
While Washington personally selected the site of the White House in 1791, he never actually lived in the building. His successor, John Adams, became the first U.S. president to reside in the iconic building when he moved in with his wife Abigail in 1800. Every single president since Adams has occupied the White House.
Abraham Lincoln is perhaps one of the most famous U.S. presidents, known for his abolition of slavery and his stirring Gettysburg Address. Less well known was the president’s love of animals, including his pet goats Nanny and Nanko, which caused quite a commotion in the White House during his tenure. Lincoln’s sons Tad and Willie frequently had the goats pull them through the White House in makeshift carts, on one occasion even scattering a group of visitors in the East Room.
Warren G. Harding, who led the country in the period after World War I, was an enthusiastic poker player and once gambled away the entire White House china set in a game.
Thomas Jefferson is known as one of America’s founding fathers, but he also was proud of his creation of the University of Virginia. Jefferson is believed to be the only U.S. president to have ever founded an institution of higher learning.
Andrew Jackson killed a rival Southern plantation owner in a duel in 1806 after the man both accused him of cheating on a horse race bet and insulted his wife, Rachel. Jackson was not prosecuted for murder, and the event had very little bearing on his successful 1828 presidential campaign.
Liberia’s capital, Monrovia, is named after America’s fifth president, James Monroe, who was one of the most prominent supporters of the country’s founding in the early 1800s.
Andrew Johnson, who became the 17th president after Lincoln was assassinated in office, made a name for himself in Washington as vice president-elect when he arrived inebriated at the 1865 inauguration. Johnson had been suffering from typhoid fever and self-medicated with some whiskey, causing him to slur his way through his speech. “The inauguration went off very well except that the Vice President Elect was too drunk to perform his duties & disgraced himself & the Senate by making a drunken foolish speech,” Michigan Republican Sen. Zachariah Chandler wrote to his wife after the ceremony, according to an account of the event on the Senate’s website.
Franklin Pierce refused to swear his oath of office when he became the 14th president of the U.S., opting instead to “affirm” his oath, reportedly due to a crisis of faith in the aftermath of the death of his son.