James Madison (1751-1836) was a munchkin of a president at 5’4, and only 100 lbs.
• Calvin Coolidge (1872-1933) famously refused to use the telephone for presidential business. The first telephone was installed by Rutherford B. Hayes in 1877 — 46 years before President Coolidge took office.
• William Henry Harrison (1773-1841) was America’s 9th president for a measly 31 days before succumbing to pneumonia. James A. Garfield comes in at a close second for shortest term served in the White House. President Garfield was assassinated just 199 days into his presidency by Charles Guiteau, who felt cheated out of an appointment as American consul general to Paris.
• According to White House lore, the Prince of Wales brought such an enormous entourage with him from Great Britain when visiting the White House in 1860 that President James Buchanan (1791-1868) slept in the hallway to accommodate them.
• Not only did 38th President Gerald Ford (1913-2006) work as a Yellowstone park ranger during the summer of 1936, but he also struck some sassy poses for Cosmo and Look in the 1940s.
• When John F. Kennedy applied to his father’s alma mater, Harvard University, his dad Joseph wrote to the dean that “Jack has a very brilliant mind for the things in which he is interested, but is careless and lacks application in those in which he is not interested. This is, of course, a bad fault.” Even with mediocre test scores, JFK matriculated and graduated cum laude.
• Lyndon B. Johnson owned five pet dogs over the course of his presidency, but beagles Him and Her were by far the most famous. He often took them for a stroll while chatting with the press corps on the White House lawn.
• Calvin Coolidge (1872-1933) had a mechanical horse installed in the White House to keep his horseback riding skills sharp.
• Jimmy Carter and First Lady Rosalynn Carter, along with about thirty White House staff members, enrolled in an evening speed-reading course offered to them by the Evelyn Wood Reading Dynamics company. His impressive rate of 2,000 words per minute presumably helped him keep pace with the 300 pages of material that crossed his desk every day.
• Ulysses S. Grant (1822-1885), 18th president and famous Civil War general, was fined $20 (the equivalent of about $380 in today’s currency) for speeding on his horse and buggy in Washington. He then allegedly was forced to walk home.
• Franklin Pierce (1804-1869) was arrested during his first year in office for running over an old woman on horseback. He was let off the hook due to insufficient evidence.
• On June 6, 1892, President Benjamin Harrison (1833-1901) became the first presidential spectator at a major league baseball game. It wasn’t until 1910, however, that President Howard Taft began the tradition of having the sitting president throw the first pitch of each season.
• President Grover Cleveland (1837-1908) was both the 22nd and 24th president of the United States. After winning the popular vote in 1888 but losing to Benjamin Harrison in the electoral college, he was re-nominated in 1892 and won fair and square.
• While William McKinley (1843-1901) was the first president to ride in an automobile while in office, Teddy Roosevelt (1858-1919) was the first acting president in possession of a White House vehicle (a Stanley Steamer). Teddy Roosevelt supposedly still preferred to ride horses, and the White House stables were only replaced with an automobile fleet during William Howard Taft’s presidency.