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Useful Notes / The Presidents

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"Heigh ho, do you know?
The names of the US residents
Who then became the presidents
And got a view, from the White House loo,
Of Pennsylvania Avenue?"
Animaniacs, "The Presidents Song"

Specifically, the presidents of the United States of America (and more specifically, the presidents of the United States under the Constitution). They are, in order:

  1. George Washington (1789-97, independent/de facto Federalist; led the Continental Army; only president not to be a member of any political party)
  2. John Adams (1797-1801, Federalist; first to live in the Executive Mansion, now known as the White House)
  3. Thomas Jefferson (1801-09, Democratic-Republican; wrote the Declaration of Independence; also the first wartime president; butt of many jokes regarding his sexual relations with his slaves; as a public and vocal Deist, he is arguably the only non-Christian president; invented the Swivel chair, without the three-fifths compromise he would have lost the 1800 election)
  4. James Madison (1809-17, Democratic-Republican; shortest president; drafted the Virginia plan which became the basis of the constitution; wrote several of the Federalist Papers and helped get Virginia to agree to the constitution; first wartime president; British burnt the White House down during his 8 years)
  5. James Monroe (1817-25, Democratic-Republican; the capital of Liberia is named after him; one of only two presidents—the other being Washington—to be elected unopposed, last president of whom no photography exists)
  6. John Quincy Adams (1825-29, Democratic-Republican/National Republican; first son of a former president; earliest known president to be photographed, albeit a few years after he left office; only president to be elected by the House of Representatives and the first to lose the popular votenote  Had a rather productive stint in the House of Representatives after being president and a vocal opponent of slavery)
  7. Andrew Jackson (1829-37, Democrat; creator of the Democratic Party and first Democratic president; first president to have an attempted assassination, only president to almost personally kill his attempted assassin after he failed, killed a man in a duel)
  8. Martin Van Buren (1837-41, Democrat; first president to have been born an American citizen after America gained its independence; only president to have English as a second language—he came from a Dutch-speaking family)
  9. William Henry Harrison (1841, Whig; died of pneumonia one month after taking office; first president to die in office and had the shortest presidency, which is the only reason people remember him; last president to have been born before America's independence, First president to be photographed while in office)
  10. John Tyler (1841-45, Whig/independent; first vice president to inherit the presidency, first president to have been born after the ratification of the Constitution, first president to have a veto overriden, first president to marry in office; only president to have been laid to rest under a foreign flag - the Confederate one, to be precise as he died in 1862 as a member of the Confederate Congress)
  11. James K. Polk (1845-49, Democrat; did everything he said he would; died of Cholera barely over 100 days after leaving office and had the shortest natural lifespan of any president; only president to have been Speaker of the House)
  12. Zachary Taylor (1849-50, Whig; died in office, possibly of gastroenteritis from eating spoiled cherries, possibly from 19th century medicine; last president to have been a slave owner while in office)
  13. Millard Fillmore (1850-53, Whig; credited with delaying the eventual Civil War thanks to the Compromise of 1850, nowadays seen as a counter-intuitive empowering of slave states; sent Matthew Perry to Japan to open their borders; made fun of for his name and remembered for pretty much nothing else)
  14. Franklin Pierce (1853-57, Democrat; a deeply unlucky man, kicked the slavery can down the road one more time, but failed to defuse mounting tensions)
  15. James Buchanan (1857-61, Democrat; only president never to have been married, may have been secretly homosexual; since The American Civil War started at the end of his tenure, he's consistently considered one of the worst to ever hold the office; final president born in the 18th century)
  16. Abraham Lincoln (1861-65, Republican/National Union; first Republican president; tallest president; first president to have facial hair; assassinated by a Confederate sympathizer, and in doing so was the first president to be successfully assassinated; because of his successful leadership during the Civil War and his vital importance to the abolition of slavery in America (though that milestone wouldn't be reached until shortly after his death), he is the president most consistently ranked in polls as the greatest in US history)
  17. Andrew Johnson (1865-69, National Union/de facto Democrat; first president to be impeached, but was acquitted, often shows up on "worst presidents" lists due to his Southern sympathies and alcoholism; signed The Alaska Purchase)
  18. Ulysses S. Grant (1869-77, Republican; the greatest Civil War General; initially considered an awful president, but his reputation is on the rise; strong civil rights record, defeated the first Ku Klux Klan; final president to have owned a slave at some point in his lifenote )
  19. Rutherford B. Hayes (1877-81, Republican; won the closest election in American history, winning by literally one electoral vote; second president to lose the popular vote, only president to win despite his opponent having 50% or more of the popular vote)
  20. James Garfield (1881, Republican; assassinated by a disgruntled office seeker; won nomination on the 36th ballot against former president Grant and won the popular vote by just 2000 votes out of some nine million cast; only sitting member of the House of Representatives to be elected president)
  21. Chester A. Arthur (1881-85, Republican; he had crazy facial hair; a product of the corrupt New York political machine, he would go on to finally give civil service meaningful reform)
  22. Grover Cleveland (1885-89, Democrat; only president to serve two non-consecutive terms, first president to marry in the White House)
  23. Benjamin Harrison (1889-93, Republican; the other Harrison's grandson; third president to lose the popular vote and the last to do so for 112 years)
  24. Grover Cleveland (1893-97, Democrat; became the first president to be captured on motion picture film during this term, while inaugurating William McKinley; fans tend to prefer his first term)
  25. William McKinley (1897-1901, Republican; assassinated next to an X-ray machine that could have been used to save his life)
  26. Theodore Roosevelt (1901-09, Republican; youngest person to become president; first vice president to inherit the presidency to subsequently be elected to a full term; definitely a Memetic Badass)
  27. William Howard Taft (1909-13, Republican; he weighed the most; last president to have facial hair; only president to serve on the US Supreme Court (Chief Justice, 1921-30), thereby being the only person to have been head of two branches, placed third in the 1912 election; most frequently remembered for getting stuck in the White House bathtub, which never actually happened; also the only president to have been born in September)
  28. Woodrow Wilson (1913-21, Democrat; only president with a Ph.D.; had a stroke and his wife then secretly ran the country.
  29. Warren Harding (1921-23, Republican; died from a heart attack midway through his term; became notorious for corruption under his administration; only president proven to have fathered a child with one of his mistressesnote )
  30. Calvin Coolidge (1923-29, Republican; often silent; first president to have his inauguration broadcasted on radio; so far the only president to have been born on the Fourth of July (Independence Day)note )
  31. Herbert Hoover (1929-33, Republican; previously a humanitarian, but not that kind; died after JFK; frequently scorned by historians for his inaction during the Great Depression)
  32. Franklin D. Roosevelt (1933-45, Democrat; first president to appear in a televised broadcast; served four terms, two more than any other president [though he died a few months into the fourth]; the only serving president to have a disability, albeit it was a well-dressed Open Secret)
  33. Harry Truman (1945-53, Democrat; authorized the only use of nuclear weapons in war; was exempted from the 22nd Amendmentnote  through ex post facto [as it was ratified during his tenure] but decided to stick to just two terms anyways due to the waning popularity of his second term. Achieved lowest approval rating ever recorded (23%), in early 1950s.)
  34. Dwight D. Eisenhower (1953-61, Republican; a World War II General; first president to appear in a color television broadcast; first president to be limited to two terms by the 22nd Amendment; final president born in the 19th century)
  35. John F. Kennedy (1961-63, Democrat; first non-WASP, non-Old Stock president; first white-ethnic president; only Catholic president; youngest elected president; his assassination is still plagued by conspiracy theories)
  36. Lyndon Johnson (1963-69, Democrat; very Texan, very aggressive, and very odd; signed landmark Civil Rights legislation; escalated the war in Vietnam and tried unsuccessfully to sue for peace; chose not to run for reelection in 1968 despite being allowed to under the 22nd Amendmentnote )
  37. Richard Nixon (1969-74, Republican; only president to resign; also opened up relations with China, but also did Watergate; definitely corrupt— er, not a crook; Native Californian)
  38. Gerald Ford (1974-77, Republican; only president who wasn't elected as either president or vice president; only president whose would-be assassins were female; fell down steps of Air Force One)
  39. Jimmy Carter (1977-81, Democrat; living, was a Farm Boy and was attacked by a bunny, made some good progress on the Israel-Arab conflict and kept the US out of foreign wars but could not get a handle on the economy and had several things go wrong abroad in 1979, most notably the Nicaraguan and Iranian revolutions; longest post-presidency, infinitely more popular as a former president due to his charity work, which got him the Nobel Peace Prize in 2002; longest-lived president.)
  40. Ronald Reagan (1981-89, Republican; previously a cowboy actor; oldest person to win a presidential election, when reelected at age 73 in 1984, oldest president upon leaving office (77); a very divisive figure in retrospect, but rather popular while in office; was the first president to survive being wounded in an assassination attempt while in officeNote )
  41. George H. W. Bush (1989-93, Republican; was the CIA Director beforehand; "read my lips", most recent incumbent to lose reelection, and latest incumbent vice president to become the president, and first sitting vice president elected president in over a century)
  42. Bill Clinton (1993-2001, Democrat; living, was impeached, but not convicted, during the Monica Lewinsky scandal. Also, he did not inhale. Latest president to sign a budget with a surplus)
  43. George W. Bush (2001-09, Republican; living, added countless new words to the public consciousness; second son of a former president; first victory decided by the Supreme Court following a flawed vote in Florida that necessitated a recount; fourth president to lose the popular vote and first to do so since Benjamin Harrison in 1888 and the only one to be reelected, achieved highest approval rating ever recorded (92%), after 9/11 until this heavily plummeted.
  44. Barack Obama (2009-17, Democrat; living, first African-American president, first president to have a 3D portrait made of himself; received a Nobel Peace Prize. Left office with a 60% approval rating.
  45. Donald Trump (2017-present, Republican; oldest president when elected to their first term (at 70); first president to have hosted a reality television show; first president to have not held any prior political or military office; has lowest approval rating of first year in office; first billionaire president and the only one richer than George Washingtonnote ; only president to have had a match at WrestleMania; fifth president to lose the popular vote - by the largest margin in absolute numbers and the second largest percentage; third president to have "won" a Golden Raspberry Award, second to have done so playing himself, and first to have done so before his presidency, has more awards than any other president.)

Despite what Histeria! may have said about his being president for one day between Polk and Taylor, any attempts to put David Rice Atchison on this list will be laughed off in the traditional mannercontext . So will any attempts to add John Hanson or any other presidents of the Continental Congress.

An urban legend, popularized by Ripley's Believe It or Not! in 1931, claims that there is a curse upon the presidency. This curse, variously known as the "Curse of Tippecanoe", "Tecumseh's Curse" and the "Zero-Year Curse", states that any president who is elected in a year ending in a zero (1840, 1860, etc.) will die in office or have a near miss. It was allegedly placed upon William Henry Harrison by Tecumseh's brother Tenskwatana during the Indian wars and the War of 1812, in which Harrison won two decisive battles against Tecumseh in present-day Indiana and Ontario (the latter leading to Tecumseh's death). Whatever the curse's validity, it was apparently "broken" by either Ronald Reagan (if deaths alone count), or George W. Bush (if near-misses count as wellnote ) as both survived to serve two full terms. Only time will tell if Donald Trump falls victim to the curse this if he is reelected in the 2020 election.


There is also a band called The Presidents of the United States of America, however nobody that has ever served as POTUSA has been so far a member of the band. However, the band members did a parody of the presidential race in which each member had a campaign video to be elected president...of the presidents. They did play at the White House, by Chelsea Clinton's request, though. Rumor has it, Bill Clinton played sax with them during that show.

Jonathan Coulton has two songs about them: One ("Useful Notes/Thepresidents") is simply their names and a small factoid about them, and the other ("Washy Ad Jeffy") is a mnemonic device designed to help you remember their names and how many terms they served (by way of the number of syllables in the name). Other songs include this one from Animaniacs.

With one exception, every American president is descended from King John of England. He's the king from the Robin Hood stories and the one who was forced to sign the Magna Carta. The one exception is Martin Van Buren, whose ancestry is Dutch on both sides. All of the other 43 mennote  to hold the executive office have British blood in them that can be traced back to King John. And even then, Van Buren is still related to King John, as his descent has been traced via separate lines of descent from King John's mother and paternal great-grandparents. In fact, Van Buren was descended from William The Conqueror, who was also an ancestor of King John, so every president is descended from the Norman king who conquered England.note 

Some presidents who typically rank very high in "greatest presidents" historian/scholar polls include George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, and Franklin D. Roosevelt. Some who are usually found at the very bottom include William Henry Harrison, Franklin Pierce, James Buchanan, Andrew Johnson, and Warren Harding. A few are more popular in public polls than in scholarly ones, such as Andrew Jackson, John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan. There has been some reappraisal of some presidents often ranked neither at the absolute top nor the absolute bottom due to their civil rights record, which also explains in part why A. Johnson was slightly more popular with historians until about the 1960s or so than he is today.

Four of the first five presidents were from Virginia, giving rise to the term "Virginia Dynasty" though they were not related beyond the trivial. Until the American Civil War most presidents were either Southerners themselves or "Doughfaces", that is, Northerners with Southern sympathies. Since the Civil War this has turned around quite a bit with Woodrow Wilson arguably the first with Doughface or Southern leanings and presidents from both parties standing rather on the side of Civil Rights than the South from the 1950s onwards. (Fun fact, a disproportionate number of presidents have either been New Yorkers or Ohioans, at thirteen; Statistically speaking, this is likely because New York has been and still is one of the most populous states in the union, and is in fact one of the original thirteen colonies, while Ohio has been a crucial swing state in presidential elections for a very, very long time)

For the action film, see Dead Presidents. For the much-desired pictures of dead presidents (plus a few other people), see American Money. For the president of the Confederate States of America during the Civil War, see Jefferson Davis.


Example of: