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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. Only one of two presidents— the other being James Monroe— to run unopposed and consequently one of the only two to be elected unanimously. Set the two-term precedent that most of his successors would follow, though it wouldn't be until Franklin Roosevelt successfully and controversially defied that precedent-- twice-- that it went from being a recommendation to legislation. Generally regarded as having made a lot of very good suggestions upon his departure that nobody bothered to follow.
  2. John Adams (1797–1801, Federalist). First to live in the Executive Mansion, now known as The White House. His administration saw the Alien and Sedition Acts passed.
  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. He invented the swivel chair, owed his election in 1800 to the three-fifths compromise, and his gravestone omits the fact that he was president.
  4. James Madison (1809–17, Democratic-Republican). Shortest president.note  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 second term.
  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 (and consequently the only one since Washington to be elected unanimously), 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 vote.note  Had a rather productive stint in the House of Representatives after his presidency and was 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. Infamously and illegally overruled the Supreme Court in his push to drive out the Native American population. Remembered largely for his violent temper, lack of sophistication, controversial policies, and reorienting of the presidency to a populist "agent of the people" role that still continues to this day.
  8. Martin Van Buren (1837–41, Democrat). First president to have been born an American citizen after America declared its independence;note  only president to have English as a second language—he came from a Dutch-speaking family.
  9. William Henry Harrison (March–April 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 (can't really be remembered for much as a president if the only noteworthy thing you did while in office was die). Last president to have been born before America declared or formally achieved its independence. First president to be photographed while in office, though the photo has since been lost to time (which only further contributes to his death being the only commonly remembered thing about him).
  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.note 
  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 in his time 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 make it open its borders, and consequently can be considered responsible for Japan's entrance into the international political and economic theater. Made fun of for his name and remembered for pretty much nothing else.
  14. Franklin Pierce (1853–57, Democrat). A deeply unlucky man, he kicked the slavery can down the road one more time, but failed to defuse mounting tensions.
  15. James Buchanan (1857–61, Democrat). The only president never to have been married, may have been secretly homosexual. Since The American Civil War started at the end of his tenure and he did nothing to try and stop it, he's consistently considered one of the worst to ever hold the office. He was the final president born in the 18th century.
  16. Abraham Lincoln (1861–65, Republican/National Union; first Republican president). Tallest president.note  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, he is the president most consistently ranked in polls as the greatest in US history, above even Washington.
  17. Andrew Johnson (1865–69, National Union/de facto Democrat). First president to be impeached, but was acquitted, and often shows up on "worst presidents" lists due to his Southern sympathies and alcoholism. Less badly, he oversaw improved relations with Britain and signed the Alaska Purchase.
  18. Ulysses S. Grant (1869–77, Republican). The greatest Civil War general, he was initially considered an awful president, but his reputation is on the rise. He had a strong civil rights record, which included defeating the first Ku Klux Klan. He was the final president to have owned a slave at some point in his life.note 
  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. As part of the compromise that made him president, he agreed to end Reconstruction in the South that had ramped up in earnest under Grant.
  20. James Garfield (March–September 1881, Republican). Assassinated by a disgruntled office seeker; won nomination on the 36th ballot of the GOP convention against former President Grant and won the popular vote by just 2000 votes out of some nine million cast;note  only sitting member of the House of Representatives to be elected president.
  21. Chester A. Arthur (1881–85, Republican). He had crazy facial hair. Despite coming from the corrupt New York political machine, he would go on to give civil service meaningful reform at last.
  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). William Henry Harrison's grandson, the 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). Drove up the international/imperial (depending on whom you ask) turn in high-level American policy. 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 be subsequently 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 (as Chief Justice, no less, 1921–30), thereby being the only person to have been head of two branches. Placed third in the 1912 election when Teddy Roosevelt came out of retirement and split the Republican vote. Most frequently remembered for getting stuck in the White House bathtub, which never actually happened. The only president to have been born in September.
  28. Woodrow Wilson (1913–21, Democrat). Only president with a Ph.D. Was re-elected because he had kept America out of World War I but sent men to Europe less than a year later; helped set up the League of Nations after the war but couldn't get a hostile Congress on board. Had a stroke and his wife then secretly ran the country. Even considering FDR's internment camps and Nixon's hostile attitude towards civil rights, Wilson remained the most outwardly and blatantly racist President in modern American history until Trump came along, to the point where it has been said that "Wilson's racism was significant and consequential even by the standards of his own time."
  29. Warren G. Harding (1921–23, Republican). Died from a heart attack or stroke midway through his term. He became notorious for corruption under his administration, especially after it ended with his early death; he is the only president proven to have fathered a child from an extramarital affair.note 
  30. Calvin Coolidge (1923–29, Republican). Often silent, to the point where he had the tersest oath of office on record ("I do."). First president to have his inauguration broadcast 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 or compounding of problems 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. Also the only sitting president to have retirony as his cause of death (he had planned to resign due to declining health once World War II was over, but a cerebral hemorrhage did him in the month before), and the only sitting president to become a casualty of war while in office (it was said at the time that years of brave responsibility had taken their toll on his health, culminating in said cerebral hemorrhage).
  33. Harry S 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 anyway due to the waning popularity of his second term. Achieved lowest approval rating ever recorded (23%, in early 1952), but historians look rather highly on him. Oversaw the creation of the United Nations and NATO, desegregated the military and the civil service. Had the shortest middle name of any president, at just one letter (yes, the "S" is actually his full middle name, not an initial), discounting the absence of middle names.
  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. Kicked off the Space Race and signed the National Aeronautics and Space Act.
  35. John F. Kennedy (1961–63, Democrat). First non-WASP, non-Old Stock president; first white-ethnic, and only Catholic, president; youngest elected president; last Northeastern president until Trump. 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 Vietnam War and tried unsuccessfully to sue for peace; chose not to run for reelection in 1968 despite being allowed to under the 22nd Amendment.note 
  37. Richard Nixon (1969–74, Republican). Only president to resign; also opened relations with Red China, but also did Watergate; definitely corrupt — er, not a crook. Native-born 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 progress towards resolving the Arab–Israeli 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. Only president to admit to filing a UFO report (though he suspected the object of being a military project, not aliens). Last Democrat to carry Alabama, Mississippi, South Carolina, and Texas. 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 and first to live at least 40 years after being inaugurated.
  40. Ronald Reagan (1981–89, Republican). Previously a cowboy actor; oldest person to win a presidential election, being 73 years and 274 days old on the day of his reelection in 1984, oldest president upon leaving office (77 years, 348 days). Last Republican to carry Hawaii, Massachusetts, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Washington. 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 office.note 
  41. George H. W. Bush (1989–93, Republican). Was the CIA Director before becoming vice president to Reagan; said "read my lips: no new taxes", which backfired on him when he had to raise taxes. Last Republican to carry California, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, New Jersey, and Vermont. Most recent incumbent president to lose re-election, latest incumbent vice president to become president, and first sitting vice president elected president since Van Buren more than a century and a half before him.
  42. Bill Clinton (1993–2001, Democrat). Living. Was impeached, but not convicted, during the Monica Lewinsky scandal, making him the first president since Andrew Johnson to be impeached. 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 to become president himself. His initial victory was decided by the Supreme Court following a flawed vote in Florida that necessitated a recount; fourth president to lose the popular vote and first such president to be reelected. He achieved the highest approval rating ever recorded (92%), after 9/11 until this heavily plummeted because his conception and prosecution of The War on Terror came under heavy criticism.
  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 and passed what was regarded as groundbreaking health care reform in his time (though the ideas originated from Nixon, Obama was the one who finally got them passed). Left office with a 60% approval rating.
  45. Donald Trump (2017–present, Republican). Oldest president when elected to their first term (he was 70 years and 147 days old on election day, 70 years, 220 days when inaugurated); first president to have hosted a reality television show; first president not to have held any prior political (elected or appointed) or military office; allegedly the first billionaire president and also allegedly the only one richer than George Washington (even when taking inflation into account); 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. Third president to be impeached and subsequently acquitted.

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 dismissed in the traditional manner.Context  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 what happens after the 2020 election note .


There is also a band called The Presidents of the United States of America; however, no holder of this office has yet been 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 ("The Presidents") 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 still 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 leaningsnote  and most presidents from both parties standing more on the side of Civil Rights than the South from the 1950s onwards. (Fun fact: a disproportionate number of presidents have been either New Yorkers or Ohioans, at thirteen. Statistically speaking, this is likely because New York has always been 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.


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