Presidential Trivia: Answers

by Derrick G. Jeter

Well, how did you do on the Presidents’ Day quiz? Here are the answers to the forty-four questions if you’d like to check your work.
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  1. Samuel Huntington was the first man to received the title, “President of the United States.” Huntington served as President of the Continental Congress in 1781, when the Article of Confederation were adopted. At the ratification of the Articles Huntington’s title was changed to “President of the United States in Congress Assembled.” For this reason, the Norwich (Connecticut) Historical Society, Huntington’s hometown, claims their favorite son as the “real” first president of the United States. Most historians and Constitutional scholars agree, however, that the presidency of the Articles really didn’t constitute a presidency as we know it. The Articles of Confederation make no provision for an executive branch, while Article II, section 1 of the Constitution stipulates the title and power of the American presidency. So, conclude historians and legal scholars, Huntington may be the first man to hole the title “President of the United States,” he was by no means the first man to hold the power as president of the United States. The nine other “presidents” before George Washington (the real first president) included Thomas McKean (Delaware), John Hanson (Maryland), Elias Boudinot (New Jersey), Thomas Mfflin (Pennsylvania), Richard Henry of Lee (Virginia), John Hancock (Massachusetts), Nathaniel Gorham (Massachusetts), Arthur St. Clair (Pennsylvania), and Cyrus Griffin (Virginia).
  2. John Adams and Thomas Jefferson died within hours of each other. Adams’s last words were, “Jefferson survives.” He most certainly spoke those words believing that his old friend and political rival was still very much alive at Monticello, in Virginia. But what Adams couldn’t have known was that Jefferson died a few hours before. Adams’s words, however, still linger in truth, for Jefferson does live on in the document he authored—the Declaration of Independence—a document we celebrate every Fourth of July. It is also the date we should celebrate the lives of these two founders because it is the anniversary of their deaths, dying fifty years to the day of that day of days (in 1826).
  3. Andrew Johnson was Abraham Lincoln’s vice president in 1864. After Lincoln’s assassination, Johnson rose to the presidency. Johnson was a moderate and took a moderate hand in Reconstruction after the Civil War. The Radical Republicans who controlled Congress wanted a more heavy hand. Tensions between Johnson and Congress grew, but burst open when Johnson replaced Lincoln’s Secretary of War, Edwin Stanton with John MaAllister Schofield. On March 2, 1868, Congress passed eleven articles of impeachment against Johnson, through he was never removed from office. One hundred and thirty-one years later, on December 19, 1998, Congress passed two articles of impeachment against Bill Clinton—perjury to a grand jury and obstruction of justice in regard to a lawsuit filed by Paula Jones. Clinton was acquitted in the Senate and remained in office.
  4. Though John F. Kennedy won a Pulitzer Prize for writing an anthology of biographies of United States Senators, it was Herbert Hoover who won a Pulitzer for his presidential biography of Woodrow Wilison. His Ordeal of Woodrow Wilson was published in 1958 and became a bestseller. . . . and an award winner.
  5. Congress had a library before the War of 1812, but after the British marched through Washington D.C. and torched the Capitol, including the library, retired president Thomas Jefferson sold his 6,500-volume collection to the United States for $23,950 to replace the library. Congress wanted and needed the books, and Jefferson needed the cash—he was heavily in debt, as he was almost all his life. It took eleven wagons to transport the books from Monticello to Washington.
  6. Americans aren’t keen on the notion of royalty, dukedoms, or anything that smacks at dynasty. But twice in our nation’s history we could say we have a mini-political dynasty. First was the Adams family: John ( and John Quincy Adams (1797–1801) and John Quincy (1825–1829). Next was the Bushes: George H. W. (1989–1993) and George W. (2000–2009).
  7. Our only true “Yankee Doodle Dandy” was Calvin Coolidge, born on July 4, 1872, in Plymouth, Vermont.
  8. Most people know that John F. Kennedy is buried in Arlington National Cemetery. An eternal flame marks his gravesite. Most people don’t know that William Howard Taft is also buried in Arlington.
  9. Only one man was big enough to fill two of the biggest offices in the federal government, and that man was the biggest man to sit in the White House and don the black robes of the Chief Justice—William Howard Taft. Taft was Theodore Roosevelt’s vice president and hand-picked successor. Taft didn’t want to be president, he wanted to be chief justice, but president he became and served from 1909–1913. Out of the presidency, Taft was appointed chief justice by President Warren G. Harding in 1921 and served the court until his death in 1930.
  10. John Quincy Adams lost reelection in 1828 to Andrew Jackson. When Adams finished his presidency in the spring of 1829, and returned home to Massachusetts, he was promptly (and surprisingly) elected to the United States House of Representatives in 1830 from the Plymouth district. Andrew Johnson, the impeached but acquitted president, was elected to the United States Senate from the state of Tennessee in 1875.
  11. On Friday, March 2, 1849, David Atchison was elected president pro tempore of the Senate. Before the adoption of the 25th Amendment, setting forth an orderly transition of presidential power if the president or vice president are unable to perform their duties, the Senate pro tempore, according to Article 1, section 3 of the United States Constitution would assume power. On Sunday, March 4, at noon, the presidential administration of James K. Polk officially ended. Polk’s vice president, George Dallas, had already resigned on March 2. The president-elect, Zachary Taylor refused to take the oath of office on the Lord’s Day. Thus, there was no president or vice president on March 4, 1849, meaning that Atchison technically served as President of the United States for one day. Atchison spent the day in bed signing no legislation or executive orders. Taylor was sworn in on Monday, March 5. Atchison’s home state of Missouri erected a monument to his memory: “David Rice Atchison 1807–1886. President of the U.S. for one day, Lawyer, Statesman, and Jurist.”
  12. Martin Van Buren, William Henry Harrison, and John Tyler all served as president in 1841. The 8th president, Van Buren, completed his term on March 4, 1841. At noon on that same day, the 9th president, Harrison, was inaugurated. Harrison, however, died a month later, on April 4. Vice President Tyler then was sworn in as the 10th president.
  13. Wouldn’t you like to win one for answering all these questions correctly? Wouldn’t you just like to see one? Well, if you did the president staring back at you would be Woodrow Wilson, the creator of the Federal Reserve System.
  14. The Potomac doesn’t run exactly like it use to when John Quincy Adams was president. The river use to have a backwater that edged up to the back of the White House. Every morning Adams would take a dip—with nothing but his birthday suit on—in the cool Virginia waters. One morning an enterprising reporter, looking to get a scoop, took the president’s clothes as ransom until he granted an interview. Adams might have marched right out of the river and thumped the reporter on the head . . . if it had been a man. The reporter was Anne Royal . . . and Adams obliged her.
  15. Tragically, four presidents have fallen to an assassin’s bullet. The first and most famous was Abraham Lincoln, who was shot in the back of the head on Good Friday, April 14, 1865, in Ford’s Theater by the well-known actor, John Wilkes Booth. The second was James A. Garfield, who was shot in the chest on July 2, 1881, while waiting for a train at the Washington D.C. railroad station. The third was William McKinley, who while shaking hands at the Buffalo Pan-American Exposition was shot twice in the chest by an antiracist on September 6, 1901. The fourth, and equally as famous as Lincoln’s, was John F. Kennedy, who was shot on November 22, 1963, in the back of the head as he rode in his limousine in Dallas by Lee Harvey Oswald.
  16. Quite a few presidents have graduated from Harvard: John Adams, John Quincy Adams, and Theodore Roosevelt, just a name a few. But only one president hold a postgraduate degreed from that prestigious institution—one his enemies like to refer to as a dunce: George W. Bush, M.B.A.
  17. By all accounts many a president had it going on up in the brains department—Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, John Quincy Adams (who was probably a certifiable genius), Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama—yet only one had an earned Ph.D. . . . and that would be Woodrow Wilson, who earned his doctorate in political science at John Hopkins.
  18. Gerald R. Ford was chosen vice president by the House of Representatives, under term of the 25th Amendment, after the resignation of Spiro Agnew in 1973. Ford then succeed Richard Nixon to the presidency in 1974, after Nixon resigned in disgrace over the Watergate fiasco.
  19. James Buchanan was engaged to the beautiful and wealthy Anne Coleman, of Lancaster, Pennsylvania. They quarreled; she broke the engagement and moved to Philadelphia. At the age of twenty-three, in 1819, Anne died from an overdose of laudanum. The twenty-eight-year-old Buchanan wrote: “Life now presents to me a blank . . . my happiness buried with her in a grave.” He never married. And there is scant evidence to give any credence to the claim that he was a homosexual.
  20. Grover Cleveland was sworn in as the 22nd President of the United States in 1885. He lost his reelection bid to Benjamin Harrison, the grandson of President William Henry Harrison (the only grandfather/grandson presidential dynasty), but then turned around and bet Harrison to become the 24th president.
  21. The popular notion that Baby Ruth was named after the great baseball player, Babe Ruth is incorrect. The candy bar was actually named after the Ruth Cleveland, the baby daughter of Grover. When President Cleveland came back to the White House the second time around, Ruth was a little blond tyke and became a favorite of the press, lovingly known as Baby Ruth. She died in 1904 from diphtheria; she was thirteen.
  22. Thomas Jefferson was a widower during his two terms as president. During official functions, the wife of his close friend and political ally, Dolley Madison often served as the White House hostess. Ice cream was first served in the White House during the Jefferson Administration, but became a featured dessert during Madison’s, her husband’s, Administration.
  23. After a visit to the Maxwell House in Nashville, Tennessee, and finishing his after-dinner coffee, Theodore Roosevelt wiped his mouth and said, “Good to the last drop.” When the Maxwell family sold their coffee recipe to General Foods, TR’s off-handed remark became coffee’s slogan.
  24. The first president born outside of the original thirteen states was also the first president born in a log cabin—Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln was born near Hodgenville, in Hardin County (now Larue County), Kentucky.
  25. John F. Kennedy set the vision for putting a man on the moon before the end of the decade of the 1960s. It took almost the whole decade to fulfill that mission, but on July 20, 1969, when the Apollo 11 Lunar Lander touched down on the lunar surface Richard M. Nixon’s name and signature went along. On a plaque attached to the L.E.M. (the portion of the lander still on the moon’s face), reads: “Here men from the planet Earth first set foot upon the moon in July 1969 a.d. We came in peace for all mankind.” The plaque bears the names of Edwin Aldrin, Neil Armstrong, and Michael Collins . . . and Richard Nixon.
  26. This president was born in West Branch, Iowa, in 1874, in what is now the site of the (Herbert) Hoover Memorial. Both President Hoover and his wife, Lou, are buried there.
  27. Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, Andrew Jackson, and Abraham Lincoln all have state capitals bearing their names. Jefferson City, Missouri, was incorporated in 1825; Madison, Wisconsin, in 1846; Jackson, Mississippi, in 1833; and Lincoln, Nebraska, in 1869.
  28. The longest inaugural address was delivered by the president who served in the presidency the shortest, William Henry Harrison. Harrison, on March 4, 1841, road up to the Capitol on a white horse, on a bitterly cold inaugural day. The sixty-eight-year-old general delivered his one hour and fifty-five minute speech hatless and coatless. That evening he attended three inaugural balls before falling into bed with the chills. Harrison caught pneumonia and died a exactly a month later, on April 4. Before traveling to Washington D.C. in January, Harrison told friends in his home state of Ohio: “Perhaps this may be the last time I have the pleasure of speaking with you on earth. I will bid you farewell.”
  29. The president who delivered the shorts inaugural address was also the one who served the longest in the presidency, Franklin D. Roosevelt. On January 20, 1945, an ailing and weak President Roosevelt couldn’t even travel to the Capitol for the swearing in ceremony. Standing on the balcony of the White House, Roosevelt delivered a five-minute address to one of the smallest crowds in modern history. He would die less then four months later in Warm Springs, Georgia, on April 12.
  30. Before Herbert Hoover sat in the Oval Office there was a phone booth outside the president’s office, but Hoover didn’t want everyone listening in on his conversations so he had a phone installed in the Oval itself.
  31. “First in war, first in peace” . . . and last in war is what could be said of George Washington. In 1798, friction between the United States and its former Revolutionary War ally, France, was threatening to from a blister. President John Adams in an effort to prepare the country, just in case war broke out, and to send a psychological message to France, appointed former general and president Washington as lieutenant general of the American army. Fortunately, Washington never had to lead the army into battle against France.
  32. All-American center Gerald Ford played with the 1953 College All-Stars against the Chicago Bears. He was offered a pro contract by the Detroit Lions and the Green Bay Packers, but turn them down to attend law school at Yale (where he served as a line coach) and a career in another contact sport—politics.
  33. Only one commander in chief has actually taken the field of battle and been fired upon—James Madison. In 1814, Madison took command of an artillery battery manned by Maryland militia who were trying to repel British marines at Bladensburg, Maryland, outside of Washington D.C. Madison was forced to retreat the field and the British later torched the capital city.
  34. John Tyler was the first vice president to advance to the presidency after the death of William Henry Harrison. Members of Tyler’s party, the Whigs, were upset because Tyler seemed to act more like a Democrat and began calling him, derisively, “His Accidency.” As president, Tyler asked for a new carriage. When the carriage arrived he said, “This is a secondhand carriage.” The head of the White House livery replied: “But aren’t you a secondhand president?”
  35. This future president studied medicine at the University of Pennsylvania Medical School, under the tutelage of the country’s most renowned physician, Benjamin Rush. The president? William Henry Harrison, a favorite student of Rush. But after graduation, Harrison chose a military career over a medical career.
  36. Republican Warren G. Harding was the publisher of the Marion Star in Ohio. Curiously, his Democratic opponent in the 1920 presidential campaign was another newspaper publisher, James Cox of the Dayton Daily News.
  37. After his impeachment, Bill Clinton was notified by the Arkansas State Bar Review that his license was suspended because of his sworn misrepresentation in the Paula Jones civil case filed against him in Arkansas. He didn’t need the license anyway, Clinton has gone on to make ten of millions of dollars in speaking fees and book publishing deals.
  38. This president was probably a true genius and the most widely read and experienced man to ever enter the Executive Mansion—John Quincy Adams. Traveling to France with his father, John, JQA spend his formative years in Paris, Amsterdam, and St. Petersburg. By the time he came back to America and entered Harvard, Adams could speak fluent French, Dutch, Spanish, and of course, English—to say nothing of his knowledge of Latin and Greek. Later, under George Washington, JQA would serve as a minister to the Netherlands and Prussia, where he picked up German.
  39. We’ve had a number of tall presidents. George Washington was 6 foot 2 inches and Barack Obama is 6 foot 1 inch. Lyndon B. Johnson came close to being the tallest tree in the presidential forest but missed it by half an inch to Abraham Lincoln’s 6 foot 4 inch frame. On the other end of the presidential timber was the sapling of James Madison, measuring in at 5 foot 3 inch (just barely).
  40. When President Warren G. Harden suddenly died in San Francisco on August 2, 1923, his vice president, Calvin Coolidge was vacationing in Vermont. It took time to track down the vice president—the house he was staying at, his father’s, Justice John Coolidge—didn’t have a telephone. By the time the vice president was notified it was in the early morning. Notified by the Attorney General that a notary public could administer the oath of office, Calvin Coolidge stood in front of his father—a notary public and justice of the peace—and by the light of a kerosene lamp became the 30th President of the United States.
  41. Richard Nixon in 1973, after the deaths of Harry Truman and Lyndon Johnson, became the third president to serve without a living former president to look over his shoulder. The other two include Herbert Hoover in 1933, after the death of Calvin Coolidge and a few months before the inauguration of FDR, and Ulysses S. Grant in 1875, when Andrew Johnson passed away.
  42. The Tennessean James K. Polk served as Speaker of the House from 1835 to 1839, six years before he was sworn in as the 11th President of the United States.
  43. The dubious honor of being elected to the Confederate Congress after serving as the president of the Union goes to John Tyler. He never served in the Confederate Congress because he died suddenly in the Exchange Hotel in Richmond, Virginia before he could take his seat.
  44. John Adams called the chief executive’s home “the President’s Mansion,” as it was called in Philadelphia. When Thomas Jefferson was elected to the presidency the name changed to the Executive Mansion. Even after the mansion was burned by the British in 1814, and it was rebuilt and repainted white under orders of first lady Dolley Madison, Jefferson’s formal moniker remain—until 1905. At that time, Theodore Roosevelt began calling the mansion the “White House.” It sounded better than the Executive Mansion and stuck, and the mansion as been known as the White House ever since.
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