10 Surprising Things You Didn't Know About US Presidents

Posted Apr 13, by Alison Stanton

\"\" John Quincy Adams and Herbert Hoover both had pet alligators.

Hoover’s son, Allen Henry Hoover, had 2 gators that the president sometimes let run around the White House grounds. John Quincy Adams’ gator was a gift from the Marquis de Lafayette. Adams let it live in the bathroom. Of course, neither of these eccentric presidential pet-owners hold a candle to Calvin Coolidge. In addition to his many dogs, Coolidge had a donkey, a bobcat, lion cubs, a bear, a wallaby, and a pygmy hippo.

Check out this list of presidential pets.

While Roosevelt was campaigning in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, on October 14, 1912, a saloonkeeper named John Schrank shot him, but the bullet lodged in his chest only after penetrating his steel eyeglass case and passing through a 50 page single-folded copy of the speech he was carrying in his jacket. 

After being shot, Roosevelt continued to present his speech saying “Friends, I shall ask you to be as quiet as possible. I don’t know whether you fully understand that I have just been shot; but it takes more than that to kill a Bull Moose. But fortunately I had my manuscript, so you see I was going to make a long speech, and there is a bullet—there is where the bullet went through—and it probably saved me from it going into my heart. 

The bullet is in me now, so that I cannot make a very long speech, but I will try my best.” After his speech, Roosevelt collapsed to the floor. He was then taken to the hospital. He died 6 years later. 


We tend to think of Lincoln as having this great baritone voice that carried into the crowds as he gave monumental speeches. We can’t be certain of how his voice sounded, because Thomas Edison’s phonograph was invented 12 years after Lincoln died. So, how can we know? Well, a man by the name of Holzer has written 40 books about Lincoln and the Civil War.

He has spent countless hours poring over information circulating about all his appearances and speeches to the public. He states that it is certain that Lincoln was a tenor!

It’s said that for the first ten minutes of his speech, people were shocked at his voice and accent, but soon his strong ideas and views overtook them and they could overcome his high voice and twangy accent. Just because he was a country boy with a high voice, did not mean he wasn’t intelligent and very well spoken!


On May 10th 2005, a Georgian terrorist named Vladimir Arutyunian attempted to assassinate the president of the United States, George W. Bush, along with the Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili with a grenade. 

Arutyunian waited for hours in the square that the presidents would later speak at muttering to himself in a heavy leather coat. When the speeches began, Arutyunian pulled the pin on a Soviet-made RGD-5 grenade and threw it toward the crowd. Luckily the grenade was wrapped in a silk handkerchief, which for some reason prohibited it from detonating. 

Arutyunian escaped, but was later apprehended. When intelligence agents discovered him, a gun battle ensued in which an officer was fatally shot. Artuyunian was captured and sentenced to life in prison in Georgia and should he ever be released, he will be immediately extradited to serve time in the United States. He can currently only be released by a presidential pardon. 


Brian Butterworth is a professor of cognitive neuropsychology at University College London. His research ranges from speech errors and pauses, short term memory deficits, and dyslexia to mathematics and dyscalculia. In 1984, he diagnosed Ronald Reagan with Alzheimers disease from speech errors in his Presidential re-election speeches in an article in the Sunday Times.

It was significant, because it would be another ten years before the disease was formally identified. Butterworth is a very accomplished scholar. He designed and carried out the world’s largest mathematical experiment involving over 18,000 people. The results found that women were faster at subitizing.

Subitizing is the rapid, accurate, and confident judgments of number performed for small numbers of items. The term subitizing was coined by E.L. Kaufman in 1949. Butterworth has written quite a few books during his career and given countless speeches. He has also written many professional journals.


President James Garfield was shot on July 2, 1881 by a man named Charles J. Guiteau only four months into his term as the 20th president of the United States. Guiteau was waiting for Garfield at a train station one morning. When he spotted the president he quickly approached him, shooting him twice. One bullet grazed his shoulder and the other struck the president in the back, missing his spinal cord and resting behind his pancreas. 

This is when Alexander Graham Bell comes into the story. Garfield was alive for many hours because of the nature of his injury. Unfortunately, he could have been saved if they could only have found the bullet. Doctors attempted to probe Garfield’s body for the bullet with dirty, unsterilized fingers, until Bell thought of a better way to find the bullet. 

Alexander Graham Bell devised a metal detector and attached the president to it. When he turned it on however the frequencies were disrupted because Garfield was lying on a metal spring mattress, which was very rare for time. Because of this, Alexander Graham Bell was unable to find and extract the bullet and the president passed away several hours later. Just think, history would be extremely different if Garfield had only been placed on a different bed! 


President was worried for the southern African Americans who were being terrorized by the Klu Klux Klan. In 1869, he tried to annex “Santo Domingo” for the United States of American to acquire the Dominican Republic as a U.S. territory and given the opportunity for statehood. 

He thought the island could be a safe haven for the African Americans and he thought the island could be a great source of revenue with its fertile soil and mineral resources. President Grant also hoped that the move would rid Brazil of slavery.

He ordered for two of his men to negotiate a treaty with the President of the Dominican Republic and for the U.S. Navy to protect the island during negotiations. On President Baez’s behalf, he thought it was the best move for his country and that they would have a better market to sell their goods in by agreeing to the annexation. 

He also believed the Island needed protection that the U.S. could offer, since their history was riddled with being taken over and colonized. Ultimately the Senate shot the treaty down and ended the whole thing. 


Richard Nixon has just a stellar repertoir of deeds done while he was President. Ok, he was darn good at foreign policy and opened the door with China. Well, that now has its pros and cons. His dishonesty with the Watergate situation left a permanent stain on the government. Never again will the country blindly believe and follow the President or congress. 

In addition to that, President Lyndon Johnson accused Nixon of sabotaging the Paris Peace Accords. The Paris Peace Accords were to negotiate peace on Vietnam and were just prior to the 1968 U.S. Presidential elections. 

Supposedly, Nixon representatives privately promised the South Vietnamese government that a Republican administration would offer them a better deal than a Democratic one would. So, South Vietnam withdrew from the peace negotiations just before the elections. 

This totally messed up the Democrats campaign, because it heavily relied on promoting the peace initiative. President Johnson called what Nixon did treason, but no one was ever criminally charged. I don’t think we’ll call Nixon’s presidency the most moral of them all.


Roosevelt visited Hawaii in the summer of 1934. He visited what is called the Big Island, which is where Kilauea volcano is located. While he was there, he went to the Kilauea crater, where he sacrificed some ohelo berries out of respect to Hawaiian legend. 

The legend calls for the berries to be given to Pele, the goddess of fire using the crater. Interestingly, the Kilauea volcano erupted shortly after Roosevelt’s visit in July. It erupted in September, just two months after the president’s visit. Violent eruptions are not extremely frequent for the volcano, which didn’t erupt again until 1952. The volcano is known as a “drive-in” volcano nowadays. 

The action around the volcano is very mild. Visitors to the site can approach the volcano and walk the cooled lava rock in relative safety. Nevertheless, it has been slowly active since 1983. Although the volcano is calm now, at one point it was highly violent and dangerous. Back in 1959, there was a violent eruption that spewed magma up 1,900 feet in the air. 


We may be on to the 21st century, but John Tyler, a president born in the 18th century still has two grandchildren alive. These grandchildren are named Lyon Gardiner Tyler, Jr. and Harrison Ruffin Tyler. 

Lyon was born in 1924 and Harrison was born in 1928. They are both the children of Lyon Gardiner Tyler. 

And if you’re saying to yourself, ‘so what?' consider that Abraham Lincoln, born in 1809, has no living descendants. John Tyler had many children. He had eight children with his first wife Leticia Christian Tyler: 5 daughters and 3 sons. Unfortunately, one of the daughters, Anne Tyler, died as an infant. 

With his second wife, Julia Gardiner Tyler, John Tyler had 7 children. One of those 7 children was Lyon Gardiner Tyler. Unfortunately for John Tyler, though he was successful in fathering many children, he was less successful as a president. 

Overall, historians consider Tyler a poor president. Still, Tyler’s name can still be found, especially in Virginia, where he was from. Several colleges, cities and roads carry his name. And, of course, Tyler lives on in his two living grandchildren. 


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