Oh Presidents Day, usually a day noted for car dealership sales, furniture warehouse “blowouts,” and maybe even a day off of work for a lucky few. With financial sources like Forbes calling Presidents Day the new Black Friday, it’s hard to not notice the sales culture.

However, in the spirit of George Washington’s birthday, let’s dig into the good, the bad, the fun, and the ugly, that have made the office of the President so mesmerizing. Strap in and follow along, and hopefully we can find a gem for you to discuss as you wait in the checkout line.

Not Enough Swivel.

Thomas Jefferson; President, Declaration of Independence writer, Louisiana Purchase buyer, and inventor? During the process of drafting the Declaration of Independence, Jefferson decided his chair was too stationary to keep up with the sprawling drafts across multiple desks. Like any proper genius, he decided he could save time and efficiency if he could somehow swivel between the desks. Eureka! Jefferson modified his Windsor Chair with rollers from a window pane to create the swivel chair. Now Jefferson could rotate a full 360 degrees without the need of getting up. Enamored with his invention, Jefferson brought it home with him via horse carriage from Pennsylvania to his plantation in Virginia.

I Challenge You To A Duel.

Andrew Jackson, the seventh president and current $20 bill feature, was famous for his short temper. Jackson’s temper and fondness for duels led to several altercations. Historians debate Jackson’s duel count, but all agree it is somewhere between 10 and 100! Most notably was a duel with a rival horse breeder, which led to Jackson carrying a bullet in his chest for 31 years. While another against the former first Governor of Tennessee, helped build his political prowess.

Perhaps the most notorious altercation was in 1835 when Richard Lawrence attempted the first ever Presidential assassination, whilst Jackson was exiting a congressional funeral. Both of Lawrence’s guns misfired and Jackson beat him relentlessly with his cane until Jackson’s aids were able to wrestle the two apart. Assuming the rival Whig Party orchestrated the attempt, Jackson and his Vice President, Martin Van Buren, began carrying pistols on their person at all times.

Buren is A Ok.

Speaking of Martin Van Buren, the late-1830s, over which he governed, were an interesting period in American linguistics. The conclusion of the War of 1812, fought between the United States and Great Britain, produced a patriotic frenzy in America. To help further differentiate the U.S. from Britain, Americans began changing British English to American English, which would eventually bring about the Webster’s dictionary in 1828.

To piggyback on language changes, a peak in word abbreviations became popular in the mid-1830s, including joking mis-abbreviations such as  o.k. from “all correct.” Van Buren, known by the nickname “Old Kinderhook,” capitalized on the abbreviation movement and made his campaign rallying cry O.K. This led to campaign chants of “O.K. is OK.” Unfortunately for Van Buren, the voters decided he was not “all correct” in the election of 1840, but the term “ok” lived on to become common place in the American lexicon.

What in Carnation?

William McKinley, best known for his leadership during the Spanish-American War, was also known for his affinity for carnation flowers. McKinley liked to wear the flowers as a boutonnière on his suits and was famous for handing out the flowers to guests as a souvenir. A superstitious man, McKinley would often replace the flower to maintain his good luck.

On an unfortunate September day in 1901, McKinley was greeting the public after the Pan-American Exposition, when he offered his lapel carnation to one of the visitors. Instead of immediately replacing the flower, McKinley ushered the line along. Waiting in line was anarchist Leon Czolgosz, who produced a concealed pistol and shot the flowerless McKinley twice in the abdomen. McKinley passed away eight days later and Vice President Theodore Roosevelt became the 26th President.

A Bear & An Opossum.

While most people are familiar with Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt’s ties to the popular teddy bear– if not check this link –few people are familiar with the stuffed animal fights between Roosevelt and President William Howard Taft. Salesmen who wanted to extend the stuffed animal fad after the teddy bear, presented President-elect Taft with a stuffed opossum after a banquet dinner of potatoes and, you guessed it, opossum. The salesmen dubbed it “Billy Possum” and convinced Taft it was the next big thing. Marketing material for Billy Possum featured several references to the end of the teddy bear, and encouraged American youth to replace their teddies with “possums.”

After a dismal first term, President Taft’s reelection campaign in 1912 was challenged not only by Woodrow Wilson, but also by former president “Teddy” Roosevelt, who grew irritated by Taft’s performance. Political campaigns and cartoons focused on opossums and teddy bears, but ultimately Wilson defeated both. Billy Possum was relegated to the dustbin of history.

Behind Every Great Man…

After Woodrow Wilson suffered a stroke during his second term, his wife Edith Bolling Galt Wilson, a direct descendant of Pocahontas, de facto ran the executive branch. That’s right, Edith’s self-proclaimed “stewardship” of executive branch management from October 1919 to March 1921, has been referred to as our first Lady President! Edith, however, claimed she never directed any government initiatives, but simply prioritized matters needing Wilson’s attention. When Vice President Thomas Marshall arrived to determine Wilson’s ability to function for the job, Edith and Doctor Cary Grayson denied him access and provided vague updates on his health. Divisive partisanship between Republicans and Democrats denied any joint resolutions to relieve Wilson of his duties. After 17 months the Wilsons retired, having fulfilled Wilson’s second term.

Can’t get enough fun facts? Here’s a couple others to shock and wow on your next trivia night.

  • Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, the only two Presidents who signed the Declaration of Independence, both died on July 4, 1826, its 50th Anniversary. James Monroe, the second President to sign the Constitution, also died on July 4, five years later in 1831.
  • Herbert Hoover spoke Mandarin Chinese, having lived in China from 1899 to 1900.
  • Three Presidents have won Grammy awards for Best Spoken Word Album: Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama.
  • Four pairs of Presidents have been related:
    • John Adams (father), John Quincy Adams
    • William Henry Harrison (grandfather), Benjamin Harrison
    • George H. W. Bush (father), George W. Bush
  • Martin Van Buren was the first President who was born a U.S. citizen and not a British subject. Born from Dutch immigrants, English was Van Buren’s second language.
  • Calvin Coolidge pardoned a Thanksgiving raccoon, ew, and adopted it as a pet. The raccoon was added to the Coolidge pet collective or “Pennsylvania Avenue Zoo” that included dogs, cats, canaries, a black bear, and a pygmy hippopotamus.

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