Presidential trivia for President’s Day

With President’s Day approaching, we thought we would compile a list of relatively obscure facts, trivia, and some interesting stories about the forty-four men that have served in the office of president for the United States’ citizens throughout our nation’s relatively young history. These are not fun trivia questions, and one of my friends informed me that people enjoy questions that they have a chance of answering correctly. For those that sit in an office, and send out trivia questions to your team members, we thought we would provide some trivia for those that want one or two questions that office workers cannot Google up as easily. (Unless they cheat and Google up this page of course.)  

10) Which president was never on a ticket that won a presidential election?

Answer: Gerald Ford. Andrew Johnson never personally won a presidential election, but he was on the 1865, winning ticket as Abraham Lincoln’s vice-president. Gerald Ford was not present on Richard M. Nixon’s 1968, winning ticket. That honor went to Spiro Agnew, originator of the famous, erudite insult “Nattering nabobs of negativism”. A third trivia question spawns from Ford’s unsuccessful run for president in 1976. The vice-president listed on his 1976 ticket was future presidential candidate Bob Dole. The victor of the 1976 election was James Earl Carter, and his vice-president was future presidential candidate Walter Mondale. Both of these vice-presidents were unsuccessful in their future runs for office. 

9) Other than President Bill Clinton, what president was successfully impeached by the House of Representatives?

Andrew Johnson
Andrew Johnson

Answer: Andrew Johnson. Both were acquitted by the Senate, but Johnson’s presidency survived by a single vote, while Clinton’s presidency survived four separate charges of impeachment. Two of the charges passed in the House of Representatives, a vote that included five Democrats voting in favor of three of the four charges. As opposed to the House’s requirement of a simple majority to impeach, the Senate required a two-thirds majority to impeach. Both of the charges brought against Clinton failed to indict the impeached president. The obstruction of justice charge  failed by seventeen votes, and the perjury charge failed to reach the two-thirds majority requirement by twenty-two votes. Some say these votes were cast along party lines, and they were, almost exclusively, while others say that the charges themselves were partisan by nature. For those that suggest that Richard Nixon was impeached, he probably would have been, but he resigned from office before impeachment proceedings could begin.  


8) Historians list President Donald J. Trump as the forty-fifth president, but he is the forty-fourth man to serve in this role. Is this a discrepancy or an error?

Grover Cleveland
Grover Cleveland

Answer: President Grover Cleveland served two terms that were non-consecutive. Thus, he is considered both the 22nd and the 24th president in U.S. History.


7) We all use the idiom O.K. to inform others that we are doing well. “I’m O.K. How are you?” Some have stated that the idiom may have been mistakenly applied to a presidential candidate to describe his qualifications for office. What president was this?

Van BurenAnswer: President Martin Van Buren. The origins of O.K. are widely disputed, and there are many theories about its etymology. The most interesting one I’ve heard comes from the candidacy of Van Buren. He was from Old Kinderhook, New York. While in office, associates and voters began referring to him as Old Kinderhook, or O.K., as opposed to New Kinderhook, or N.K., and he continued to be referred to as O.K. in speeches and in print. O.K. clubs formed in support of Van Buren, and some began to believe that this idiom referred to his qualifications when supporters began chanting that Van Buren was “O.K.” at rallies, Voters soon began to believe that he was not as “O.K.” as they once thought when they booted him from power and refused him re-election on two other, subsequent bids for the office, but those losses did not affect the power of the idiom that some believed described his qualifications. Others state that the idiom predates Van Buren, and it only achieved national prominence through Van Buren’s successful use of it.

6) Is Abraham Lincoln related to Tom Hanks?

LincolnAnswer: Abraham Lincoln and Tom Hanks were first cousins and childhood friends. Lincoln’s Mother’s maiden name was Hanks, and there was a cousin on that side named Thomas, and the two of them were quite close. So, I cheated. The star of Forrest Gump that we know today was not the same as the one that Abe palled around, but Abe did have a first cousin named Tom Hanks. Recent genealogy tests have also revealed that the Forrest Gump actor, Tom Hanks, is a third cousin, four times removed, from Abraham Lincoln, so the question and answer works both ways for those seeking to trip their friends and colleagues up. {1}

5) Many people know that George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush were the second father-son presidents, following John Adams and John Quincy Adams, but there was one former Congressman that was the son of one president and the father of another. Who was that man?

John ScottAnswer: John Scott Harrison. Congressman John Scott was the son of President William Henry Harrison, and the father of President Benjamin Harrison. Unfortunately, William Henry did not live long enough to see his John Scott win his seat in Congress, and John Scott did not live long enough to see his son, Benjamin, win the presidency. The three of them did achieve quite a legacy in politics however, and we have to feel for all of the generations of Harrisons that followed in their attempts to continue and further such an historic legacy.

4) Which president was the most successful former president?

TaftAnswer: This is debatable, of course, but one-term President William Howard Taft was the only former president to achieve a nomination of Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. In an argument devoted solely to the positions former presidents  achieved, no former president matches Taft’s level of prestige.

3) Which president survived the first attempt at an assassination?

AndrewJackson(1)Answer: Andrew Jackson. This is primarily noteworthy, in history, because after two unsuccessful attempts to fire his pistol at Jackson, failed assassin Richard Lawrence secured his place in history as not only a failed assassin, but as a man that got beat down for his efforts by an angry old man. (It is reported that after the failed attempts at taking his life, Andrew Jackson participated in the subduing of the failed assassin by beating him down with his cane.){2}

2) Which president was the first to have an underwater car?

Answer: Lyndon Baines Johnson. This question is also included less for the mind bending quality and more for the story. History has it that LBJ loved to take unsuspecting aides and dignitaries for a ride in this submersible car to a lake. When approaching the lake, LBJ would begin screaming and hollering hysterically that the brakes were failing, only to say something along the lines of “Gentlemen, I’d like to introduce you to the world’s first submersible car” when they were all underwater together.{3} One has to imagine that the feminine shrieks these dignitaries would issue when approaching the lake would eventually give LBJ a lot of power in geopolitical negotiations.

1) Other than William Henry Harrison, which president served the shortest tenure?

GarfieldAnswer: James A. Garfield. Although Garfield technically served six months and fifteen days, he was shot four months into his tenure as president. He, then, suffered for eleven weeks following this assassination attempt, while attending doctors attempted to locate the bullet. Alexander Graham Bell was even brought in with an invention called the metal detector to try and locate the bullet. Most historians and medical experts now believe that Garfield probably would have survived had the attending doctors not placed their unsterilized fingers into the president’s wounds searching for the bullet. Some have even theorized that Garfield may have had a better chance at survival if these doctors did nothing, and that it was the anti-sepsis measures these doctors employed to locate the bullet that led to Garfield’s death.{4}

*bonus) The numbers:

  1. There have been 56 presidential elections.
  2. Five future presidents lost the popular vote and become presidents.
  3. Thirteen presidents have been reelected to office and served out that second term.
  4. The youngest president to ever take office was Theodore Roosevelt. He was not yet forty-three at the time. (The interesting note on this point is that Theodore Roosevelt stated that the one bad thing about being elected so young was that I had nowhere to go but down after that.) He was not yet fifty-years-old when he decided not to seek reelection. Roosevelt assumed office after President McKinley was assassinated, and Roosevelt ended up serving almost eight years. He considered that enough at the time, but changed his mind. This might be another mind bender, who was the last president to serve seven and a half years and decide not to seek reelection.   

{1} {2} {3} {4}


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