Presidents Day

My wife purchased a group of plastic place mats a few months ago. On one of them is a roster of all the Presidents, including Barack Obama. For no particular reason, I started noting the frequency of their first names.

Number one was James, who showed up six times (4, 5, 11, 15, 20, 39). In second place was a surprise: John with five (2, 6, 10, 30, 35). Ah, but you say #30 was Calvin Coolidge, and so it was. But the mat noted, and stated here that he was born John Calvin Coolidge. In third place was William with four (9, 25, 27, 42). Best wishes for a speedy recovery for #42. In fourth place, with three is George (1, 41, 43), which, as with John was aided by a father-son Presidency.

There’s a tie for fifth place: Andrew (7,17), Stephen (22, 24) and Thomas (3,28). Of course, Stephen is a cheat since it’s the SAME GUY, but I didn’t determine the numbering schema; wait, we know him better as Grover Cleveland. You might wonder about #28, but he was born Thomas Woodrow Wilson.

Peculiar that none of these naming anomalies show up on the White House list of Presidents. It’s interesting to me that we’ve had as many Presidents named Richard and Benjamin and Ronald as we have named Millard and Lyndon and Barack.

I’m utterly fascinated by the Whig Presidents. There were 4 of them (9, 10, 12, 13) out of 44, or over 9%, though this will inevitably shrink, barring the party’s resurgence, but they served only 8 years out of almost 211, or less than 4% of the time. That’s because William Henry Harrison caught pneumonia from his way-too-long Inauguration speech in March 1841 and died a month later, succeeded by his Vice-President, John Tyler. Then Zachary Taylor, elected in 1848, died in 1850, succeeded by HIS VP, Millard Fillmore.

My focus on them comes in no small part from when I first learned to recite the all the Presidents in order from memory, and I can still do so, the hardest stretch involved that unimpressive group Taylor, Fillmore and Pierce. Sounds like a law firm, doesn’t it? My particular interest in Millard Fillmore derived in no small part from a high school friend’s obsession with the 1945 Joan Crawford film Mildred Pierce. Not only did I confuse Millard with Mildred, but the Pierce that followed amplified it.

Hey, coin collectors: The Millard Fillmore Presidential dollar will be available this month!

Happy Presidents Day!

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