Washington’s Birthday 2023

Commemorative half-dollar coin

I was at a meeting recently, and someone noted that the February holiday is officially Washington’s Birthday, not President’s Day. Now, I knew this, but I was fascinated that someone else was as geeky as I was.

JEOPARDY! questions

These are from the category FROM THE PRESIDENT’S MEMOIRS:

“During the 4 1/2 years of my presidency, I had never been able to establish a close relationship with Bobby Kennedy”

“On the first intelligence of Forrest’s raid, I telegraphed Sherman to send all his cavalry against him”

“I have used some of the tape transcripts that are already public”

“I ordered our men to open fire on the Spaniards in the trenches”

“The Constitution does not confer upon Congress the power to interfere with slavery in the states”

More JEOPARDY questions

This delegate to the Constitutional Convention in 1787 voted against a Bill of Rights but later drafted the one we know.

Only 3 presidents have married while in office–John Tyler was the first, and he was the last.

He was sworn in twice as president within 2 years, first by his father & then later by a former U.S. President.

AND from the recent trivia night: What are the four state capitals named for Presidents? (All answers are below.)

Oval Office holders

From here:  “When Jefferson sent Meriwether Lewis and William Clark out west to explore the Louisiana Territory in 1804, the President told the explorers to watch out for mammoths. Jefferson was apparently obsessed with mammoths and was convinced they were still alive, gallivanting in America’s wild west.”

“Franklin Pierce (November 23, 1804 – October 8, 1869) was the 14th president of the United States, serving from 1853 to 1857. He was born in New Hampshire. He served in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1833, and later he was elected to the Senate, where he served from 1837 until 1842. A heavy drinker for much of his life, Pierce died in 1869 of cirrhosis of the liver.”

Ulysses S. Grant was  posthumously promoted to ‘General of the Armies’ in 2022

Chester Alan Arthur: Obscure or underrated? I say the latter.

“Calvin Coolidge appeared with George Washington on the Sesquicentennial commemorative half-dollar coin in 1926, at which time Coolidge was both alive and serving as president of the United States. It is the first and so far only American coin to depict a president in his lifetime.”

Donald Trump’s 2024 Campaign Is Anything but “Normal”

LB Johnson, Grant, Nixon, T Roosevelt, Buchanan
Madison, Wilson, Coolidge – From The Jeopardy! Fan: “When President Harding died in August 1923, Calvin Coolidge, then Vice President, had been visiting his family in Plymouth Notch, Vermont. When the Coolidge family received word of Harding’s death, it was suggested that Coolidge receive the Oath of Office as soon as possible to preserve presidential continuity. Coolidge’s father, John Calvin Coolidge, Sr., was a Vermont notary public and justice of the peace and administered the Oath of Office. In March 1925, after Coolidge had been re-elected President, Chief Justice William Howard Taft—himself a former President—administered the Oath.”
I was vaguely aware of Coolidge’s dad, but I should have focused on the second part,  Taft as Chief Justice, which I knew cold. The first President to start his term other than on Inauguration Day after Taft’s Presidency was Coolidge.  I figured it out, but not in 30 seconds, which slightly irritated me.
Jefferson City, MO; Madison, WI; Jackson, MS; Lincoln, NE

All of the Presidents, in order

James Earl Carter

Jimmy CarterI have a confession to make: I know the names of all of the Presidents, in order. And by the years in office. Also, their political party.

It’s almost certainly a function of the fact that, as a kid, I used to read the World Almanac vociferously. As recently as 1999, at a wedding shower for my soon-to-be bride and me, she guessed correctly that it was my favorite book. (But I had never heard her mention One Hundred Years of Solitude, the novel by Gabriel García Márquez, which she indicated was her fave.)

Back in the day, I couldn’t look it up in Google. (I looked up in Google that Google started up on September 4, 1998, in Menlo Park, CA.) So I read lots of reference books growing up, including the entire Encyclopedia Americana over three years, plus the annual updates.

Knowing this stuff is helpful if you’re on some quiz show or on trivia night. “Who was President during the Franco-Prussian War?” If you know the war was in 1870-1871, then you can figure out it was U.S. Grant.


I never specifically set out to memorize them. Part of the way I learned them is by remembering all of the Presidents who died in office. There were eight of them, all between 1841 and 1963. Seven of them were elected or re-elected in years ending in zero.
William Henry Harrison, elected 1840, died in 1841
Abraham Lincoln, elected 1860, assassinated in 1865
James Garfield, elected in 1880, assassinated in 1881
William McKinley, reelected in 1900, assassinated in 1901
Warren G. Harding, elected in 1920, died in 1923
Franklin D. Roosevelt, reelected in 1940, died in 1945
John F. Kennedy, elected in 1960, assassinated in 1963

The only outlier:
Zachary Taylor, elected 1848, died in 1850
Then there was:
Richard Nixon, elected in 1968, resigned in 1974

This is why I was very worried when Ted Kennedy challenged Jimmy Carter for the Democratic nomination in the 1980 election cycle. All of Teddy’s brothers died violently, Joe in WWII, Jack, and Bobby. In fact, Reagan, who survived being shot, broke the curse, it seems.

Now, I can’t always remember the Vice-Presidents unless they became President. Tyler, A. Johnson, Arthur, T. Roosevelt, Coolidge, Truman, L. Johnson, and also Fillmore (the one I have the most difficult time remembering), and Ford ascended to the White House.

There were four Whig Presidents, who served only eight years, and over a twelve-year period: W.H. Harrison/Tyler, then after Polk, Taylor/Fillmore.

The peanut farmer

I only learned this recently about my favorite ex-President. Jimmy Carter helped stop a nuclear reactor from destroying Ottawa, ON, Canada.

“The Facebook account for the Historical Society of Ottawa… detailed how the world’s first nuclear reactor meltdown occurred… at the Chalk River Laboratories near Deep River. The post stated how a 28-year-old Carter, then a lieutenant in the U.S. Navy, was put in charge of containing the disaster after hydrogen explosions caused hundreds of thousands of gallons of radioactive water to flood into the core.”

Presidents Day 2021 (apolitical)

Reagan is the only prez born in Illinois

jimmy carterFor Presidents Day 2021, mostly apolitical stuff.

How many pairs of U.S. Presidents have had the same last name? Answer below.

“The friend in my adversity I shall always cherish most. I can better trust those who helped to relieve the gloom of my dark hours than those who are so ready to enjoy with me the sunshine of my prosperity.” – Ulysses S. Grant

June 24, 2020 — Earlier this month, a fire tore through the historic White Pine Camp in the Adirondacks. The camp served as the summer white house for President Calvin Coolidge in the 1920s. Now, the camp says it’s planning to rebuild.

Every president born before John F. Kennedy was born in the nineteenth century or earlier, making him the first twentieth-century born to become a president. He was also the first Boy Scout, and the first Roman Catholic to become president.

The  Hero Who Saved His Hero (RWR)

Game show exercise

I was watching Celebrity Who Wants to Be a Millionaire last year. One of the questions was, “What is the most common Presidential first name, with six?”
The choices were George, James, John, and William. I was fairly sure it wasn’t William (turns out there were three), and I KNEW it wasn’t George because there are Washington and the Bushes.

So I ran through the Presidents in order in my head. After the 6th, it was 2-2 (Madison, Monroe v the Adams family). #10 was John Tyler, #11 was James K. Polk. 3-3. #15 was James Buchanan, #20 was James Garfield. So it’s James because the final one was in my lifetime.

Where were they born?

Here are some Presidential facts.

More presidents were born in Virginia than in any other state – eight.
Martin Van Buren was the first president born in a state rather than a colony.
21 of the 50 states have been the birthplace of a president.

1st – Virginia 8
1 George Washington; 3 Thomas Jefferson; 4 James Madison; 5 James Monroe; 9 William Henry Harrison; 10 John Tyler; 12 Zachary Taylor; 28 Woodrow Wilson

2nd – Ohio 7
18 Ulysses S. Grant; 19 Rutherford B. Hayes; 20 James A. Garfield; 23 Benjamin Harrison; 25 William McKinley; 27 William H. Taft; 29 Warren G. Harding

3rd – New York 5
8 Martin Van Buren; 13 Millard Fillmore; 26 Theodore Roosevelt; 32 Franklin D. Roosevelt; 45 Donald J. Trump

4th – Massachusetts 4
2 John Adams; 6 John Quincy Adams; 35 John F. Kennedy; 41 George H. W. Bush

Tied for 5th
North Carolina 2 (11 James K. Polk; 17 Andrew Johnson)
Pennsylvania 2- (15 James Buchanan; 46 Joseph R. Biden)
Texas 2 (34 Dwight D. Eisenhower; 36 Lyndon B. Johnson)
Vermont 2 (21 Chester A. Arthur; 30 Calvin Coolidge)

Tied for 9th
Arkansas – 42 Bill Clinton; California – 37 Richard M. Nixon; Connecticut – 43 George W. Bush; Georgia – 39 Jimmy Carter; Hawaii – 44 Barack Obama; Illinois – 40 Ronald Reagan; Iowa – 31 Herbert Hoover; Kentucky – 16 Abraham Lincoln; Missouri- 33 Harry S. Truman; Nebraska – 38 Gerald R. Ford; New Hampshire – 14 Franklin Pierce; New Jersey 22 and 24 – Grover Cleveland; South Carolina – 7 Andrew Jackson

Five presidents have shared the same last name throughout history: Adams, Harrison, Johnson, Roosevelt, and Bush. Father/son pairs, John Adams (No. 2) fathered John Quincy Adams (No. 6), and George H.W. Bush (No. 41) fathered George W. Bush (No. 43). William Henry Harrison (No. 9) was the grandfather of Benjamin Harrison (No. 23), and the Roosevelts (Theodore, No. 26 and Franklin, No. 32) were distant cousins. If there is any relationship between Andrew Johnson (No. 17) and Lyndon B. Johnson (No. 36), it is unknown.

The latest James who was President was James Earl Carter #39.

Presidents Day: living exes

The pendulum now swings the other way

herbert hoover
Herbert Hoover, 31st President (1929-1933) lived until 1964
There have been times in this nation’s history when the United States has had only one living President, and others when we’ve had as many as six current and former Commanders-in-Chief.

Of course, George Washington was the first President (April 30, 1789-March 4, 1797). When he died on December 14, 1799, his successor, John Adams, was the only living President until March 4, 1801, when Thomas Jefferson took over.

These things wax and wane. From March 4, 1861 to January 18, 1862, Martin Van Buren, John Tyler (who died on the latter date), Millard Fillmore, Franklin Pierce, James Buchanan, and the then-current occupant, Abraham Lincoln were all alive.

Yet, a decade and a half later, the US experienced the longest period with no living ex-Presidents, from July 31, 1875, when Andrew Johnson died, until the end of Ulysses Grant’s term on March 4, 1877. Taylor (1850) and Lincoln (1865) had died in office, and other ex-Presidents died relatively shortly after leaving the office.

And then, there were none

When Grover Cleveland died on June 24, 1908, there were no living ex-Presidents until Theodore Roosevelt’s term ended in March 1909, and Howard Taft became President.

Calvin Coolidge died on January 5, 1933, making lame-duck Herbert Hoover as the only living President until Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s inauguration in March.

Richard Nixon became the only living President when Lyndon B. Johnson died on January 22, 1973 until Nixon resigned and Gerald Ford took over on August 9, 1974.

The pendulum now swings the other way.
From January 20, 1993 to April 22, 1994: Nixon (died on the latter date), Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush, Bill Clinton (incumbent)

From January 20, 2001 to June 4, 2004: Ford, Carter, Reagan (died on the latter date), GHW Bush, Clinton, George W. Bush (incumbent)

From January 20, 2017 to November 30, 2018: Carter, GHW Bush (died on the latter date), Clinton, GW Bush, Barack Obama, Trump (incumbent)

Losing for winning

Sometimes, the person who loses the popular vote wins the Presidency.
1824 – John Quincy Adams lost both the electoral and popular votes but won the election. Because none of the four candidates, including his eventual successor Andrew Jackson, won a majority in the Electoral College, the vote was sent to the House of Representatives. They decided JQ was the best man for the job.

1876 – Rutherford B. Hayes who won the disputed electoral vote v. Samuel J. Tilden who won the popular vote

1888 – Benjamin Harrison won the electoral vote v. Grover Cleveland who won the popular vote. Cleveland both preceded and succeeded Harison

2000 – George W. Bush won the electoral vote v. Al Gore who won the popular vote.

2016 = Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by 2.8 million, a lead of 48.3% to 46.2%. But her opponent received 304 electoral votes to her 227.


Why No One Can Agree on What George Washington Thought About the Relationship Between Church and State

Lincoln bible unveiled in Springfield, IL

Now I Know: Almost Saved By the Bell

Z is for Abraham Zapruder, who filmed JFK’s asassination

Presidents Day 2018: From Ghost Town to Havana

Barack Obama, the Best Wedding Guest Ever?

America, Please Stop Creating Myths about Your Presidents

Thomas Jefferson’s Silent Armies

Thomas Jefferson wrote his own epitaph never mentioning that he served as president. His epitaph read, “Author of the Declaration of American Independence, Author of the Statute of Virginia for Religious Freedom and the Father of the University of Virginia.

Her mother said they descended from ‘a president and a slave.’ What would their DNA say?

Should Trump Be Impeached? Why Founding Father James Madison Would Support Impeachment

Should Andrew Jackson Have Banned Catholics?

The Return of the President – Zachary Taylor

Aaron Copland’s A Lincoln Portrait, James Earl Jones with the Seattle Symphony; Gerard Schwarz, conductor

Guest blogger Abe Lincoln thanks the (non-idiot) people of Alabama

Lincoln Memorial

Grant Appointed General-in-Chief of Union Army: March 9, 1864

William McKinley was the first president to campaign by telephone

Teddy Roosevelt’s Secret

Warren Harding was the first president to speak over the radio

“Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.” ~ Calvin Coolidge

The first video re: Frank Buxton, R.I.P. is applicable to the category

FDR documentary

FDR and Robert Trout

Dorothea Lange’s Censored Photographs of FDR’s Japanese Concentration Camps

John F. Kennedy was the first president to hold a press conference on television

Reference in Reagan ad is to the movie Hong Kong (1952): “The theft of a jeweled treasure is within an adventurer’s grasp; he is restrained by his love for a good woman.”

Bill Clinton once lost the nuclear codes for months, and a ‘comedy of errors’ kept anyone from finding out

From Ghost Town to Havana: Two Teams, Two Countries, One Game – “But what I didn’t expect was that the whole trip happened because Corr got mad at George W. Bush”

The Verdict Is in: Guess Who’s the Worst President in US History?

May 2009: President Obama going to a Five Guys to get some burgers to go

Alabama lawyer reveals Obama’s demand for loyalty when first meeting with US attorneys

May 2016: President Obama and the First Lady hosted the Broadway cast of the musical Hamilton

Barack Obama: ‘Think before you tweet’

Barack Obama, the Best Wedding Guest Ever? Ex-President Officiates Washington Wedding

President Trump makes Disney World debut

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