43 American Presidents Ranked In Order Of Their IQs

Just how smart do you have to be to win an American presidential election? Well, it helps if you have some brains to work with, as all of these 43 presidents have exceptionally high IQs – well over the U.S. average of 98. We know this because professor Dean Simonton, a psychologist from the University of California, Davis, totted up the evidence and used biographical information to make his informed estimates. So, who’s the most intelligent man to have ever stepped into the Oval Office? Read on and find out…

43. Ulysses S. Grant – 130

Ulysses S. Grant may be low on this list, but that doesn’t mean he was dumb by any stretch. Nowadays, in fact, his estimated IQ of 130 is a whole 32 points above the average American’s. Grant was the 18th president, serving two terms from 1869, although he’s arguably just as well-remembered as a Unionist Civil War general. And since he was on the winning side of the conflict, that suggests he was indeed pretty smart after all.

42. George W. Bush – 138.5

As you may well remember, George W. Bush served two terms as president until he was succeeded by Barack Obama. However, his tenure – which spanned from 2001 to 2009 – was far from an easy ride. Famously, 9/11 happened on his watch. That tragedy was then followed by the American invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq – events that would have tested any leader to the limit. But despite his verbal gaffes, the 43rd President of the United States is no intellectual slouch. In his study, professor Simonton wrote that Bush Jr. is “in the upper range of college graduates in raw intellect.”

41. James Monroe – 138.6

The fifth president, James Monroe served from 1817 to 1825. Interestingly, he was also the last man to hold office who could lay claim to being one of the Founding Fathers. But he apparently wasn’t particularly flashy or boastful about his considerable achievements. According to the White House website, one woman from Virginia who met Monroe described him as “tall and well-formed, his dress plain and in the old style. His manner was quiet and dignified.” He was also bright enough to learn law under Thomas Jefferson.

40. William Howard Taft – 139.5

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William Howard Taft came to the presidency in 1909 – making him the 27th man to ever do so. Though he did little to distinguish himself during his single term in office. In fact, you could say that Taft only came into his own following his departure from the White House. Eventually, you see, he became a professor of law at Yale. And in 1921 he even took the position of United States Chief Justice – a demanding role that naturally requires a keen intellect.

39. James Buchanan – 139.6

James Buchanan was the 15th president – serving a single term from 1857 during the years leading up to the Civil War. As you’d expect, his presidency was marked by rising tensions as the conflict loomed. According to the White House website, Buchanan was “gifted as a debater and learned in the law.” Those qualities are also reflected in his IQ, which is well above the average and within the top two percent of scores.

38. Andrew Johnson – 139.8

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Andrew Johnson had the unenviable job of becoming president after his predecessor Abraham Lincoln had been assassinated in 1865. That meant he took office during the period of reconstruction after the horrors of the Civil War – a task that practically demanded smarts. But as you may remember from history classes in high school, Johnson doesn’t exactly have a shining legacy. He was the first American leader to face impeachment and was acquitted by the Senate by just one vote. Johnson later continued in politics as a Tennessee senator.

37. Zachary Taylor – 139.8

Zachary Taylor became the 12th U.S. president back in 1849 – although it wasn’t a role he’d hold for long. In fact, his most enduring achievements came before his term in office. Taylor’s role as a general during both the Mexican-American and 1812 wars had made him somewhat of a folk hero. Unfortunately, less than a year and a half into his presidential term, he was struck down by gastrointestinal disease and ultimately died after a five-day illness.

36. Harry S. Truman – 139.8

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A matter of weeks after being elected vice president, Harry S. Truman found himself thrust into the top job when the incumbent Franklin D. Roosevelt died in April 1945. But Truman made his own mark soon after – helping end WWII when he ordered atomic bombs to be dropped on Japan. The White House website quotes Truman’s recollections of becoming president, with the leader having said, “I felt like the moon, the stars and all the planets had fallen on me.”

35. Warren G. Harding – 139.9

Warren G. Harding won his bid to become president in 1921 – and on his 56th birthday, too. This triumph came after a successful spell as a newspaper publisher and time as a senator representing Ohio. Harding was also said to have been a strong supporter of votes for women. All this suggests some savvy, and yet Harding is actually remembered as one of the worst U.S. presidents, as he didn’t appear to know which direction to take the country.

34. George Washington – 140

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It was in 1789 that George Washington became the very first President of the United States. And his estimated IQ score of 140 means that he can be classed as exceptionally clever – almost at genius level, in fact. This makes sense, as Washington famously commanded the armies that eventually saw off the British in the Revolutionary War. That’s hardly the achievement of a mediocre military man.

33. Gerald Ford – 140.4

After the Watergate scandal forced Richard Nixon to resign, Gerald Ford became his successor in August 1974. And as Ford was inaugurated, he reflected on the tumultuous times by saying, “I assume the presidency under extraordinary circumstances. This is an hour of history that troubles our minds and hurts our hearts.” The 38th President of the United States needed all the resources that his considerable intelligence gave him to steer America right again.

32. Lyndon B. Johnson – 140.6

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Lyndon Johnson was another man unexpectedly catapulted into the presidency – in his case, in the aftermath of President Kennedy’s assassination. And Johnson inherited the latter’s ambition to fly men to the Moon, which he pursued with enthusiasm. Less welcome was the escalation of the Vietnam War and the civil rights crisis for African Americans. But after his first brief tenure as president, Johnson nevertheless went on to resounding victory in the 1964 election.

31. Calvin Coolidge – 141.6

Calvin Coolidge was vice president when Warren Harding died in 1923 and so succeeded him in office. And as his IQ testifies, he had a keen intellect. Before his political career, Coolidge used his smarts to train as a lawyer before starting his own law firm in 1898. He also stood for a second term in 1924 – winning that election with a convincing popular vote majority of 2.5 million.

30. Herbert Hoover – 141.6

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By the time that Herbert Hoover gave his inaugural presidential speech in 1929, he was already a millionaire businessman. And since he had achieved all of this despite humble beginnings – his father was a blacksmith – it’s perhaps evidence of his ready intelligence. But Hoover wasn’t mean with his money. He gave the entirety of his presidential salary to charitable organizations, in fact, and possessed an international reputation for philanthropy.

29. Ronald Reagan – 141.9

Before his two terms as president, Ronald Reagan famously enjoyed a successful career in Hollywood. But while the Gipper could have easily added to his screen resume for many more decades, he decided instead to run for – and win – the position of Governor of California. And Reagan was 69 when he defeated Jimmy Carter in the 1980 election. This made him the oldest man to become his country’s leader at that time. Now, many credit him with ending the Cold War with the Soviet Union – no mean feat.

28. Barack Obama – 142+ (estimated)

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Barack Obama served two terms as the 44th president from 2009. There has been no official assessment of his IQ, though it is estimated to be 142 at a minimum. This figure is derived from the fact that Obama attended Harvard where he studied law. The average IQ of graduates from Ivy League colleges like Harvard is 142. So it’s an entirely plausible assumption that Obama – an outstanding student who was the first African-American to be the Harvard Law Review’s president – has an IQ of at least that level.

27. Richard Nixon – 142.9

Richard Nixon’s main achievement as president was to end America’s military offensive in Vietnam. But, of course, this point of pride was almost completely overshadowed by the Watergate affair. The scandal memorably led Nixon to resign, and to date, he remains the only president ever to have done so. Yet the 37th President of the U.S. was smarter than his blemished record may suggest. As a younger man, he had even won a scholarship to Harvard – although he ultimately couldn’t afford the other costs that came with receiving an Ivy League education.

26. George H. W. Bush – 143

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George H. W. Bush was the first member of his family to become president when he won the 1988 election. And he had the smarts to serve him well in the role. The White House website claims that, while studying at Yale, the young Bush “excelled both in sports and in his studies. He was captain of the baseball team and a member of Phi Beta Kappa.” Despite his undoubted talents, though, he ultimately lost out on a second term to Bill Clinton.

25. William McKinley – 143.4

William McKinley took office as America’s 25th president in 1897. And history perhaps remembers him best as the leader who achieved victory for his country in the Spanish-American War. Before politics dominated his life, McKinley had gone to college and had been a teacher when the American Civil War erupted. After that, he put his smarts to studying law and eventually opened a private practice. Marrying a banker’s daughter was a pretty savvy move, too.

24. James K. Polk – 143.4

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Way before becoming president in 1845, James K. Polk was a diligent honors student at the University of North Carolina. Then, like so many politicians, he went on to work as a lawyer before heading to Washington, D.C. And after military action against Mexico, Polk made one of his smartest moves. He snapped up California and New Mexico for the U.S. for just $15 million. Surely, that’s one of the best bargains in U.S. history.

23. Grover Cleveland – 144

In 1884 Grover Cleveland became the first Democrat to emerge victorious in a presidential race since the end of the Civil War. This wouldn’t be the only election he would win, either. Famously, Cleveland left the White House at the end of his first term in 1889 – though he became president once again in 1893. And despite financial hardship that meant he had to leave formal education at 16, the future leader stuck at part-time study and succeeded in passing his bar exams.

22. Andrew Jackson – 145

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Andrew Jackson was the seventh U.S. president – serving two terms from 1829 to 1837. Apparently, he received little structured education as a youngster. Though according to the White House website, Jackson still had the gumption and intelligence to “[become] an outstanding young lawyer in Tennessee.” Mind you, Jackson also had a hair-trigger temper. In 1806 he fought a duel with a man who had allegedly defamed his wife – shooting him dead.

21. Dwight D. Eisenhower – 145.1

Dwight D. Eisenhower first came to fame as a commander of the Allied forces that helped crushed Hitler’s Nazis in western Europe in 1945. He was perhaps the most accomplished military man of his day, in fact, with an outstanding intellect. And after his landslide 1952 election victory, Eisenhower went on to negotiate a truce in the Korean War that fortunately brought an end to the bloodshed.

20. Benjamin Harrison – 145.4

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Before winning the 1888 election, Benjamin Harrison was known as an exceptional lawyer. And that wasn’t the extent of his achievements prior to taking the highest office in the land. You see, Harrison also rose to the rank of colonel with the Unionist forces in the Civil War. Despite all this, the 23rd President of the United States was only elected by virtue of his victory in the Electoral College, as he actually lost the popular vote.

19. Martin Van Buren – 146

Martin Van Buren was elected in 1837 after serving as vice president to Andrew Jackson for two terms. He had a nifty nickname, too, being known as the “Little Magician” because of his relatively diminutive height. And though Van Buren left school at 14, he still proved his intelligence by taking a law apprenticeship and passing his bar exams before entering office.

18. William Henry Harrison – 146.3

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Having defeated the incumbent Martin Van Buren in the 1840 election, William Henry Harrison briefly served as America’s ninth president. He had born into what the White House website describes as the “Virginian planter aristocracy” – making him more privileged than most. Despite this, though, Harrison managed to present himself to the public as “a simple frontier Indian fighter, living in a log cabin and drinking cider.” And this was despite the fact that he possessed a history and classics degree from Hampden-Sydney College.

17. Rutherford B. Hayes – 146.3

Rutherford B. Hayes triumphed in the election of 1876, at a time when the national wounds of the Civil War were still healing. Hayes had previously studied law at Harvard and went on to fight with the Unionists in the Civil War – attaining the rank of brevet major general. But perhaps he stayed sharper than the average bear by avoiding booze. Hayes even went so far as to banish liquors and wines from the White House – an order carried out by his wife.

16. Franklin Pierce – 147.4

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Franklin Pierce came to office in 1853 as America’s 14th president. And as was the case with many who have held the same office, he both studied and practiced law before moving into politics. Personal tragedy marked Pierce’s days as president, though, as not long before he was inaugurated, his 11-year-old son died in a railroad crash. The president and his wife were both on the train when it happened.

15. John Tyler – 148.1

When William Henry Harrison died after just 32 days in office, his vice president John Tyler succeeded him. That made Tyler the first man to earn the top job without an election – leading to his political enemies rather cruelly calling him “His Accidency.” Tyler attended the College of William and Mary, where, almost inevitably, he had studied law.

14. Millard Fillmore – 149

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Millard Fillmore became the 13th president in 1850 – stepping up from the position of vice president when his predecessor Zachary Taylor died in office. He was a member of the Whig party and the last president to hold office who was neither a Democrat nor a Republican. Fillmore also apparently had a rough and ready early education. Though his high IQ was evident when – despite his difficult beginnings – he succeeded in being admitted to the bar in 1823.

13. Abraham Lincoln – 150

Abraham Lincoln will always be known as the man who signed into law the Emancipation Proclamation – finally bringing an end to slavery in the United States. That was by no means his only achievement, of course, as he was also the president who led the Unionist forces to victory in the Civil War. And, incredibly, Lincoln rose to lead his country despite only 18 months or so of formal education – surely a testimony to his fierce intelligence.

12. Franklin D. Roosevelt – 150.5

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Franklin D. Roosevelt’s presidency began during one of the most difficult periods of U.S. history: the Great Depression. It was lucky, then, that FDR had the brains to help put the country back on track. A high-achieving scholar who had studied at both Harvard University and Columbia Law School, Roosevelt started on the road to the White House in 1910 with his election to the New York Senate. But his presidency wasn’t a smooth run even after the success of the New Deal. FDR would be greatly tested again, you see, by America’s entry into WWII in 1941.

11. Chester A. Arthur – 152.3

The son of an Irish immigrant, Chester A. Arthur came to the presidency in 1881 after James Garfield had been assassinated. He was a graduate of New York State’s Union College and passed the bar in New York City – making him yet another lawyer to earn the most prestigious job in the land. Within a year of succeeding to the presidency, though, Arthur was diagnosed with terminal kidney disease – a condition he kept under wraps. And, ultimately, he failed to win the Republican nomination for the 1884 election.

10. James Garfield – 152.3

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After a long political career – including 17 years in the House of Representatives – James Garfield won the 1880 election to become the 20th President of the United States. He had been a talented scholar, too, displaying a particular aptitude for Greek and Latin. And as history buffs will know, Garfield fought on the Unionist side during the Civil War, rising to the rank of brigadier general. Sadly, though, Garfield is one of the four American presidents to have been assassinated in office.

9. Theodore Roosevelt – 153

Vice president when William McKinley was assassinated, Theodore Roosevelt succeeded to the highest office in September 1901 when he was just 42. The youngest-ever president, he had previously graduated magna cum laude from Harvard before studying law at Columbia. And the man who would become universally known as Teddy distinguished himself in combat, too – becoming a well-known figure during the Spanish-American War as the leader of the Rough Riders. Roosevelt went on to nab a second term in the election of 1904.

8. John Adams – 155

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John Adams was famously the first vice president to George Washington before earning the top job himself. And in a comment that perhaps reflects Adams’ considerable intelligence, the White House website describes him as “more remarkable as a political philosopher than as a politician.” In any case, he was an excellent student, gaining a scholarship to Harvard and ultimately earning a master’s degree at the prestigious Ivy.

7. Woodrow Wilson – 155.2

Woodrow Wilson’s two terms as president placed him in power as WWI raged. And Wilson maintained America’s neutrality in the conflict until 1917 when, as he famously put it, the U.S. jumped in to “make the world safe for democracy.” But despite his high IQ, the commander-in-chief was apparently a poor student as a boy. Some suspect that he may have been dyslexic, which could explain a lot.

6. James Carter – 156.8

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Before rising to president in 1976, Jimmy Carter had studied at the elite Naval Academy in Annapolis, Georgia, graduating in the top 10 percent of students. Then, after he had served in the U.S. Navy for seven years, he took over his family’s Georgia peanut farm following the death of his father. Still, while Carter may be very smart indeed, it wasn’t enough to take him to a second term. Famously, his presidency was blighted by the Iran hostage crisis, which ended only after Reagan took office.

5. William J. Clinton – 159

By common consensus, Bill Clinton oversaw an extraordinary period of prosperity in the States, with unemployment and inflation both remaining at low levels for much of his two terms in office. Well before winning the 1992 election, Clinton had excelled as a student, too, winning a Rhodes Scholarship to England’s University of Oxford. But for all his smarts, Clinton couldn’t keep his hands to himself, and an affair with intern Monica Lewinsky tarnished his tenure – as well as his legacy.

4. John F. Kennedy – 159.8

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John F. Kennedy became president aged just 43 – making him one of the youngest men ever elected to America’s highest office. As a boy, though, he wasn’t a conscientious student and often got into trouble. Biography.com even claims that a young JFK “[preferred] sports, girls and practical jokes to coursework.” Eventually, of course, he applied himself, and his all-too-brief time in office is still well thought of today.

3. Thomas Jefferson – 160

One of the Founding Fathers, Thomas Jefferson was inaugurated as America’s third president in 1801. And he was a man of high principles, as is clear from a letter he composed just before his election win. Jefferson wrote, “I have sworn upon the altar of God eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man.” Not only that, but he was reputedly one of the best-schooled lawyers in America. Perhaps that helps explain his super-high IQ.

2. James Madison – 160

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James Madison won the presidential election of 1808, succeeding Thomas Jefferson in the White House and serving for two terms. Plagued by poor health throughout his life, Madison received much of his education at his family’s estate in Orange County, Virginia. He proved himself, too, by going on to attend the College of New Jersey – the forerunner of Princeton University. Madison is often called the “Father of the Constitution” because of his diligent work in drafting the document.

1. John Quincy Adams – 175

John Quincy Adams – the eldest son of second president John Adams – won the 1824 election to become the sixth President of the United States. He apparently also had an outrageously high IQ, which probably stood him in good stead when in office. In any case, he was smart enough to be a fluent speaker of Dutch, French and German as well as English. Adams studied at Harvard, too – testament enough to his incredible intellect.

So, America’s leaders have generally been brighter than most – according to professor Simonton, anyway. But what else do you remember from history class? Probably not any of these juicy presidential secrets, as some of them are too scandalous, gruesome or just plain bizarre for your teachers to have read out loud…

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40. John Adams and Thomas Jefferson had a serious rivalry – right down to the end

As American history aficionados will know, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson served as the second and third presidents of the U.S., respectively. Yet while the two men’s shared political aspirations brought them together, there was also a serious rivalry between the pair. And this spirit of competition only ceased when both died on the same day: July 4, 1826. In fact, just before he passed away, Adams muttered, “Thomas Jefferson survives.” At that time, you see, he had no idea that his long-time adversary had himself died a few hours beforehand.

39. Adams and Jefferson had sneaky streaks, too

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Even though they competed against each other, Adams and Jefferson maintained a friendship that had time for some mischievous fun. At one point, for instance, the pair traveled across the pond and toured Shakespeare’s former residence in Stratford-upon-Avon, England. And while there, Jefferson and Adams splintered off a piece of the poet and playwright’s chair to bring home as a souvenir.

38. Franklin Pierce helmed a horse-drawn hit-and-run

Historians don’t have a fond regard for Franklin Pierce; indeed, many consider him as among the country’s most calamitous presidents. And Pierce certainly didn’t do himself a favor, either, when he was placed under arrest during his term. Specifically, the commander-in-chief was apprehended on suspicion of running over a woman while riding his horse, although a dearth of evidence ultimately saw the charge dropped.

37. Ulysses S. Grant loved a cigar break

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Ulysses S. Grant took the Union Army to victory during the Civil War before becoming a two-term president of the country he saved. And behind the scenes, the military man had a vice that he loved to indulge: cigar smoking. It’s said, in fact, that Grant puffed on a minimum of 20 stogies a day – a habit that likely contributed to his death from throat cancer on July 23, 1885.

36. William Howard Taft got lodged in the White House bathtub

Photos of William Howard Taft show that he was not a small man by any means. It’s even been recorded that the 27th president tipped the scales at 325 pounds. Bearing this in mind, then, it seems plausible that Taft got stuck in a bathtub at one point during his presidency. Rumor has it, too, that his advisers had to come and assist him.

35. James K. Polk didn’t need anesthesia for surgery

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Obviously, healthcare treatment options have come a long way since James K. Polk’s tenure as U.S. leader in the first half of the 19th century. And well before he became the country’s 11th president, Polk had to endure the rudimentary medical practices of the day. The then-17-year-old North Carolinian had kidney stones that needed to be taken out, so he simply drank some brandy to quell the agony and remained awake while doctors cut out the offending lumps.

34. Calvin Coolidge loved a morning head rub

The nation’s 30th president, Calvin Coolidge, earned a reputation for his brand of acerbic humor. But the former governor of Massachusetts wasn’t joking when he made a very specific request each morning. Rather strangely, Coolidge would ask someone to massage Vaseline onto his scalp; at the same time as this was going on, moreover, the president would indulge in breakfast.

33. Andrew Jackson nearly assassinated his intended assassin

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Andrew Jackson had a long-established reputation for his fighting prowess; indeed, some estimate that he partook in more than 100 duels during his lifetime. So, when an assassin popped out from behind a White House column in 1835, the former general knew what to do. He repeatedly hit the man, whose pair of guns had both misfired. And it was a surprising defeat for the would-be killer, given that Jackson was 67 years old at the time.

32. Jimmy Carter swore he saw an alien once

Jimmy Carter earned a Nobel Peace Prize after his single term in the White House. Clearly, then, he may have the necessary tools to broker a positive relationship between the people of our planet and the inhabitants of the UFO that he reportedly spotted in 1969. Carter later called the supposed spaceship “the darndest thing [he’d] ever seen.”

31. Truman had a false initial

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Although Harry S. Truman faced criticism following his time in office, historical consensus now deems the 33rd president one of the greats. What no one seems to remember, however, is what his middle initial stands for. But there’s a reason for that: the “S” doesn’t actually allude to a shortened version of any name. Yes, Truman’s parents simply gave him a single letter as a second name in tribute to his grandfathers Solomon Young and Anderson Shipp Truman.

30. John Quincy Adams believed in a hollow Earth – and mole people

The son of America’s second president, John Quincy Adams had the smarts to become commander-in-chief himself in 1825. But Adams did have some strange beliefs. For instance, he believed that Earth was actually a hollow ball with layers inhabited by mole people. And in order to prove this outlandish theory, the 19th-century leader almost used taxpayers’ money to send explorers down below. Ultimately, though, neither the voyage nor the proof came to be.

29. James A. Garfield had the perfect pen-based party trick

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Surprisingly, James A. Garfield remains the only sitting member of the House of Representatives to be elected president. Perhaps more impressive, though, is the fact that the unarguably handy leader of the free world was ambidextrous, and he used this skill to write in two different languages – Greek and Latin – simultaneously.

28. Abraham Lincoln knew how to pour a great drink

With his many accomplishments, Abraham Lincoln made an indelible mark on history. Famously, the 16th president not only led the nation through the Civil War and kept the union intact, but he also abolished slavery. Before rising to power, though, Lincoln led a much simpler life. He was a licensed bartender, in fact, and was a joint owner of an Illinois watering hole called Berry and Lincoln.

27. Franklin Pierce earned an embarrassing nickname while at war

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Some men return home war heroes; others, though, come back from battle under somewhat of a cloud of ignominy. And Franklin Pierce fell firmly into that second camp after his spell fighting in the Mexican-American War. You see, the future leader succumbed to a groin injury when he was thrust into his horse’s pommel during combat. And as the pain was so intense, he ultimately fell unconscious – earning himself the embarrassing moniker of “Fainting Frank” as a consequence.

26. The Japanese had to invent a new word to explain George H.W. Bush’s behavior

In 1992 George H.W. Bush was dining with the Japanese prime minister when he rather unfortunately vomited mid-meal. Then, after that stroke of bad luck, the locals came up with a new word, “Bushusuru,” which means “to do the Bush thing.” The “Bush thing” they spoke of, of course, was yakking in public.

25. James Buchanan may have broken his fianceé’s heart irreparably

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While James Buchanan remains the only president to date to have been a lifelong bachelor, he had actually been betrothed in the early 1800s to Ann Coleman. Coleman finished things, though, when rumors swirled that Buchanan had gone on a trip to see another woman. And within days of ending the engagement, Buchanan’s former beloved was dead from what was described as hysterical convulsions. Some believed, by contrast, that she overdosed on a type of opium that was used to fight sleeplessness at the time.

24. Benjamin Harrison was too afraid to turn off the lights

During Benjamin Harrison’s tenure in the White House, the historic building finally became properly wired for electricity. Yet this novelty didn’t delight the 23rd president; on the contrary, it terrified him. Harrison was so worried about getting electrocuted, in fact, that he refused to put his hands on any light switches.

23. Millard Fillmore married his schoolteacher

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From a poverty-stricken start, Millard Fillmore built himself up from being the son of a New York tenant farmer to an attorney. Then, of course, he ultimately became the 13th President of the United States of America. But while much of Fillmore’s success may have stemmed from his academic achievements, that wasn’t all education ultimately brought him. You see, one Abigail Powers taught the future commander-in-chief while he was a 19-year-old pupil at the New Hope Academy. And after having embarked on a romance, the pair finally wed in 1826.

22. William McKinley and his pet parrot would sing duets together

While William McKinley arguably stands as one of the better leaders in American history, his contributions to the country are sometimes eclipsed by those of his successor Theodore Roosevelt. Yet there’s at least one thing that sets McKinley apart from the crowd. You see, the 25th president owned a pet parrot named Washington Post, and together man and bird would whistle “Yankee Doodle Dandy” together for White House guests.

21. JFK was part of a love triangle that involved a movie star… and his own brother

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While in the White House, John F. Kennedy reportedly had a saucy affair with Marilyn Monroe, who had caught his eye at an event in 1962. But although this liaison is said to have ultimately ended at the president’s behest, Monroe’s involvement with the family apparently didn’t stop there. According to legend, JFK’s younger brother and Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy had a fling with the actress, too.

20. Grover Cleveland worked as an executioner

Before he became the 22nd – and then the 24th – President of the United States, Grover Cleveland held the position of Erie County, New York’s sheriff. And over the course of his nearly three-year term in the job, he was at the helm of a pair of executions, putting the trap in motion so that the two men would each fall to their deaths. Following such grisly business, then, locals started to refer to Cleveland as the “Buffalo Hangman.”

19. Franklin Delano Roosevelt married his cousin

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Experts rank Franklin Delano Roosevelt as one of the top three leaders that America has ever seen. And that standing is well-earned, too; after all, the 32nd president led the country through both the Great Depression and World War II during his four terms in office. Nearly 30 years before taking on such a major role in American history, however, he had married his cousin Eleanor. Handily, too, the future First Lady’s last name was already Roosevelt, meaning she had no need to change it following her wedding.

18. George Washington’s smile wasn’t the best

As the first President of the United States, George Washington played a pivotal role in making the nation what it is today. It seems, though, that Washington’s dentist had a much harder time in shaping replacements for the leader’s terribly decayed teeth. As a consequence, then, the Founding Father wore brass screws in his mouth as well as chompers made from ivory and springs.

17. Lincoln won almost 300 wrestling matches in his lifetime

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In just one example in a lengthy list of accomplishments, Lincoln could boast of being a top-tier athlete. The 16th president even landed a spot in the Wrestling Hall of Fame for his prowess on the mat – although this accolade came more than a century after his death. Regardless, the honor was earned, as Lincoln apparently won all but one of his estimated 300 wrestling matches.

16. McKinley’s good luck charm may have been too good

Before President McKinley stepped out in public, he often attached a red carnation to his lapel that he believed brought him good fortune. In 1901, however, while he greeted people in a line, he decided to take off his flower and hand it to a nearby child. And McKinley had barely removed the lucky blossom when disaster struck. It was during this event, you see, that he was shot. The president would go on to die from gangrene just over a week later.

15. Carter admitted to being unfaithful… at least, in his mind

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In the lead-up to the 1976 presidential election, pundits wondered if Jimmy Carter seemed a little too righteous to the American voter. The Democratic candidate changed all that, however, with an admission that he made in Playboy magazine just months before people hit the polls. There, Carter revealed, “I’ve looked on a lot of women with lust. I’ve committed adultery in my heart many times.” Nonetheless, the otherwise upstanding Georgia governor won the election.

14. Gerald Ford once worked as a model

The American public arguably saw Gerald Ford as a bit of a dorky character – an image perpetuated in part by his portrayal on Saturday Night Live. Before he became the 38th president, though, Ford had actually been pretty cool. At one point, he was even a male model and found a spot posing on the cover of Cosmopolitan magazine.

13. Warren G. Harding may have had a poker problem

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People may have loved Warren G. Harding when he served as the nation’s 29th president, but many hidden scandals have posthumously come to light that tarnish his image. And here’s just one small example of his questionable character. Apparently, Harding had a weekly poker night at the White House, and during one of these evenings he allegedly gambled away an entire set of his presidential china in a bad bet.

12. George W. Bush had serious team spirit

As the former governor of Texas, George W. Bush wasn’t a stranger to being in power before he clinched the presidency in 2000. And you can trace his lead-from-the-front habit all the way back to his academic years at Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts. There, Bush rose through the ranks of one of his high school’s sports teams. More specifically, he served as the captain of the cheerleading squad.

11. John Quincy Adams had a regular skinny-dipping date

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Even when John Quincy Adams led the nation, the White House wasn’t short of a bathroom or two in which to luxuriantly bathe. The sixth president didn’t always take advantage of the facilities on offer to him, though. Instead, he preferred to wake up during the wee small hours, head to the Potomac River and go for a swim in the buff.

10. Chester A. Arthur updated the White House with funds from an antiques sale

Chester A. Arthur suffered from poor health that made him less proactive than other U.S. presidents. Still, he somehow found the strength – and cash – to redecorate his official residence. And Arthur ushered in a new White House aesthetic after selling two dozen wagons’ worth of historical items, including a piece of clothing once owned by Lincoln.

9. One of Taft’s famous dinners inspired an unpopular American toy

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After the teddy bear took over the American toy market, manufacturers braced themselves for the cuddly phenomenon’s eventual fall in popularity. In search of the next big thing, then, then, toymakers drew inspiration from one of President Taft’s most over-the-top dinners at which he apparently consumed possum. And from there, the idea for the stuffed animal Billy Possum was born. Perhaps unsurprisingly, though, the replica marsupials didn’t quite catch on.

8. Harding had a couple of explosive affairs

The legacy of Harding’s presidency has been marred by scandals in both his professional and personal lives. Behind the scenes, for example, he had an affair with Carrie Fulton Phillips, who was married to one of his wife’s confidantes. Then, more than 80 years after Harding died, DNA tests confirmed that the president had not only indulged in an extramarital liaison with Nan Britton, but that he had also fathered her daughter.

7. Herbert Hoover wanted helpers neither seen nor heard

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Partly owing to his poor response to the Great Depression, Herbert Hoover failed to win more than a single term in office. And it seems as though he handled his household with little care, too. Apparently, Hoover never wanted to look at any of the White House servants, so these employees had a decision to make when the president entered a room: either hide or get canned after being spotted.

6. Buchanan may have had relationships with men, too

Yes, while Buchanan may have famously remained a bachelor, he may not actually have been single. Some believe, for instance, that the president had a long-term relationship with Alabama senator William Rufus King. The men cohabited for more than a decade, after all, even though they both had ample funds to live alone.

5. FDR had an irrational fear of the number 13

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Franklin D. Roosevelt managed to overcome personal and political challenges that may have stymied other men. And yet in spite of all that he achieved as the leader of the free world, FDR had one major fear: the number 13. His trepidation ran so deep, in fact, that he would turn down dinner invitations to any parties that were scheduled to have 13 people in attendance. Roosevelt also declined to begin any journey on the 13th day of any month.

4. JFK’s father didn’t seem to think he was Harvard-ready

In his inaugural address, President Kennedy famously said, “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.” Before that special day, though, JFK had to show Harvard what he could do for the Ivy League institution in his admissions application. And while Kennedy’s father ended up penning his recommendation, he didn’t speak too highly of his son; instead, Joe claimed that his child was “careless and lacks application.” Even so, Kennedy still became a Harvardian.

3. Ronald Reagan thought that it was all written in the stars

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Presidents don’t tend to make decisions on their own. They have trusted advisers to fall back on, for instance, as well as a cabinet full of experts and a Congress packed with elected officials who may or may not agree with any proposals put forward to them. And while Ronald Reagan did rely on these people when making big choices, he also sought guidance from time to time from an unlikely resource: astrologer Joan Quigley.

2. Rutherford B. Hayes was notoriously boring away from the office

Rutherford B. Hayes won his post by the slimmest of margins, taking his electoral college victory with just one vote. And the 19th president was somewhat resented for this fact – especially as his Democratic opponent had actually received a quarter-million more ballots. Hayes was therefore called “Rutherfraud” and “His Fraudulency” for taking office. People even taunted Hayes for his refusal to indulge in any bad habits by dubbing him “Granny Hayes,” too.

1. Barack Obama was almost a pin-up model

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Barack Obama has shared much about his personal life through his memoir Dreams From My Father. But the 44th President of the United States probably isn’t all that keen on speaking about a certain tale from his days at Harvard. Supposedly, Obama applied to be photographed as part of a pin-up calendar while at college, but the casting committee decided not to take him on in any role. Ouch.

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