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7 interesting history facts for Presidents' Day

By Lauren AguirreFebruary 20, 2017

The White House 2
The White House Getty Images

Show your patriotic side and have some knowledge to show off this Presidents' Day. Here are some facts you can use to dazzle your family, friends, colleagues or anyone else you feel like impressing.


1. Back in the day, secretary of state was the launching point for a presidential run.

Today, the best way to become your party’s presumptive nominee is to serve as vice president. But back when the republic was just beginning, secretary of state was the launching point. A total of six presidents were elected from this cabinet position, including Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, James Monroe, John Quincy Adams, Martin Van Buren and James Buchanan.

2. In recent decades, senators rarely become president.

Until 2008, the last time a sitting senator was elected president was John F. Kennedy in 1960. Barack Obama became the first senator to become president in almost 50 years. The most common office held before being elected president is vice president. Donald Trump is the only president elected without previously serving as an elected official or serving in the military.

3. Nixon actually wasn’t impeached.

Many people think the Watergate scandal lead to President Richard Nixon being impeached by Congress. That actually didn’t happen. Nixon resigned from the presidency before Congress could act. He is the only president to resign from the office. To date, only two presidents have faced impeachment: Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton. Neither president was convicted of the charges.

4. George Washington inspired the current presidential term limit.

George Washington famously declined to run for a third term. In 1947, the 22nd Amendment was ratified, limiting the presidency to two terms. Washington’s service was the model the American people believed other presidents should follow. The only president who has ever served more than two terms in office was Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Shortly after he died in office, the 22nd Amendment was proposed.

5. Eight presidents have died in office.

Four of them (Abraham Lincoln, James Garfield, William McKinley, John F. Kennedy) were assassinated. The other half (William Henry Harrison, Zachary Taylor, Warren G. Harding, Franklin D. Roosevelt) died of various illnesses. Most famously, William Henry Harrison died just one month after his inauguration due to a cold that worsened into pneumonia. He was also the first president to die in office.

6. The presidency is (sometimes) all in the family.

There are more familial relations in our past presidents than you might think. There are two father-son pairs: John Adams and John Quincy Adams, George H. W. Bush and George W. Bush. William Henry Harrison’s grandson Benjamin Harrison became president 48 years after him. James Madison and Zachary Taylor were second cousins, and the Roosevelts (Theodore and Franklin) were fifth cousins.

7. Donald Trump is our 45th president, but we've technically only had 44 presidents.

This is because Grover Cleveland served two non-consecutive terms. His first term began in 1885 and he served as our 22nd president. He lost his re-election campaign to Benjamin Harrison in 1888. Cleveland ran again in 1892 and was elected again as the 24th president of the United States. Because of his non-consecutive terms, Cleveland was counted twice. So technically, the U.S. has only had 44 presidents in its history.