Brushing up on our presidents

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Mt. Rushmore in the Black Hills, South Dakota Mt. Rushmore in the Black Hills, South Dakota It's Presidents Day, a national holiday set aside to honor those who have led our country over the past 238 years. But how much do we really know about the men and their families who have occupied 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. and earlier presidential homes?

For those who have the day off, it might be a good time to brush up on presidential knowledge. Here is a collection of facts to get you thinking and remind you that those elected to the country's top spot do something other than sign legislation.

There are four state capitals named in honor of presidents. Can you name them before looking at the answer?

Lincoln, Nebraska; Jefferson City, Missouri; Madison, Wisconsin and Jackson, Mississippi. 

Who are the four presidents depicted on Mount Rushmore?

George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln.

Who was the first president to live in the White House?

John Adams, the country's second president, and his family moved into the still unfinished White House in 1800. First lady Abigail Adams made use of the East Room for hanging up the laundry to dry.

What two presidents were pretty good baseball players?

George H.W. Bush was a pitcher, and Grover Cleveland played second base.

Which president invented the swivel chair?

Thomas Jefferson had the design patented. Jefferson was also a skilled violinist and a good singer.

Which president was related, either by blood or through marriage, to 11 other presidents?

The man with the largest presidential family tree was Franklin Delano Roosevelt, with six relations by marriage and five by blood. FDR was related to George Washington, John Adams, James Madison, John Quincy Adams, Martin Van Buren, William Henry Harrison, Zachary Taylor, Ulysses S. Grant, Benjamin Harrison, William Howard Taft and Theodore Roosevelt.

Which president is known as "The father of the Constitution?"

James Madison takes that title because he contributed many ideas to the Constitution and worked diligently for its passage.

How many fathers and their sons have been president?

Two: John Adams and John Quincy Adams, and George Bush and George W. Bush.

Our nation's first capital was New York and then Philadelphia. George Washington did not like either. He wanted a new capital, one that was halfway between the North and the South. Land came from Virginia and Maryland to create the new capital. The White House was built in 1800, but burned in 1814. When reconstruction was finished in 1818, James Monroe invited visitors in on New Year's Day.

Aside from new china with each administration, presidents have added their mark on the executive mansion in other ways.

John Quincy Adams added a billiard table
Andrew Jackson added indoor plumbing
Marin Van Buren added the first furnace for heating
James Polk added gas lights in 1848.
During Millard Fillmore's administration a library was added and a wooden stove so that cooking would no longer need to be done in the fireplace.
Andrew Johnson added a barber chair to the White House and a telegraph.
Rutherford B. Hayes added a telephone in 1878.
James Garfield ordered an elevator for his mother in 1881.
Benjamin Harrison brought electricity into the White House in 1890.
FDR added a swimming pool
The Trumans had the first TV, but never used it. Dwight D. Eisenhower enjoyed watching TV while they ate dinner.
JFK added a hotline to Moscow in 1963. Contrary to myth, it was not a red phone; it was a teletype machine.
Jimmy Carter put solar panels on the roof to conserve energy, and Ronald Reagan had them removed.
Barack Obama had a basketball court installed.  

Woodrow Wilson earned a Ph.D. Grant graduated West Point and Jimmy Carter from Annapolis. Which president never attended a formal school?

That distinction goes to "Rough and Ready" Theodore Roosevelt, who as a child was sickly and therefore did not go to school. He was an avid reader who often finished two books in a day, and he became a prolific author as well, penning nine books. 

Finally, what has been the most popular occupation of the presidents?

Of course that answer is lawyers. Of the 43 men to lead this nation, 26 have been lawyers: Adams, Jefferson, Monroe, J.Q. Adams, Jackson, Van Buren, Tyler, Polk, Fillmore, Pierce, Buchanan, Lincoln, Hays, Garfield, Arthur, Cleveland, Harrison, McKinley, Taft, Wilson, Coolidge, Roosevelt, Nixon, Ford, Clinton and Obama.


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