John Quincy Adams
The sixth President was probably the weirdest dude to hold office up to that point. Sure, he was an excellent foreign-policy negotiator who shaped America’s place in the world, but he also loved to sneak out of the White House every morning, take all of his clothes off and go for a refreshing skinny dip in the Potomac River. Considering that he also kept a pet alligator, that strikes us as a remarkably ballsy move.
The taciturn Republican congressman turned 30th president was widely known as a reformer who worked to reduce the size of government, inspiring the Tea Party movement generations hence, but he also had a very bizarre habit. No, we’re not talking about the mechanical bull he had installed in the White House like a frat boy. We’re talking about how he would have his wife serve him breakfast in bed while she rubbed Vaseline on his bald head. Was it sexual? Moisturizing? History refuses to tell us.
Lyndon Baines Johnson
Probably the most cheerfully vulgar of all the American presidents, LBJ happily swung his trouser hog around aides with no shame. Taking office after the assassination of JFK, Johnson’s Johnson—which he referred to as “Jumbo”—was a frequent contributor to White House policy. LBJ would often have to urinate during meetings, but rather than table matters for a few minutes, he insisted that staffers follow him into the men’s room, where he would pontificate while draining the main vein.
The seventh president was a Southern gentleman known as “Old Hickory,” because he was as rough and uncompromising as the tree. That same attitude extended to his pets. Jackson kept a parrot in the White House named Poll. As you have probably guessed, Poll picked up a ton of invective from his owner. When Jackson died at the ripe old age of 78, his parrot was still alive and given a place of honor at the funeral. Unfortunately for the assembled mourners, Poll took the opportunity to curse out everybody in attendance.
Ulysses S. Grant
After becoming one of the most influential figures in the Civil War, Grant was a shoo-in for President. But the war took a serious toll on the career soldier. If Grant was alive today, he probably would have been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. After taking the presidency, Grant was known to get woozy at any mental or emotional stress, nearly fainting when he was served meat that was too rare. At the wedding of his only daughter Nellie to singer Algernon Santoris, which he disapproved of, the big war hero didn't stand up like a man and speak his mind. Instead, big bad Ulysses locked himself in a bathroom and cried through the whole ceremony.
It’s almost impossible to conceive of a president who isn’t married (even gay married), but one man pulled it off. Buchanan was the 15th man to hold the highest office in the land, and his presidency was fraught with conflict, coming right before the onset of the Civil War. Maybe if he’d been married he could have had a better time, but Buchanan was what we’d call today a “lifelong bachelor.” Scurrilous rumors of the day posited a relationship between the president and Alabama Senator William Rufus King, who Andrew Jackson called “Miss Nancy.” To cover the weirdness, Buchanan appointed his niece Harriet Lane to serve the non-sexual duties of First Lady.
William Howard Taft
America will probably never elect a morbidly obese President again in the age of TV, but back in the day you could be a serious chunkster and still take office. Taft, the 27th president, was a sizable human being, weighing in at 335 pounds at his heaviest. On his first day in office, he decided to wash his girth in the White House bathtub. Unfortunately, it was made for smaller men and the commander in chief got stuck. Six men were required to haul his ass out.
Considered by most scholars to be one of the most influential presidents America has ever seen, Thomas Jefferson’s personal philosophy laid the groundwork for much of what we know about democracy. Plenty of ink has been spilled about his alleged extramarital affairs with his house slave Sally Hemings, but that’s old news by now. Here’s a weird piece of Jefferson trivia that you probably didn’t know: the Renaissance man was a control freak to the grave, designing his own tombstone that listed a number of his greatest accomplishments, including authoring the Declaration of Independence and founding the University of Virginia. What didn’t he include? Any mention about being President of the United States.
Warren G. Harding
Ohio Republican Warren Gamaliel Harding not only had a seriously awesome middle name, he was also quite a scoundrel. Despite maintaining a non-confrontational political policy after World War I, his private life included quite a lot of mischief. Regular poker nights were a tradition in the Harding White House, and even after Prohibition was enacted into law, visitors could count on a stiff tipple courtesy of his wife Florence’s bathtub gin. These weren’t penny-stakes games, either. One legendary tale claims that Harding lost the entire set of White House china on a single hand.
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Most presidents stay pretty conventional with their choice in pets. The Clintons had Socks the cat; the Obamas have Bo the dog; and the Bush family had Millie the springer spaniel. But Herbert Hoover, one of the most-maligned American presidents of all time, decided to do things a little differently. Sure, he kept an English wolfhound and a pair of fox terriers, but he also had a pet opossum for some insane reason, as well as a pair of crocodiles that he let his son train on the White House lawn. Can you imagine the field day Fox News would have with that?