The President of the United States


The President of the United States

Who: Currently Barack Obama, see full list below

What: Head of state and head of government of the United States of America

Where: 6 New Yorkers, 6 Ohioans, 5 Virginians, 4 Massachusites, 3 Californians, 3 Illinoisans, 3 Tennesseans, 3 Texans and 1 each from Arkansas, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Michigan, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

Why: Office created in an attempt to unite the thirteen colonies after the American Revolution, whilst also avoiding any resemblance to monarchy

When: First President took office in 1789, can serve for a maximum of two four-year terms.

“Anyone who is capable of getting themselves made President should on no account be allowed to do the job” – Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

The position of President of the United States has been occupied by 43 separate people from eighteen different states. He is the ceremonial figurehead of the United States and head of the executive branch of government (the other two being judicial and legislative, headed by the Supreme Court and Congress), and as such is one of the most powerful men (or women) in the world.

The Seal of the President of the United States


To be President, the candidate must be a natural-born citizen of the United States, be at least thirty-five years old and have been a permanent resident of the United States for at least thirteen years.

Moreover, the candidate can be disqualified if s/he has already been elected president twice, has been convicted in impeachment cases, or who has rebelled against the United States.

Of the forty-three men who had served as President, four have been assassinated, another four have died in office of natural causes, and one has resigned.

The Curse

For 120 years, Presidents who were elected in a year divisible by twenty died in office: William Henry Harrison (1840), Abraham Lincoln (1860), James Garfield (1880), William McKinley (1900), Warren Harding (1920), Franklin D. Roosevelt (1940) and John F. Kennedy (1960). This “curse of Tippecanoe” was broken by Ronald Reagan, elected in 1980 and who was shot but survived.

The tallest President was Abraham Lincoln, at 6’4”, or 193cm, and James Buchanan was the only President to never marry.

The average age (at election) is 54 years, 11 months. The youngest was Theodore Roosevelt (42) who took over after McKinley’s assassination. The youngest to be elected is John F Kennedy (43 years, 236 days). The oldest president was Ronald Reagan (69 years, 349 days when he assumed office).

The shortest presidency was that of William Henry Harrison, at just 32 days. The oldest President so far was Gerald Ford, who died in 2006 aged 93. The shortest-lived President was John F Kennedy, assassinated at just 46.

Only twelve out of the 43 sported facial hair, ten of these between 1861-1913, when only two Presidents were clean shaven in fifty years. Not one President has worn a beard or moustache in over a century.


Eleven Presidents held no degree whatsoever though since 1953 every President has had at least a bachelor’s degree. Two attended business school, George W Bush at Harvard and Jon F Kennedy at Stanford (withdrew), one attended Medical School (William Henry Harrison) but withdrew, and one, Woodrow Wilson, held a PhD in political science from John Hopkins University. Abraham Lincoln, notably, only had a year of formal schooling of any kind, despite working as a licensed bartender, land surveyor and lawyer before his Presidency.

25 of the 43 men were lawyers, two of whom graduated from Harvard Law School (Rutherford B Hayes and Barack Obama).


Twelve presidents were named for their fathers: John Adams, James Madison, Andrew Jackson, John Tyler, James Buchanan, William McKinley, Theodore Roosevelt, John Calvin Coolidge, Gerald Ford (born Leslie Lynch King, Jr.), James ‘Jimmy’ Carter, Bill Clinton (born William Jefferson Blythe III), and Barack Hussein Obama II. George W Bush and John Quincy Adams don’t share the same middle names as their fathers, but share first names.

Not a single one of the 43 men have been an only child.

There have also been four sets of related presidents: two sets of father and son: George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush, and John Adams and John Quincy Adams, one grandfather and grandson: William Henry Harrison and Benjamin Harrison, and fifth cousins Theodore Roosevelt and Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

Of the 43, only eleven did not serve in the military. Of the 32 that did serve, there was one Private, four Lieutenants, five Major Generals, two Majors, one Lieutenant Commander, two Generals of the Army, one General of the Armies (posthumous), two Commanders, five Colonels, two Captains, four Brigadier Generals and a brevetted Major. Eight of these fought in the American Civil War and seven in World War Two.

The first president to not be a lawyer or a general was Andrew Johnson in 1865.

Theodore Roosevelt was the only president to win the Congressional Medal of Honor, albeit posthumously, and one of four presidents to win a Nobel Peace Prize (the irony of winning a Nobel Peace Prize and a decoration for bravery in war apparently lost on both awarding parties).

Four have been immortalised on Mount Rushmore: Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt. Since Harry Truman (1945-53), five out of the twelve presidents have been left-handed, and two more have been ambidextrous.

Only one (Martin van Buren) didn’t speak English; van Buren’s native language was Dutch. Thomas Jefferson, on the other hand, claimed to read and write six languages. John F Kennedy was the only Catholic President, as well as the only President to win a Pulizter Prize and earn a Purple Heart.

The White House, official residence of the President of the United States

Since John Adams in 1800, the official residence of the president has been the White House on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington D.C. The Neoclassical six-storey mansion has survived being torched by British troops in the War of 1812 during the Burning of Washington and two major restoration projects. The entire structure consists of the Executive Residence, the main building, and two wings, the West Wing, comprising the President’s offices and the East Wing, additional office spaces and the offices and staff of the First Lady.

The Presidents

1 George Washington 1789-1797  George-Washington
2 John Adams 1797-1801  Adams
3 Thomas Jefferson 1801-1809  Jefferson
4 James Madison 1809-1817  Madison
5 James Monroe 1817-1825 Monroe
6 John Quincy Adams 1825-1829  Quincy Adams
7 Andrew Jackson 1829-1837  Imacon Color Scanner
8 Martin Van Buren 1837-1841  Van Buren
9 William H. Harrison 18412  Harrison
10 John Tyler 1841-1845  Tyler
11 James K. Polk 1845-1849  Polk
12 Zachary Taylor 1849-18502  Taylor
13 Millard Fillmore 1850-1853  Fillmore
14 Franklin Pierce 1853-1857  Pierce
15 James Buchanan 1857-1861  Buchanan
16 Abraham Lincoln 1861-18651  Lincoln
17 Andrew Johnson 1865-1869  Johnson
18 Ulysses S. Grant 1869-1877  Grant
19 Rutherford B. Hayes 1877-1881  Hayes
20 James A. Garfield 18811  Garfield
21 Chester A. Arthur 1881-1885  Arthur
22 Grover Cleveland 1885-1889  Cleveland
23 Benjamin Harrison 1889-1893  WHarrison
24 Grover Cleveland 1893-1897  Cleveland
25 William McKinley 1897-19011  McKinley
26 Theodore Roosevelt 1901-1909  Roosevelt
27 William Howard Taft 1909-1913  Taft
28 Woodrow Wilson 1913-1921  Wilson
29 Warren G. Harding 1921-19232  Harding
30 Calvin Coolidge 1923-1929  Coolidge
31 Herbert Hoover 1929-1933  Hoover
32 Franklin D. Roosevelt 1933-19452  FDR
33 Harry S Truman 1945-1953  Truman
34 Dwight D. Eisenhower 1953-1961  Eisenhower
35 John F. Kennedy 1961-19631  JFK
36 Lyndon B. Johnson 1963-1969  LBJ
37 Richard M. Nixon 1969-19743  Nixon
38 Gerald R. Ford 1974-1977  Ford
39 James Earl Carter 1977-1981  Carter
40 Ronald Reagan 1981-1989  Reagan
41 George H.W. Bush 1989-1993  5.1.2
42 William J. Clinton 1993-2001  Clinton
43 George W. Bush 2001-2009  GeorgeWBush
44 Barack H. Obama 2009-  OBama


1 Assassinated
2 Died in office
3 Resigned

Further reading:

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