The U.S. Presidents Ranked In Order Of Height — And You Probably Won’t Guess The Shortest

Throughout history, the presidents of the United States have been giants in the political world. But in a literal sense, it’s not always easy to discern their actual heights when we see them on stage behind a podium. So keeping that in mind, we’ve ranked the American leaders in the order of their size — and the smallest might surprise you!

40. Abraham Lincoln: 6 ft 4 in

Measuring in at over six feet tall, Abraham Lincoln sits at the summit as America’s biggest president. But did you know that Honest Abe’s size might’ve been caused by an ailment named Marfan syndrome? It’s a genetic condition that alters your cellular structure, resulting in gangly appendages and a large frame. And whether it caused Lincoln’s height has long interested experts.

39. Lyndon B. Johnson: 6 ft 3½ in

While Lyndon B. Johnson may not have expected to be president, the untimely demise of JFK means he makes this list ahead of Kennedy as one of the country’s tallest leaders. At the same time, he wasn’t that healthy either. According to a study by the Medicare Supplement website, Johnson was overweight at 210 pounds. Overall, the site named him 31st in the presidential health rankings.

38. Thomas Jefferson: 6 ft 2½ in

Thomas Jefferson was another presidential giant at over six feet tall – but how did he carry himself? Well, a senator named William Maclay offered a vivid description in his diary back in 1790. He said, “Jefferson is a slender man, [and] has rather the air of stiffness in his manner. His clothes seem too small for him. [And] his whole figure has a loose, shackling air.”

37. Bill Clinton: 6 ft 2 in

As one of the tallest presidents of recent times, Bill Clinton was pretty active during his spell in the White House. Then again, that didn’t save him from injury, as he needed a knee operation in 1997. But Clinton’s size wasn’t to blame. According to the Chicago Tribune, he blew it out following a fall at a golfer’s house. Ouch!

36. George Washington: 6 ft 2 in

George Washington wrote his name into the history books as America’s first president. And his size was also pretty notable at the time. You see, Ohio State University researchers reported that the “average height” in the 1700s was roughly 5 ft 5.7 in. Washington blew that number out of the water, so he would’ve seemed very tall to those around him.

35. Franklin D. Roosevelt: 6 ft 2 in

While Franklin D. Roosevelt was one of the tallest men to take office, his size wasn’t always that clear to the public. Why’s that? Well, Roosevelt suffered with polio. Unfortunately for FDR, his encounter with the ailment left him without the use of his legs at just 39 years old.

34. George H. W. Bush: 6 ft 2 in

George H. W. Bush was another towering presence in the White House during his time as president. But how was his health? As it turned out, Bush was always trying to be active, taking up jogging as he got older. Mind you, he still tipped the scales at 196 pounds.

33. Andrew Jackson: 6 ft 1 in

At just over six feet tall, Andrew Jackson joined the ranks of America’s biggest leaders. He was also very light compared to several of his counterparts, weighing 140 pounds. Despite his notable size, though, Jackson is probably best remembered for surviving an assassination attempt when the would-be killer’s pair of pistols both malfunctioned. How lucky!

32. Ronald Reagan: 6 ft 1 in

Ronald Reagan was a pretty tall guy when he became president, but towards the end there were real question marks regarding his health. To explain more, a writer named Gil Troy spoke to Medicare Supplement. He said, “Did [Reagan] have Alzheimer’s before he retired? I think he was on his way. He was forgetful, he was ailing.”

31. John F. Kennedy: 6 ft 1 in

It could be argued that John F. Kennedy is one of the most famous American presidents in history. He was a sizable man too, standing at over six feet. On that note, Kennedy didn’t have a particularly strong back, so he required a brace. The leader had it on when he was killed in 1963.

30. James Monroe: 6 ft

Coming in at exactly six feet tall, James Monroe was the fifth president in office in the United States. It’s said that he was a big fan of dishes from the southern states, as well as French-inspired food. That’s quite a mix! Anyway, all that grub meant that Monroe weighed 189 pounds: the 13th-heaviest president on record.

29. John Tyler: 6 ft

Upon closer inspection, John Tyler is seen as one of the healthiest presidents to take office. According to Medicare Supplement, he wasn’t a big fan of alcohol or smoking. Then again, Tyler’s spell in power wasn’t without its problems. When a bad bout of flu hit America, people referred to it as the “Tyler grippe.” That’s pretty harsh!

28. Gerald Ford: 6 ft

Gerald Ford was another president to stand at six feet tall; but when he was younger his life could’ve taken a very different turn. Ford had the chance to become a professional football player after a stellar spell with his college side. Maybe his size had something to do with it? After he finished university, both the Green Bay Packers and the Detroit Lions wanted to sign him.

27. Warren G. Harding: 6 ft

On the surface, Warren G. Harding seemed to be in pretty good shape: he tipped the scales at 173 pounds. Yet all was not as it seemed. You see, Harding had a bad diet, enjoyed smoking, and suffered with heart issues. On top of that, he endured a mental breakdown as well.

26. James Buchanan: 6 ft

As another six-footer, James Buchanan stands among some of the White House’s tallest occupants. We hope the door frames reflected that! Anyway, what kind of a person was he? Pennsylvania State University’s Dr. Amy Greenberg told Medicare Supplement, “[Buchanan] was such a heavy drinker. Even by the standards of the time, he could drink anyone under the table.”

25. James A. Garfield: 6 ft

James A. Garfield must have been expecting a long, fruitful time in office when he had the honor of becoming America’s 20th leader in 1881. Unfortunately for him, though, his time as president was cut tragically short. Garfield got shot that July, before he succumbed to his injuries over two months later. He was just 49 years old.

24. George W. Bush: 5 ft 11½ in

Coming in just a few inches shorter than his dad, George W. Bush is the first president on this list under six feet. Mind you, it could be argued that he was one of the fittest leaders in the White House. It’s reported that Bush finished a marathon in less than four hours as he approached his 50s. Pretty impressive right?

23. William H. Taft: 5 ft 11½ in

Of all the men to take office, William H. Taft holds the record as the heaviest American president in history. He weighed in at the scales at 340 pounds. Wow! It’s no wonder, though, because Taft’s breakfast often included a 12-ounce steak, so that might go some way to explaining his size.

22. Herbert Hoover: 5 ft 11½ in

Herbert Hoover once said, “If a man has not made a million dollars by the time he is 40, he is not worth much.” But don’t be fooled by that statement. As it turned out, the tall leader worked very hard in his attempts to eradicate hunger following World War One and Two. His colleague Neil MacNeil even noted, “He fed more people and saved more lives than any other man in history.”

21. Richard Nixon: 5 ft 11½ in

Richard Nixon is without doubt one of the most recognizable presidents in America’s history. And he was taller than you might’ve expected! How was his health, though? Well, Dr. Robert Kaufman informed Medicare Supplement, “Looks can be very deceiving. Overall, Nixon was an extremely fit man, not just physically but intellectually, until the end of his life.”

20. Woodrow Wilson: 5 ft 11 in

Standing at nearly five feet 11 inches tall, Woodrow Wilson’s time in the White House hit a significant speed bump in 1919 following a stroke. “He should’ve stepped down from the presidency [after that], but the White House campaign of deception convinced enough members of Congress that he could finish the job,” Dr. Stephen F. Knott told Medicare Supplement. Wilson passed away five years later.

19. Grover Cleveland: 5 ft 11 in

When you think of famous U.S. presidents, Grover Cleveland probably won’t pop into your head straightaway. But here’s the thing: he’s a real history-maker! You see, Cleveland is the only leader to serve two distinct terms in the White House. He’s also the second-heaviest president on record at 260 pounds.

18. Dwight D. Eisenhower: 5 ft 10½ in

Dwight D. Eisenhower was reasonably tall at a bit more than five feet ten inches. But he suffered from a long list of medical issues that ranged from weight problems to heart trouble. Yet Eisenhower didn’t let that stop him from enjoying himself. Apparently, he loved playing golf as he got older.

17. Calvin Coolidge: 5 ft 10 in

Calvin Coolidge was named the 30th president of the United States back in 1923. And in terms of his physical condition, Medicare Supplement claims that he was the 22nd-healthiest leader. Sadly, though, Coolidge had to deal with a bout of depression 12 months after his election when his son passed away. He then died in 1933.

16. Franklin Pierce: 5 ft 10 in

While Franklin Pierce was one of several presidents to measure five feet 10 inches high, he stood out in a different way. A skinny type, he’s the third-lightest leader on record at 144 pounds. Mind you, Pierce’s lengthy battle with alcohol and depression might explain that low number in the grand scheme of things.

15. Andrew Johnson: 5 ft 10 in

Here’s something to remember for your next trivia night. After Andrew Johnson’s victory in the presidential race, he was due to speak at his inauguration. But the leader became anxious beforehand. So he gulped down an alcoholic beverage – unaware of its strong effects. In the end, Johnson was pretty drunk when he made his address!

14. Theodore Roosevelt: 5 ft 10 in

One of America’s most iconic leaders, Theodore Roosevelt wasn’t the literal giant that you’d expect when you hear his name. In fact, he was under six feet tall. Yet despite his size, Roosevelt was an incredibly active president. Among other things, he liked horse riding, swimming, boxing, hiking, and climbing. That’s some set of interests!

13. Jimmy Carter: 5 ft 9½ in

At 5 ft 9½ in, Jimmy Carter wasn’t the biggest president to take office in the White House. Plus, he was on the lighter side as well, weighing just 160 pounds. Yet Carter is up there with the country’s healthiest leaders. Yes, he came fourth in Medicare Supplement’s rankings.

12. Harry S. Truman: 5 ft 9 in

While Harry S. Truman was another shorter, healthy president, his life nearly came to a shocking end back in 1950. What happened? Well, Truman was the target of an assassination plot while he lived outside the White House. Apparently, one of his bodyguards met his end while halting the attack.

11. Rutherford B. Hayes: 5 ft 8½ in

Even though Rutherford B. Hayes wasn’t particularly tall, he was named the healthiest American president in history by Medicare Supplement. Incredibly, this man had no major medical problems up until his passing from a heart attack. He didn’t drink or smoke. Swearing was off the table too – yes, you’re reading that correctly!

10. Zachary Taylor: 5 ft 8 in

At just over five feet eight inches tall, Zachary Taylor is certainly in the bottom half when it comes to height. Unfortunately, though, he’s probably best remembered for his untimely passing after a heat stroke in 1850. As Dr. Robert Watson told Medicare Supplement, “Some early presidential health issues were either caused or exacerbated by environmental conditions and poor medical technology.”

9. William Henry Harrison: 5 ft 8 in

When William Henry Harrison won the presidential race in 1841, he delivered a speech that lasted for around an hour-and-a-half in the rain. And despite the passage of time, that still stands as the lengthiest inauguration in history. It’s suggested, though, that the speech might’ve indirectly led to his death: Harrison got sick and passed away from pneumonia a few weeks later.

8. Ulysses S. Grant: 5 ft 8 in

If we were ranking presidents by their names, Ulysses S. Grant would surely be at the top. It’s awesome! Mind you, The middle letter only came about due to a clerical mistake. The short leader humorously touched on that while corresponding with his girlfriend, writing, “You know I have an ‘S’ in my name and don’t know what it stands for.”

7. James K. Polk: 5 ft 8 in

Another one of the White House’s shortest residents, James K. Polk had to deal with some tricky illnesses when he was president. And, in the end, he succumbed to a bout of cholera after his term concluded. Polk wasn’t the only person to either: up to six patients lost their lives every 24 hours because of the infection at that time.

6. John Quincy Adams: 5 ft 7 in

John Quincy Adams might not have been the tallest man in office, but he still kept himself relatively fit. Yes, he would either go for a six-mile stroll or a swim each morning. That puts most of us to shame! Adams was a big fruit fan as well, so his health never came into question.

5. William McKinley: 5 ft 7 in

Although William McKinley stood just shy of five feet seven inches, he’s in the upper bracket of heaviest presidents. He weighed 199 pounds – so only seven men who reached the Oval Office were bigger than him. Anyway, McKinley’s time in the White House was cut tragically short after his murder in 1901.

4. John Adams: 5 ft 7 in

John Adams made his name as America’s second leader after George Washington’s spell. But here’s an interesting fact to consider. Champlain College’s Willard Sterne Randall told Medicare Supplement, “Adams stayed in Massachusetts all through the yellow fever epidemic of 1793. [It] killed 6,000 Philadelphians, one-fifth of the capital’s populace.” He became president four years later.

3. Benjamin Harrison: 5 ft 6 in

While William Henry Harrison wasn’t one of the taller presidents, he was still bigger than his grandson Benjamin. Yes, the 23rd leader of the country was some two inches smaller when he took office. Not only that, but the younger Harrison was slightly lighter too, weighing exactly 160 pounds.

2. Martin Van Buren: 5 ft 6 in

We don’t know about you, but we feel a great deal of sympathy for Martin Van Buren. Why’s that? Well, the former leader faced down some rather derogatory nicknamess – all referencing his height. For instance, those monikers included the “Red Fox of Kinderhook” and “Sly Fox.” Poor guy!

1. James Madison: 5 ft 4 in

At just over five feet four inches tall, James Madison is the smallest American president on record. He was also the lightest by a considerable distance: he weighed only 100 pounds. Wow! Madison suffered with his health too, and, no surprise with his small frame, he struggled to project his vocals when addressing large crowds.

Did Madison’s victory as America’s shortest president come as a shock to you? Or perhaps you saw it coming from a mile off? Well, either way, buckle up because there are more surprises about past American leaders where that came from. After all, just about every commander-in-chief – even the much-loved likes of Abraham Lincoln and JFK – has had a scandalous secret, as you’ll find out if you read on...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Presidents aren’t the only ones in the public eye to have kept secrets, though. In fact, there’s a whole lot you may not know about a host of famous folks – even when they’re some of the most accomplished and important people to have ever graced the Earth. And when you discover the strange habits and unusual quirks of these well-known figures, you may wonder what else you never learned at school…