Presidents of the United States
We get a lot of questions from patrons who are curious about different aspects of the U.S. presidency. These patrons may not be aware of the extensive resource about the presidency that resides right here at the IPL:
POTUS includes "background information, election results, cabinet members, presidency highlights, and some odd facts on each of the presidents. Links to biographies, historical documents, audio and video files, and other presidential sites are also included to enrich this site." We definitely encourage people interested in the Presidency to use POTUS.
If you want to find information resources beyond POTUS, see the IPL's Presidents of the United States Pathfinder.
IPL's Presidents of the United States Pathfinder
We have received some questions about the presidency so frequently, however, that we have decided to include them with their answers below.
Contacting Current and Former U.S. Presidents
How do I contact President Barack H. Obama?
How do I contact a former U.S. President?
Who was the youngest president? Who was the oldest?
Who was the tallest president? Who was the shortest?
Who was the heaviest president? Who was the lightest?
Which presidents were related?
How tall was each president, or what is the height of each president?
Death and the Hereafter
How many presidents have died in office?
Who would become president if the president and the vice-president both died?
Has any president ever died inside the White House?
Which president is buried in Washington, D.C.?
Which president was not a citizen of the U.S.A. when he died?
Does anyone haunt the White House?
Who was the first president to fly in an airplane?
Who was the first president to get a pilots license?
Who was the first President to appear on television? radio?
Who was the first President to be born in a hospital?
Who was the first president to have electric lights at the White House?
Who was the first president to have a Christmas tree in the White House?
Which Presidents lost the popular vote but still became President?
What does the law say about the number of terms/years a President can serve?
Miscellaneous, but Cool
Which presidents have stood trial for impeachment?
What virtually unknown man was president for only one day?
Is is true that George Washington was not the first President of the United States?
Which American president lived with a bullet in his chest most of his life?
How many presidents have changed their names legally?
The president lives in the White House, but what about the Vice President?
Which Presidents were/are left-handed?
Which President could write Greek with one hand and Latin with the other?
What President became Chief Justice after his presidency?
What is the President's salary?
Contacting Current and Former U.S. Presidents
- Q: How do I contact President Barack H. Obama?
- A: Although you cannot contact the U.S. President directly, you can contact The White House through a number of different methods, all of which are listed on The White House's website.
Contacting the White House (http://www.whitehouse.gov/contact/)
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500
Phone and Fax Numbers
- Q: How do I contact a former U.S. President?
- A: While none of the former Presidents of the United States have a way to contact them via e-mail, you can still write to them via postal mail. You can also try to give their office a call or fax, but you should not expect to talk to them or to reach them in person. Here are the mailing addresses and phone numbers for each of the Presidents who are still living.
You may also want to contact the former presidents' presidential libraries. The web addresses and contact information for them are beneath the former presidents' mailing addresses.
George W. Bush
Office of George W. Bush
P.O. Box 259000
Dallas, TX 75225-9000
The Carter Center
453 Freedom Parkway
Atlanta, GA 30307
Phone: (404) 331-3900
George H.W. Bush
10000 Memorial Drive
Houston, TX 77024
Phone: (713) 686-1188
William J. Clinton
55 W. 125th Street
New York, NY 10027
This information was taken from InfoUSA (http://www.ait.org.tw/infousa/enus/), a U.S. government website maintained by the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of International Information Programs.
Here are the web addresses and contact information for the living former presidents' presidential libraries.
The George Bush Presidential Library and Museum
1000 George Bush Drive West
College Station, Texas 77845
Phone: (979) 691-4000
Fax: (979) 691-4050
TTY: (979) 691-4091
William J. Clinton Presidential Library and Museum
1200 President Clinton Avenue
Little Rock, Arkansas 72201
Phone: (501) 374-4242
Jimmy Carter Library & Museum
441 Freedom Parkway
- Q: Who was the youngest president? Who was the oldest?
- A: The youngest elected president was John F. Kennedy at 43. The youngest president to be inaugurated was Theodore Roosevelt at 42, following the assassination of William McKinley. The oldest president is Ronald Reagan, who was 77 years old when he left office.
- Q: Who was the tallest president? Who was the shortest?
- A: Tallest: Abraham Lincoln. Shortest: James Madison.
- Q: Who was the heaviest president? Who was the lightest?
- A: Heaviest: William Howard Taft, who weighed more than 300 lbs. He was said to have installed a special bathtub in the White House that could fit four normal sized men.. Lightest: James Madison at about 100 lbs.
- Q: Which presidents were related?
- A: There have been two sets of presidents who were father and son: John Adams and John Quincy Adams, and George Bush and George W. Bush. Other presidents who were related: William H. Harrison and Benjamin Harrison (grandfather and grandson); James Madison and Zachary Taylor (second cousins); and Theodore Roosevelt and Franklin D. Roosevelt (fifth cousins).
- How tall was each president, or what is the height of each president?
- Go to the "Presidential Biographies" page on White House Kids (http://www.whitehouse.gov/kids/presidents/). Click each president's name and look under "Personal" for that president's height.
Death and the Hereafter
- Q: How many presidents have died in office?
- A: Eight presidents have died in office (four by assassination):
- William Henry Harrison, 9th president (1841), died April 4, 1841 from pneumonia.
- Zachary Taylor, 12th president (1849-50), died July 9, 1850 from food poisoning or cholera.
- Abraham Lincoln, 16th president (1861-65), died April 15, 1865 by assassination.
- James Abram Garfield, 20th president (1881), died September 19, 1881 from blood poisoning resulting from doctors probing for an assassin's bullet with non-sterile instruments.
- William McKinley, 25th president (1897-1901), died September 14, 1901 by assassination.
- Warren G. Harding, 29th president (1921-23), died August 2, 1923 from either a heart attack or a stroke depending on the source. Harding's wife refused to allow an autopsy to be performed.
- Franklin D. Roosevelt, 32nd president (1933-45), died April 12, 1945 from a cerebral hemorrhage.
- John F. Kennedy, 35th president (1961-63), died November 22, 1963 by assassination.
- Q:Who would become president if the president and the vice-president both died?
- A: The Presidential Succession Law of 1947 deals with what would happen if both the president and the vice-president were simultaneously disabled. Under the law, the Speaker of the House would succeed to the Presidency. For a complete list of the order of succession, see Infoplease's Almanac's Order of Presidential Succession. (http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0101032.html).
- Q: Has any president ever died inside the White House?
- A: According to the Political Graveyard (http://politicalgraveyard.com/death/white-house.html), two presidents have died in the White House: William Henry Harrison died there in 1841, and Zachary Taylor died there in 1850.
- Q: Which president is buried in Washington, D.C.?
- A: Find-A-Grave's US Presidents and Vice Presidents page (http://www.findagrave.com/php/famous.php?page=ctf&FSctf=3) indicates that Woodrow Wilson is the only president buried in Washington, D.C. He is buried at the Washington Cathedral.
- Q: Which president was not a citizen of the U.S.A. when he died?
- A: The one president who was not a U.S. citizen when he died was the 10th President, John Tyler. A native of Virginia, he died in that state on Jan. 18, 1862 as a citizen of the Southern Confederacy. This information comes from the 1997 Information Please Almanac, edited by Otto Johnson, Houghton Mifflin, Boston & New York, 1997, p. 660.
- Q: Does anyone haunt the White House?
- A: Haunted Places: The National Directory, a book by Dennis William Hauck contains a section devoted to this topic. It cites William Henry Harrison and Abigail Adams as ghosts who haunt the president's home. You can see a list of these and other ghosts who are said to haunt the White House on this web page: http://theshadowlands.net/places/dc.htm
- Q: Who was the first president to fly in an airplane?
- A: The first president to fly in an airplane while in office was Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1943. The first ex-president to fly in an airplane was Theodore Roosevelt, who flew as a passenger in a 4-minute flight in one of the early Wright biplanes on October 11, 1910, a year after he had left office. Both of these answers, as well as more facts about presidents and air travel of all sorts, appear under the heading "PRESIDENT (U.S.)" in Famous First Facts, by Joseph Nathan Kane. 4th ed. H.W. Wilson Company. 1981.
- Q: Who was the first president to get a pilots license?
- A: The first president to get a pilots license was Dwight Eisenhower. According to Famous First Facts, his pilots license was issued on 11/30/39.
- Q: Who's the first President to appear on television?
- A: The first president to appear on black & white television was Franklin Delano Roosevelt on April 30, 1939 at the opening ceremonies for the World's Fair. But, Harry S. Truman was the first president to give an address from the White House on October 5, 1947. The first president on color television was Dwight D. Eisenhower on June 6, 1955, when he appeared at his 40th class reunion at the U.S. military academy at West Point.
FYI: Warren G. Harding was the first president to give a speech over radio. This happened on June 14, 1922, when he spoke at the dedication of the Francis Scott Key memorial at Ft. McHenry, Baltimore, Md. on station WEAR.
This information was found at Infoplease's Ask the Editors: Presidential Firsts (http://www.infoplease.com/askeds/presidential-firsts.html) and the book Facts about the Presidents by Joseph Nathan Kane (H.W. Wilson Company, 1981) and Famous First Facts, by Joseph Nathan Kane. 4th (ed. H.W. Wilson Company, 1981).
- Q: Who was the first president to be born in a hospital?
- A: Jimmy Carter was the first president to be born in a hospital, which was the Wise Clinic in Plains, Georgia. This information was found at the Jimmy Carter Library & Museum webpage (http://www.jimmycarterlibrary.org/).
- Q: Who was the first president to have electric lights at the White House?
- Q: Who was the first president to have a Christmas tree in the White House?
- A: The first president to have electric lights in the White House was Benjamin Harrison in 1891. Fascinated and afraid of the new technology, First Lady Caroline would not turn the new lights on or off herself for fear of being shocked. To allay their fears, President Harrison asked Irwin "Ike" H. Hoover, the electrician who had installed the lights, fixtures, and wiring, to stay on and operate it. Hoover worked at the White House for 42 years and eventually became Chief Usher. The first Christmas tree also went up during Harrison's presidency in 1889. It was lit with candles. First Lady Frances Cleveland would be the first to hang electric lights on the tree.
This information was found at…
- Q: Which Presidents lost the popular vote but still became President?
- A: There have been four cases of this happening thus far. In 1824, John Quincy Adams was awarded the presidency by the House of Representatives, despite not having won the popular vote or the electoral college vote (neither he nor opponent Andrew Jackson had an electoral college majority). In 1876, Rutherford B. Hayes became President despite losing the popular vote to Samuel J. Tilden, because Hayes had a one vote advantage in the electoral college. In 1888, in a much more clear-cut example of a candidate losing the popular vote but winning the electoral college vote, Benjamin Harrison was elected President over Grover Cleveland. Finally, in 2000, George W. Bush became president after losing the popular vote to Al Gore, but winning the electoral vote. For more information on how the electoral college works, see the U.S. Electoral College homepage, administered by the National Archives and Records Administration: U.S. Electoral College (http://www.archives.gov/federal-register/electoral-college/).
- Q: What does the law say about the number of terms/years a President can serve?
- A: We get a lot of questions from people who believe that the law only prohibits Presidents from serving more than two consecutive terms, when, in fact this is not the case. They also wonder what limits are placed on someone who becomes President during the middle of a term. Amendment 22 of the Constitution covers both of these issues. Here is the applicable text from this Amendment:
"No person shall be elected to the office of the President more than twice, and no person who has held the office of President, or acted as President, for more than two years of a term to which some other person was elected President shall be elected to the office of the President more than once."
(Text taken from http://www.archives.gov/national-archives-experience/charters/constitution_amendments_11-27.html.)
Miscellaneous, but Cool
- Q: Which presidents have stood trial for impeachment?
- A: President Andrew Johnson stood trial for impeachment in 1868. The impeachment vote did not pass in the Senate. For more details, see Harper Weekly's web site on The Impeachment of Andrew Johnson (http://www.impeach-andrewjohnson.com/). The House Judiciary Committee issued three articles of impeachment against President Nixon on July 30, 1974, but President Nixon resigned before the impeachment process could continue to trial. President Clinton stood trial for impeachment. The Senate acquitted Clinton on Feb 12, 1999. You can read more on his impeachment on NPR's Impeaching the President site (http://npr.com/news/national/impeach/). For historical details on impeachment trials, see A Short History of Impeachment (http://www.infoplease.com/spot/impeach.html).
- Q: I understand that there was a President of the United States that served for only 24 hours. Do you know anything about this?
- A: It has been argued that David Rice Atchison, a mid-19th century Senator from Missouri, was president of the U.S. for all or part (perhaps minutes) of one day: Sunday, March 4, 1849, between the expiration of James Polk's term at noon of that day and the official oath of office taken by Zachary Taylor on Monday. The law at that time specified that the President was to be sworn in on March 4th, a date that fell on a Sunday in 1849; but President-elect Taylor refused to be sworn in on the Sabbath (Sunday). Atchison had been elected President Pro Tempore of the Senate a couple of days before and was thus technically third in line of succession behind the President and Vice President, of which (arguably) on that day were nonexistent. However, Congress was between sessions so there may not have been anyone formally in the office of President Pro Tempore of the Senate.
This information was found at http://www.snopes.com/history/american/atchison.htm.
- Q: Is is true that George Washington was not the first President of the United States?
- A: Yes. There were actually SEVEN presidents before George Washington. They are known to history as the "Presidents under the Articles of Confederation" and had the official title of "President of the United States in Congress Assembled." The first was John Hanson (1781-82), and the next six presidents were Elias Boudinot (1783), Thomas Mifflin (1784), Richard Henry Lee (1785), Nathan Gorman (1786), Arthur St. Clair (1787), and Cyrus Griffin (1788). There were actually sixteen Presidents of the Continental Congress, but John Hanson, the ninth, was the first to serve as President under the Articles of Confederation and the first to hold the title "President of the United States."
To read more about these men, see the Marshall Hall Foundation's page on John Hanson (http://www.marshallhall.org/hanson.html), EDSITEment's "Lost Hero: Was John Hanson Actually the First President?" Lesson Plan (http://edsitement.neh.gov/view_lesson_plan.asp?id=457), and Infoplease's Presidents of the Continental Congresses (http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0194019.html).
- Q: Which American president lived with a bullet in his chest most of his life?
- A: Andrew Jackson (1829-37) who was wounded in a duel with Charles Dickenson in May of 1806.
- Q: How many presidents have changed their names legally?
- A: Six:
- Grover Cleveland -- changed from Stephen Grover Cleveland
- Woodrow Wilson -- changed from Thomas Woodrow Wilson
- Calvin Coolidge -- changed from John Calvin Coolidge
- Dwight David Eisenhower -- changed from David Dwight Eisenhower
- Gerald Rudolph Ford -- changed from Leslie King, Jr.
- William Jefferson Clinton -- changed from William Jefferson Blythe (changed when his mother remarried and his stepfather legally adopted him)
- Q: The President lives in the White House, but what about the Vice President?
- A: Since 1974 the U.S. Vice-President has lived in a large, white-painted, Victorian house on the southeast corner of 34th Street and Massachusetts Avenue in the District of Columbia. It is located on the grounds of the U.S. Naval Observatory. The official title of the home is "The Admiral's House". This information was found in The House on Observatory Hill by Gail S. Cleere. Washington D.C.: U.S. Naval Observatory. 1989.
- Q: Which Presidents were/are left-handed?
James A. Garfield
Harry S. Truman
This information was found at: http://www.anythingleft-handed.co.uk/presidents.html.
- Q: Which President could write Greek with one hand and Latin with the other?
- A: James Garfield.
- Q: What President became Chief Justice after his presidency?
- A: William Howard Taft.
- Q: What is the President's salary?
- A: See the IPL's FAQ on Salaries and Retirement Benefits of U.S. Presidents and other Federal Government Employees.