intro: Here are some facts about U.S. presidents that you won't find in most American history books. Check out some of the most bizarre and unknown facts about former presidents.
quicklist:1 title:President Obama Descended from First Documented Slave text:Barack Obama, the United States' first African-American president, is likely a descendent of the first documented enslaved African in colonial America.
According to a two-year Ancestry.com study of thousands of records from colonial Virginia, the president is the 11th great-grandson of John Punch, a black man who came to America in the 1600s as an indentured servant and was enslaved for life in 1640 after trying to escape his servitude.
It is believed that although Obama's father was a black, Kenyan native, his ties to slavery stem instead from his white mother, Stanley Ann Dunham. The enslaved Punch had mixed-race children with a free white woman who were born free because of their mother's freedom. They later went on to become "prominent" land owners in Virginia.
quicklist:2 title:George Washington Grew Cannabis text:George Washington grew hemp at his home, large quantities of it and he was not the only former president to do so. Thomas Jefferson and James Madison cultivated hemp as did most other 1700's farmers.
It's believed that some of them smoked its leafy counterpart, marijuana, as well.
According to the Huffington Post, on Aug. 7, 1765, Washington noted in his farm journal that he "began to separate the male from the female hemp... rather too late." In the 1790s, the crop was grown mainly for its industrial value as hemp. It was not until many years later that the recreational use of the herb became trendy. However, founders who smoked tobacco and consumed their own brewed beer probably did not underestimate the recreational properties of the crop.
quicklist:3 title:Bush, Kerry, and Hefner All Distant Cousins text:Extremely coincidentally, President George W. Bush and Sen. John Kerry are very distantly related. They are ninth cousins, twice removed. The two politically astute and well educated men may have different political ideologies, but their love for their country and politics sheds light on a cousinly bond.
But they have another mutually distant cousin who doesn't quite fit that mould.
Playboy founder Hugh Hefner is the ninth cousin of both men. Hef is twice removed from George W., and Hefner is a slightly closer relation to Kerry, being only once removed.
When asked about his relation to the two politicians, wild child Heffner said, "Well I feel closer to Senator Kerry."
"You know I'm an 11th generation direct descendent of William Bradford, who came over on the Mayflower, a direct descendent of a Puritan," Hefner continued proudly, finding no irony in the fact. "I suppose that it is not a big surprise, but it is certainly unique to be a relation to both candidates."
"I would be delighted to invite both President Bush and Senator Kerry for a family reunion," the playboy added facetiously, laughing to himself.
quicklist: 4 title:Abraham Lincoln Was a Bar Owner text:Abraham Lincoln, best known as the Great Emancipator, was less known for owning a bar. He co-owned the pub with a man named William Berry. The duo appropriately named their saloon 'Berry and Lincoln' which was located in Springfield, Ill.
Berry, Lincoln's partner, was a heavy drinker as opposed to the future president who once said that liquor makes him "flabby and undone." Because of these fundamental differences, the co-owners had difficulty running their business. The unlikely partnership of Berry and Lincoln did nothing but get "deeper and deeper in debt," according to Lincoln.
Lincoln's career as a bartender was fairly short-lived. In 1834, he ran for state legislator and won forcing him to give up the bartending business and in 1840 the entire enterprise was abandoned five years after the death of his partner.
quicklist: 5 title: Bush Sr. Vomited on Japanese Prime Minister text:In January 1992 George Bush Sr. vomited on the Japanese prime minister. While attending the state dinner for over 100 diplomats held at the home of Japanese Prime Minister Kiichi, Bush, who was suffering flu like symptoms, fainted, but the fainting was the lesser of the two embarrassing events. Before fainting, Bush responded to the arrival of Japanese beef steak with a projectile vomit into the lap of the Japanese prime minister.
Footage of the president's projectiling was aired on ABC News, providing fodder for ongoing embarrassment. The state dinner was not a complete bust though. Because of the volatile mishap, a new phrase was coined in the Japanese language. Bushu-suru which is literally translated as 'to do the Bush thing' will forever commemorate Bush's eventful Japanese visit.
quicklist:6 title:Harry Truman Doesn't Have a Middle Name Despite the 'S' text:The mysteriously floating S in Harry S Truman's name is not to be anchored down by a period. The former president explained that the "S" did not stand for any name but was a compromise between the names of his grandfathers, Anderson Shipp Truman and Solomon Young. In 1962, Truman initiated the "period" controversy when he demanded that newspapermen should omit the period after the S as it does not actually stand for anything.
Though Truman has tried to rectify the period that shows up in publications, TrumanLibrary.org explains that "Most published works using the name Harry S. Truman employ the period. Authors choosing to omit the period in their texts must still use it when citing the names of organizations that employ the period in their legal titles (e.g. Harry S. Truman Library) thus seeming to contradict themselves."
quicklist:7 title:Gerald Ford Modeled During College text: President Gerald Ford was a male model for John Robert Powers' agency. Though his modeling career was brief and only a part time gig during college, Ford booked a few good modeling jobs during his short lived career. He appeared in a 21-picture Stowe, Vt., ski resort feature in Look Magazine in 1940. And two years later posed in his Naval uniform on the cover of Cosmopolitan. Both times he posed with famed model and former fling Phyllis Brown.
Boller, Paul F. Jr. 2007. Presidential Diversion: Presidents at Play from George Washington to George W. Bush. Orlando, FL: Harcourt Books.
quicklist: 8 title: Coolidge Liked Having Petroleum Jelly Rubbed on His Head text:According to Stebben and Morris, co-authors of the book White House: Confidential, President Calvin Coolidge enjoyed having petroleum jelly slathered on his head while he ate breakfast in bed. Coolidge practiced this bizarre behavior believing that it was good for his health.
quicklist:9 title: LBJ Had A Whole Family of LBJ's text:The nickname LBJ isn't one that only applies for the former president. Lyndon Baines Johnson insisted on having every member of his immediate family share his same initials. LBJ's wife's name was Claudia Alta Taylor whose nickname before marrying Johnson was "Lady Bird."
LBJ and Lady Bird went on to have two daughters with the LBJ stamp, Lynda Bird and Luci Baines. Even the Johnson's dog shared the initials being called Little Beagle Johnson. According to the co-authors of White House Confidential, LBJ said, when it came to monogramming, the whole family having the same initials made it a whole lot cheaper.
quicklist: 10 title:Jimmy Carter the UFO President text:President Jimmy Carter, known by some as the "UFO President," got his nickname by publicly claiming that he had a UFO sighting prior to becoming president. On at least one occasion while campaigning for president, Carter declared that, if elected he would "make every piece of information this country has about UFO sightings available to the public and scientists.
Jimmy Carter spotted the foreign object in the sky in 1969. "It was the darndest thing I've ever seen. It was big, it was very bright, it changed colors and it was about the size of the moon." Carter continued, "We watched it for 10 minutes, but none of us could figure out what it was. One thing's for sure, I'll never make fun of people who say they've seen unidentified objects in the sky."