intro: Presidents Day is the federal holiday reserved for honoring the leading men of our country. It’s officially "Washington's Birthday," but the name has evolved informally over the years to honor not just the first president, but all 43 of them.
Keeping this theme in mind, here are 12 fun facts you probably didn't know about our past commanders in chief, with some help from Steven Noll, an expert historian and senior lecturer at the University of Florida.
quicklist:1 title: Martin Van Buren text: Martin Van Buren, the eighth U.S. president, had an interesting nickname during his presidency, Noll says. Many referred to Van Buren as "Old Kinderhook," after his house along the Hudson River in upstate New York. His supporters would shout "OK," for short, in rallies, according to NPR. quicklist:2 title: Millard Fillmore text: Could you ever imagine a bathtub without running water? Neither can we, and apparently neither could the nation's 13th president from 1850 to 1853, Millard Fillmore. Fillmore was the first president to have a bathtub with running water.
quicklist:3 title: James Buchanan text: James Buchanan served as president from 1857 to 1861, making him the 15th president. He was the first unmarried president to be elected into office. Grover Cleveland, the nation's 22nd president, was also elected into office unmarried but, unlike Buchanan, Cleveland married while holding his position in office, according to WhiteHouseHistory.org.
quicklist:4 title: Rutherford B. Hayes and Wife Lucy Hayes text: Rutherford B. Hayes, the 19th president, was the first president to have a phone installed in the White House. And while this fun fact isn't about Hayes, it is about his wife, Lucy Hayes. The first lady refused to serve alcohol at the White House because she believed in the temperance movement, thus lending her the nickname, "Lemonade Lucy."
quicklist:5 title:Benjamin Harrison text: Benjamin Harrison, the 23rd president, was the first commander in chief to install electricity in the White House, according to WhiteHouseHistory.org. Harrison served four years in office, from 1889 to 1893, and installed electricity in 1891. Another interesting fact: Harrison was the last president to have a beard, and also the first president to have a Christmas tree in the White House.
quicklist:6 title:William Howard Taft text: William Taft, born in 1857, served as the nation's 27th president from 1909 to 1913. During his presidency, Taft was the first president to throw out a pitch during a baseball game. That first pitch was in the 1910 Senator's Opening Day game against the Philadelphia Athletics.
It is said that Taft is also the one who helped to coin the term "seventh-inning stretch." Taft got up during the seventh inning of a game to stretch his legs because he could bear sitting down no more, Professor Noll says. The crowd got up to honor their president, but when the president returned a few minutes later, the crowd followed suit, thus giving the name, the "seventh-inning stretch."
quicklist:7 title:Woodrow Wilson text: Today, transatlantic traveling of our president is the norm. It seems like almost every other week President Obama is in another country. But, interestingly enough, Woodrow Wilson, the 28th president from 1913 to 1921, was the first president to cross the Atlantic Ocean while in office.
quicklist:8 title:Calvin Coolidge text: The nation's 30th president, Calvin Coolidge, was commonly known as "Silent Cal" because he enjoyed childish practical jokes such as buzzing for his bodyguards and then hiding under his desk as they frantically searched for him," according to HistoryToday.com.
quicklist:9 title:Herbert Hoover text: Ever wonder how the “Star-Spangled Banner “became our National Anthem? We have President Herbert Hoover to thank for that. Hoover, the 31st president, signed a law that made the "Star-Spangled Banner" our National Anthem based on an 1814 poem by Francis Scott Key, according to History.com.
Random fact: It is also said that Hoover’s son, Allan, had pet alligators that wandered around the White House, according to CNN.
quicklist:10 title:Gerald Ford text: Gerald Ford, our nation's 38th president, was surprisingly domestic. This down-to-earth president enjoyed cooking his own breakfast, Noll says. The Gerald Ford Foundation website also goes onto say that Ford even enjoyed making his own muffins. Who's hungry for breakfast?
quicklist:11 title:Jimmy Carter text: Jimmy Carter, our 39th president, was the first president to be born in a hospital. Carter served in modern years, from 1977 to 1981, thus begging the question, where were the other presidents born before him?
quicklist:12 title:Ronald Reagan text: Ronald Reagan, one of the nation's most likeable presidents, served as our 40th president from 1981 to 1989. Reagan, born in 1911, didn't become president until 1981, 70 years later, thus making him the nation’s oldest president to have ever served.