These Little Known Facts about 40 of America's Presidents Snatched Our Powdered Wigs
These Little Known Facts about 40 of America’s Presidents Snatched Our Powdered Wigs

These Little Known Facts about 40 of America’s Presidents Snatched Our Powdered Wigs

Larry Holzwarth - January 31, 2019

These Little Known Facts about 40 of America’s Presidents Snatched Our Powdered Wigs
Sheep grazed on the White House lawn (and the National Mall) as a cost saving measure during the Wilson Administration. Library of Congress

27. Woodrow Wilson was not a man known for frivolity

Woodrow Wilson was a serious, sober man of letters, educated at Davidson and Princeton, a student of history and political science. In the late 1970s and since he was been berated as both a racist and having possessed anti-Semitic views, despite having appointed Louis Brandeis, an active Zionist, to the Supreme Court, overcoming strong opposition. Wilson was also thrifty. Rather than retain groundskeepers to trim the White House lawns, Wilson had a flock of sheep kept on the property which at one point numbered four dozen head, as an economical means of keeping the grass short. The wool from the sheep was sold and the proceeds donated to the American Red Cross.

These Little Known Facts about 40 of America’s Presidents Snatched Our Powdered Wigs
The popular Harding was a player of poker in the White House, though according to biographers not a very good one. White House

28. Warren G. Harding was a dedicated poker player

Warren G. Harding was a publisher from Ohio with a background in both state and national politics when he successfully ran for president in 1920. He didn’t so much run as stand; the candidate remained at home and delivered speeches from his front porch. His presidency is mostly remembered for scandals, cronyism, and extramarital affairs. Harding enjoyed poker games at the White House, playing often with a group of friends which became known as the Ohio Gang. The same friends led his administration into scandals, few of which were known about during his presidency. Harding died on a trip to the west while still in office after years of heavy drinking, poor diet, and lack of exercise.

These Little Known Facts about 40 of America’s Presidents Snatched Our Powdered Wigs
Coolidge practiced a strange hair care ritual along with his breakfast each morning. White House

29. Calvin Coolidge kept a small zoo of pets and a strange morning ritual

Among the many animals kept as pets by President Coolidge were a pygmy hippopotamus, lion cubs, a wallaby, and several other exotic animals and birds, as well as a pack of dogs, cats, and at least two raccoons, one of which found White House life not to its taste and escaped. Coolidge also enjoyed a daily scalp treatment which involved his head being massaged with petroleum jelly, often while he enjoyed his breakfast, which he habitually took while in bed. The purpose of the treatment was lost to history. After his retirement from public life the man known as Silent Cal penned his autobiography and a newspaper column he called Calvin Coolidge Says.

These Little Known Facts about 40 of America’s Presidents Snatched Our Powdered Wigs
Though often blamed for the Great Depression, Hoover was a self made millionaire and famous humanitarian. White House

30 Hoover starred in America’s first long-distance television transmission

Before he became president Herbert Hoover was a highly successfully mining engineer, a self-made man who had been a member of the first graduating class of Stanford University. He became internationally famous for his humanitarian work feeding refugees in the aftermath of World War 1 (an act he would repeat following World War 2). As Secretary of Commerce under Coolidge, Hoover was the subject of the first television transmission, with him speaking in Washington DC and the image and sound sent to an audience of reporters and others in New York City. “Human genius has now destroyed the impediment of distance”, he said.

These Little Known Facts about 40 of America’s Presidents Snatched Our Powdered Wigs
Specially modified cars allowed FDR to indulge his love of driving, despite not having the use of his legs. Library of Congress

31. Franklin Roosevelt was a devoted stamp collector and loved to drive

Franklin D. Roosevelt’s devotion to his stamp collection is well known, and he was working over his collection on a December day when word of the Japanese attack at Pearl Harbor reached the East Coast of the United States. FDR, despite being restricted for the most part to a wheelchair, nonetheless loved to drive his own car. Most of his driving was restricted to his estate at Hyde Park, though he did from time to time drive his own vehicle before reporters. A specially modified Ford Phaeton which allowed FDR to drive using hand controls was kept at Warm Springs, and while there the president loved to drive around the area, attempting to elude the Secret Service.

These Little Known Facts about 40 of America’s Presidents Snatched Our Powdered Wigs
Poker was a popular form of relaxation for President Truman, along with sipping bourbon. Truman Library

32. Harry Truman was a fan of bourbon and poker

Harry Truman and his wife Bess enjoyed bourbon at the end of the work day, and Harry was known to take a setting up shot in the morning before he had his breakfast, a practice he continued almost to the day he died. He was also a devoted poker player, and during presidential trips by train, airplane, and presidential yacht the time was passed in poker games. On one trip the President was accompanied by Winston Churchill, and Truman noted that Churchill was not a particularly good player, losing steadily. During a break Truman warned the other players to go easier on the former Prime Minister, allowing him to win a hand here and there.

These Little Known Facts about 40 of America’s Presidents Snatched Our Powdered Wigs
Eisenhower’s love of golf is well-known but he was equally as passionate over the game of bridge. White House

33. Ike was a well-known devotee of golf and bridge

Dwight Eisenhower was an accomplished athlete in his youth, excelling at baseball, football, and horseback riding. He later famously focused his athletic competiveness into the game of golf, which he played as often as he could, both as president and in retirement. He was also, as were many presidents, a lover of cards, but Ike preferred bridge over poker. Eisenhower learned the game in his youth, and during his war years in Europe it was his main source of relaxation. He continued to use the game to keep his mental faculties sharp as president, with Saturday nights at the White House set aside for bridge games with guests.

These Little Known Facts about 40 of America’s Presidents Snatched Our Powdered Wigs
JFK and family at Hyannisport in the summer of 1962. JFK Library

34. Kennedy was another president deluged with pets

As would be expected of an astute political operative with a highly photogenic family, JFK’s White House was another in which the press of numerous pets was visible. Several were gifts from dignitaries and foreign leaders for JFK’s daughter Caroline, among them a pony named Leprechaun, given to her by Irish President Eamon de Valera. Another was a dog by the name of Pushinka. The dog was a puppy of the Soviet space dog Strelka, which had orbited the earth in 1960. Pushinka later had pups of her own, fathered by Kennedy’s dog Charlie, and which the president referred to as pupniks.

These Little Known Facts about 40 of America’s Presidents Snatched Our Powdered Wigs
Lyndon Johnson did several unusual things which startled aides and friends unaccustomed to his habits. White House

35. LBJ didn’t let calls of nature interrupt meetings

Lyndon Johnson was known to reach out during meals, with hands, fork, or spoon, and help himself to the contents of one of his fellow diner’s plates, often claiming a food which was outside of the president’s dietary restrictions. Even more startling to staffers and others, when he felt the call of nature during a meeting or while giving dictation, he would enter a nearby bathroom, leave the door open, and continued to conduct business while he did his business. He was known to insist that aides accompany him into the bathroom at times, whether he required the use of a stall or a urinal, in order to not interrupt the business of government.

These Little Known Facts about 40 of America’s Presidents Snatched Our Powdered Wigs
Nixon bowling (and foot-faulting) in the White House bowling alley during his administration. Library of Congress

36. Nixon preferred private recreation over public appearances

Richard Nixon was known for his lack of social skills, a difficult failing for a career politician to overcome. He was famously poor at small talk and the routine interchange of conversation. For recreation he preferred what could be performed privately. He played no less than five musical instruments, learning from his aunt in his youth, and after discovering his talent could be a political asset he performed on piano before television cameras. For physical exercise he preferred bowling, using the alleys at the Old Executive Office building before installing a single alley in the White House basement, beneath the North Portico.

These Little Known Facts about 40 of America’s Presidents Snatched Our Powdered Wigs
The young Jerry Ford worked as a male model and turned down offers to play professional football. National Archives

37. Gerald Ford could have played professional football

During his presidency Gerald Ford developed a reputation for stumbling down stairs and falling off of sidewalks. LBJ often commented that Ford had played too much football without a helmet. Ford was an athlete for most of his life, an avid skier and golfer when serving as president. In his youth, the former Michigan football player received offers from the Green Bay Packers and the Detroit Lions, though the recent graduate chose Yale Law School instead. Also in his youth, Ford worked briefly as a male model, appearing on the cover of the April, 1942 edition of Cosmopolitan.

These Little Known Facts about 40 of America’s Presidents Snatched Our Powdered Wigs
President Carter, as befits a former Naval officer, defends his craft from an attacking enemy, a vicious rabbit. Jimmy Carter Library

38. Jimmy Carter was attacked by a rabbit and reported a UFO

President Carter was on a fishing trip after which he later told staffers that a rabbit swam towards his boat, and that he had had to use an oar to roil the water and fend off the attack. The staff thought he was kidding them until footage from a White House photographer confirmed the incident. Earlier, when serving as governor of Georgia in 1969, Carter reported seeing a UFO in the night sky over Leary, Georgia. Carter later explained the he called it a UFO because it was unexplained, but that his training in engineering and physics precluded him calling it alien in nature.

These Little Known Facts about 40 of America’s Presidents Snatched Our Powdered Wigs
Nancy Reagan used atrology to guide her husband (with his knowledge) in decisions about all aspects of their lives. Wikimedia

39. Ronald Reagan and astrology

In May of 1988 White House spokesman Marvin Fitzwater confirmed to the press that Ron and Nancy Reagan used astrology and readings in preparing their schedules and for other activities. According to Reagan’s former Chief of Staff Donald Regan, the first couple consulted with a San Francisco based astrologer before making all major decisions. Regan did not identify the astrologer but it wasn’t long before the press did, and Reagan’s political opponents had a field day with the news, which came following the revealing of theIran-Contra Affair. Later biographers wrote that the Reagan’s faith in astrology was a long-standing affair.

These Little Known Facts about 40 of America’s Presidents Snatched Our Powdered Wigs
George H. W. Bush, here with doubles parner Chris Evert, loved escaping being cooped up in the White House by visiting Camp David. National Archives

40. George H. W. Bush hated being trapped in the White House

The first president Bush was known to be an affable man according to many who met him. On occasion, the President would join a White House tour, without fanfare, until one of the other tourists spotted him. The physically active president didn’t care for being stuck in the White House and journeyed to Camp David as frequently as possible during his single term presidency. Few modern presidents more openly expressed their displeasure for entrapment within the bubble of security and filtered information which are characteristics of the modern presidency.


Where do we find this stuff? Here are our sources:

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“John Adams”. David McCullough. 2002

“Grizzly Bears”. Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello. Online

“The Surprising Raucous Home Life of the Madisons”. David O. Stuart, February 10, 2015

“James Monroe”. Entry,

“John Quincy Adams’s Pet Alligator Was A Crock”. Howard Dorre, Plodding Through the Presidents. February 19, 2018. Online

“A history of White House profanity – and one cursing presidential parrot”. Cleve R. Wootson Jr., The Washington Post. January 12, 2018

“Martin Van Buren’s Tigers”. Entry, Presidential Pet Museum. Online

“William Henry Harrison’s killer inauguration speech”. Brenna Williams, CNN Politics. January 5, 2017

“John Tyler”. Entry,

“James K. Polk”. Entry,

“Zachary Taylor”, Entry, US President’s Lives, The Independent. Online

“Millard Fillmore”. Entry,

“Franklin Pierce”. Entry, US President’s Lives, The Independent. Online

“Our First Gay President?” Brion McClanahan, The Daily Caller. May 14, 2012

“Abe and Fido”. Matthew Algeo. 2015

“Andrew Johnson’s Mice”. Entry, Presidential Pet Museum. Online

“DC police once arrested a U. S. president for speeding”. WTOP staff, WTOP. October 6, 2012

“Teetotalers in Chief”. Tonya Riley, 2016

“Which US President Also Served As An Executioner?” Robert J. Szczerba, Forbes. February 16, 2015

“Decorating the White House”. Entry, The White House Historical Association. Online

“A Yacht, A Mustache: How A President Hid His Tumor”. Transcript for Morning Edition, National Public Radio. July 6, 2011. Online

“The History of Electricity at the White House”. US Department of Energy. October 14, 2015. Online

“William McKinley”. Kevin Phillips, 2003

“The Roosevelt Pets”. Entry, Theodore Roosevelt Birthplace National Historic Site. National Park Service. Online

“The president who loved golf too much (it’s not Donald Trump)”. Matthew Algeo, The Washington Post. April 21, 2017

“White House Sheep, a History”. Brian Resnick, The Atlantic. October 17, 2014

“Warren G. Harding”. Entry, US President’s Lives, The Independent. Online

“Calvin Coolidge”. David Greenberg. 2006

“Hoover joins 1st American demo of long distance TV, April 7, 1927″. Amy Norcross, EDN Network. April 7, 2018

“Check Out the Early Accessibility Devices of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s Ford Phaeton”. Sam Keller, Autotrader. August 2017

“Truman”. David McCullough. 1993

“BRIDGE; Another Reason to Like Ike”. Alan Truscott, The New York Times. September 27, 1992

“Pets in the Kennedy White House”. John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum.

“Pushinka: A Cold War puppy the Kennedys loved”. Alison Gee, BBC World Service. January 6, 2014

“Three New Revelations About LBJ”. Robert Dallek, The Atlantic. April 1998

“Nixon: A Life”. Jonathan Aitken. 1996

“Gerald R. Ford”. Mary Mueller Winget. 2007

“The Gospel According to Jimmy”. Wil S. Hylton, GQ Magazine. December 5, 2005

“Nancy Reagan turned to astrology in White House to protect her husband”. Shelby Grad and David Colker, Los Angeles Times. March 6, 2016

“George Herbert Walker Bush”. Tom Wicker. 2004