With the presidential inauguration upon us, we have a new bit of presidential trivia about to take place. (In case you weren’t aware, Barack Obama is not only the first black president, but also the only black president (obviously) to be elected twice.) To celebrate some of the previous leaders of the free world, here are some lesser-known “Presidential Only” claims to fame.
Career paths to the White House are varied, but Abraham Lincoln is the only U.S. president who was once a licensed bartender. He was co-owner of Berry and Lincoln, a saloon in New Salem, Illinois. It was back in 1832, after a failed run for Illinois state legislature, that the 23-year-old opened what was first a general store. The store sold alcohol that was illegal to drink on premises.
So, in 1833 the pair obtained personal licenses to serve. Because Berry was a raging alcoholic, most of the work fell to Lincoln, who could not compete with other taverns in the town. A declining population in New Salem sealed the fate of Lincoln’s days as a bartender, but his opponents during the 1860 presidential campaign would not let him forget the past. Because the Republican Party, of which Lincoln was a member, promoted the temperance movement, his opponent Stephen Douglass used Lincoln’s stint as a bartender against him.
Lincoln cleverly denied his role in Berry and Lincoln, claiming that it was Berry who had obtained the licenses, not him. At least he never claimed not to have imbibed.
Theodore Roosevelt is known as much for his cowboy-persona as he was for his policies as President. He is the only president to receive the Medal of Honor. During his service in the Spanish American War, then-Colonel Roosevelt commanded the volunteer “Rough Rider” cavalry regiment in battle and personally led a horseback charge at the Battle of San Juan Heights.
He was recommended for the medal for exposing himself to “withering enemy fire over open countryside” but the medal was denied, possibly for political reasons. For more than 100 years people campaigned to have the medal awarded to Roosevelt.
In 2001, the honor was bestowed upon him by then-President Bill Clinton in a ceremony at The White House. This “first” also made Roosevelt the only president, and the only man in history, to win both the Medal of Honor and the Nobel Peace Prize, which he won for his role in settling the Russo-Japanese War of 1905.
Grover Cleveland was the only president in history to hold the job of a hangman. He was once the sheriff of Erie County, New York in the 1870s.
Prior to his election to this, his first office, the deputy Sheriff Jacob Emerick had been responsible for hangings, all of which were then public. On at least one occasions however, Cleveland sprung the trap himself, considering it inappropriate to shirk the unpleasant duty.
It was on September 6, 1872 that Irishman Jack Morrissey, who was convicted of killing his own mother, died at Cleveland’s hand. According to a later article in The New York Times in 1912, Cleveland did not enjoy the job and was sick for days after. Interesting for a man whose favorite hobby was hunting, and who named his shotgun Death & Destruction.
Although many other commanders-in-chief might have acted single, James Buchanan was the only bachelor president in US History. Despite having a fiancé, and several romantic pursuits, Buchanan may have been bisexual or gay.
According to professor James Loewen of Catholic University, Buchanan enjoyed the company of companion William Rufus King, also single, who had also served as the only bachelor Vice President under Franklin Pierce.
Contemporary critics called King Buchanan’s better half, his wife, and Aunt Fancy. Some people even snickered that they were Siamese Twins, slang at the time for homosexuals. Little can be learned from Buchanan himself. He ordered his papers burned upon his death.
Gerald Ford was the 38th President of the United States, but he was the only President who was never elected to any office higher than US Congress. That’s because in 1973 Ford replaced scandal-ridden Vice President Spiro Agnew.
It would have ended there, but for the fact that Ford’s boss was Richard Nixon. So when Nixon’s presidency went up in flames after the Watergate cover-up, Ford was appointed president to serve out Nixon’s remaining term. The defining moment of Ford’s presidency was when he pardoned Nixon “for any crimes he may have committed.”
Had two women gotten their way, Ford may have become the only unelected President to be assassinated. Both attempts failed, but Ford never recovered from a series of bungles, and was beaten in 1976 by Jimmy Carter.
-By Craig Gottlieb
Editor and Owner of historyhunter.com