Looking Back 19 Feb

Photo by Vicki Harris

Photo by Vicki Harris

Each week Albany Herald researcher Mary Braswell looks for interesting events, places and people from the past. You can contact her at (229) 888-9371 or mary.braswell@albanyherald.com.

Presidents’ Day, originally known as Washington’s Birthday, falls on the third Monday of February. Readers of this column are well-versed on presidential campaign slogans but there is a lot more to know about the men of the White House!

Before the presidency

• George Washington was a planter, a surveyor and a general in the Army of the United Colonies.

• Thomas Jefferson was a writer, an inventor, an architect, the governor of Virginia, secretary of state and vice-president.

• Andrew Jackson was a soldier, a U.S congressman, a U.S senator and governor of Florida.

• Abraham Lincoln was a postmaster, a lawyer and a congressman from Illinois.

• James Abram Garfield was a schoolteacher, a lawyer, a tariff collector and vice-president.

• Stephen Grover Cleveland was a sheriff, a lawyer, a mayor and governor of New York.

• Thomas Woodrow Wilson was a lawyer, a professor, president of Princeton University, and governor of New Jersey.

• Warren Gamaliel Harding was a newspaper editor and senator from Ohio.

• Harry S. Truman was a farmer, a soldier, a haberdasher, judge, U.S. senator and vice-president.

• George Herbert Walker Bush was an oil executive, U.S. congressman, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, director of the CIA and vice-president.

• Barack Hussein Obama was a community organizer, a lawyer and a U.S. senator.

Reader poll

QUIK QUIZ: Who was the only president who studied to become a medical doctor?

  • A -- William Henry Harrison 0%
  • B -- William McKinley 25%
  • C -- Zachary Taylor 25%
  • D -- James Buchanan 50%

4 total votes.


“The truth is that all men having power ought to be mistrusted.” - James Madison

“A little flattery will support a man through great fatigue.” - James Monroe

“It is easier to do a job right than to explain why you didn’t.” - Martin Van Buren

“It is not strange . . . to mistake change for progress.” - Millard Fillmore

“Nothing brings out the lower traits of human nature like office seeking.” - Rutherford B. Hayes

“If it were not for the reporters, I would tell you the truth.” - Chester A. Arthur

“We Americans have no commission from God to police the world.” - Benjamin Harrison

“The only man who makes no mistake is the man who does nothing.” - Theodore Roosevelt

“I have never been hurt by anything I didn’t say.” - Calvin Coolidge

“You can not stop the spread of an idea by passing a law against it.” - Herbert Hoover

“If we cannot end now our differences, at least we can help make the world safe for diversity.” - John F. Kennedy

“A government big enough to give you everything you want is a government big enough to take from you everything you have.” - Gerald Ford

“We must adjust to changing times and still hold to unchanging principles.” - Jimmy Carter

“If you live long enough, you’ll make mistakes. But if you learn from them, you’ll be a better person. It’s how you handle adversity, not how it affects you. The main thing is never quit, never quit, never quit.” - Bill Clinton

“I deserve a second term.” - President Barack Obama

The White House

• The White House, the official residence of the president, is at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, DC. The site, covering about 18 acres, was selected by George Washington and city planner Pierre Charles L’Enfant, and the architect was James Hoban.

• The cornerstone was laid October 13, 1792, and the first residents were President John Adams and First Lady Abigail Adams in November 1800.

• The main building was burned by the British in 1814 during the War of 1812. Afterward, when the building was being restored, the smoke-stained gray stone walls were painted white.

• The name “White House” was not used officially until President Theodore Roosevelt had it engraved on his stationery in 1901. Prior to that, the building was known variously as the “President’s Palace,” the “President’s House,” and the “Executive Mansion.”

• Over the years, there have been several additions made to the main building, including the west wing (1902), the east wing (1942), and a penthouse and a bomb shelter (1952).

• During Harry Truman’s presidency, from December. 1948 to March 1952, the interior of the White House was rebuilt, and the outer walls were strengthened. Nevertheless, the exterior stone walls are the same ones that were first put in place when the White House was constructed two centuries ago.

• The house has 132 rooms, 35 bathrooms, 28 fireplaces, eight staircases, and three elevators.

On television

• The first presidential campaign television commercials aired during the Dwight D. Eisenhower/Adlai Stevenson race in 1952.

• The first televised presidential debate was between Richard Nixon and John F. Kennedy on September 26, 1950. There was not another televised debate until 1976 when Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter faced off for viewers (three times) in 1976.

• Perhaps the most famous TV commercial for a presidential candidate was shown in 1964. A little girl was shown picking daisies, then the scene abruptly cut to a massive nuclear explosion. Although it only aired once, the commercial definitely impacted the Lyndon Johnson- Barry Goldwater election.

• The first president to appear on “Saturday Night Live” was Gerald Ford (April 17, 1976).


• John Quincy Adams had an alligator and silkworms.

• Ulysses. S. Grant had a Newfoundland, horses, ponies, pigs, a parrot and roosters.

• Along with dogs and cats, Theodore Roosevelt had a macaw, snakes, horses, guinea pigs, rats, five bears, an owl, a flying squirrel, a coyote, a lion, a zebra and assorted other pets.

• William Taft had one animal while living in the White House- Pauline Wayne, the cow.

• Richard Nixon had a cocker spaniel, a poodle, a terrier, an Irish setter and fish.

• The only president known to have no pets were Millard Fillmore, Franklin Pierce and Chester A. Arthur.