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Ten surprising things you didn't know about the American Presidents

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
February 18th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

It's President's Day and we decided to scour the internet for the most interesting and surprising tidbits we could find on the American Presidents. Here is the top 10 list of most surprising facts about the U.S. presidents.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - There's a lot of trivia to choose from when studying the presidents, so admittedly, this list is subjective. Still, some of the staff at Catholic Online got together. Here's the list we came up with.

10. Martin Van Buren - As a child, Van Buren spoke Dutch. His parents were native speakers of the language and he was raised speaking Dutch. The fact isn't surprising, considering the history of the time, for the United States was still a new country, widely populated with immigrants from Europe. Today however, a president who was raised speaking a language other than English would probably have to assert his American credentials, given the unfortunate politics of today.

9. James Polk's election promise was not to be reelected. Polk was a powerful president, whose legacy lasts to this day. Most notably, Polk led the US to the war which took from Mexico the entire region that is now the Southwestern United States. Polk said during his first campaign that he would serve only one term. He kept that promise, which was astounding, even for his time. Polk died three weeks after leaving office, dying of cholera.

8. Benjamin Harrison was afraid of electricity. So scared in fact, that although he had electricity installed in the White House, he and his wife refused to touch the switches for fear of electrocution. He is also the first president to have his voice preserved in recording.

7. Andrew Jackson was a stone cold killer. Jackson was a temperamental man who was fond of dueling. During one notable duel, he was shot first, the bullet lodging in his heart. However, he did not go down. Instead, he took careful aim and killed his opponent. Jackson is also responsible for commanding in several battles against native Americans and the infamous resettlement of the Cherokee nation.

6. John Quincy Adams wasn't a 'free love' advocate, but he did enjoy swimming in the Potomac. Daily, at 5 a.m.  Oh, and he swam naked. On one occasion his clothes were stolen compelling him to walk naked. He is also said to have owned a pet alligator and kept a massive diary of his daily life from the age of 11.

5. Grover Cleveland was thrilled with the telephone and had the first one installed in the White House. When it rang, he would often answer it personally.

4. James Monroe has an easy election. He ran unopposed, although one renegade member of the electoral college cast a ballot for John Quincy Adams.

3. Gerald Ford was never elected. Not once, not even to the vice presidency. Ford became vice president when he was appointed by Nixon, then became president when Nixon resigned. He never stood for an election, and left office at the end of his term. He was replaced by President Carter.

2. Franklin Pierce was arrested. While president. His offense was for running over a woman with his horse. He was released and the case dismissed for lack of evidence.

1. John F. Kennedy was the only Catholic president in American history. This is notable because the United States has a population of almost 80 million Catholics today, about 25 percent of the population. Even in Kennedy's era, the Catholic vote has been substantial. Despite such powerful influences, Catholics have only seen one president elected to office. All other American presidents have been protestants or of no particular religious identification.

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