Your history teachers may have taught you who was the first president to be impeached or who the tallest president was, but with so many different presidents in our nation’s history, some presidential facts may have slipped from your memory. Here are three presidential facts that are not only surprising but perhaps more likely to stay in your memory—at least through President’s Day on Monday, Feb. 20:
- Former President George Washington almost missed his presidential inauguration. Washington was well-known in the 1700s as a wealthy owner of over 50,000 acres of land—including the historic Mount Vernon plantation. Surprisingly, Washington became poor by exporting his land’s tobacco product for luxuries from England.
Washington was so poor that when he was summoned for his presidential inauguration in April of 1789, he couldn’t afford the trip. Therefore, he borrowed $600 from a neighbor. The future president then made the trip, and took his oath of office on the Federal Hall balcony in New York City.
- Several presidents appeared on dollar bills that are no longer printed. Former President Woodrow Wilson appeared on the largest bill ever produced—the $100,000 bill. This bill was printed from December 1934 to January 1935 and was not circulated to the public. Instead, it was used for Federal Reserve Bank transactions.
The highest presidential bills put into public circulation were issued with the following denominations and former presidents:
- $5,000 – James Madison
- $1,000 – Grover Cleveland
- $500 – William McKinley
These three bills lived in public circulation until 1969. All three bills still hold monetary value today.
- Former President Harry Truman briefly joined the Ku Klux Klan (KKK). Harry Truman, a judge seeking reelection in the early 1920s, paid the KKK’s $10 membership fee on advice from his supporters. Since the KKK was powerful and commonly accepted in Truman’s home state of Missouri, politicians were joining to sway voter favor their way.
Almost immediately upon joining the KKK, Truman disagreed with the group over its hostility toward Catholics in politics. Therefore, Truman abandoned the organization, demanding his membership fee back in return. Once elected as our nation’s 33rd president, Truman denounced the KKK by issuing the first executive order on military racial integration.