Fascinating US Presidential Facts You Never Knew

There are plenty of unusual, odd, and downright weird facts your history classes never taught you about US presidents, and that's a shame. Luckily, that's where we come in. Here's an eye-opening look at some U.S. presidents' lives, that may make you reconsider everything you know about politics.

Gerald Ford: male model

Gerald R. Ford holds a unique place in American history as the only President who was never elected either President or Vice President, instead rising to power when both Vice President Spiro Agnew and President Richard Nixon resigned. But Ford holds an even more unlikely position as the Oval Office's preeminent male model. Yes, it's true: in his youth, Ford enjoyed a brief, but successful, career as a male model, once even gracing the cover of Cosmopolitan! Hey Fabio, it's not too late to declare your candidacy!

Teddy Roosevelt's double tragedy

As a young man, Teddy Roosevelt seemed to have the world on a platter. At just 25 years old, he was already a prominent member of the New York State Assembly, had married the woman of his dreams, and had a child on the way. But then an unthinkable double tragedy changed the course of both his life and American history. On February 13, 1884, just one day after giving birth, Roosevelt's wife Alice suddenly fell ill from kidney failure. Roosevelt rushed home, only to find that his mother had also collapsed from typhoid fever. Both his mother and wife died the next day. Devastated, Roosevelt moved to the desolate badlands of North Dakota and spent the next two years reforging himself as a rancher, hunter, and unbreakable American icon.

Richard Nixon: poker shark

Richard Nixon was many things—including, despite his protestations, a total crook—but one thing you many not know is that you could also call him a card shark. In fact, Nixon was so good at poker, he arguably owes his entire political career to the game. While serving in the Navy in World War II, Nixon — who had no experience with gambling due to his upbringing as a Quaker — became intrigued watching other officers play poker. After getting some tips from the ship's head card shark, Nixon embarked on a wildly successful second career as a poker shark in his own right. By the end of the war, he had fleeced his fellow seamen of thousands of dollars, which he carefully saved up. After returning home, he used $5,000 of his poker winnings to fund his first campaign for Congress. The rest is history.

Jimmy Carter's UFO sighting

In 1969, future President Jimmy Carter had a close encounter of the weird kind, when he spotted a UFO hovering outside a Lions Club International meeting. Described as a luminescent ball of light that changed color several times, the object hovered for several minutes before vanishing. Four years later, Carter, who was then Governor of Georgia, filed an official report with the International UFO Bureau. Carter didn't actually believe the UFO was an alien or anything, figuring instead it was some kind of military device from a nearby air base. Still, it technically was a UFO, and Carter later voiced support for further research into the nature of these weird flying objects.

Calvin Coolidge: the thief whisperer

Calvin Coolidge was a very cool customer indeed. Known as "Silent Cal," Coolidge was renowned for both his desert-dry humor and his taciturn ways. Maybe the best known story involving Coolidge was his killer response to a dinner guest who told him she had bet she could get more than two words out of him: "You lose."

But there's another, less well-known story about Coolidge that really reveals his character. After being elected, there was a delay before Coolidge could move into the White House, so he stayed at a nearby motel. In the middle of the night, he woke to find an intruder ransacking the room. Rather than call his security guards, Coolidge instead calmly asked the thief why he was stealing his wallet. It turned out that the youngster needed the money to buy his train fare back to college. In order to keep the lad from getting a criminal record, Coolidge instead let him go, and even loaned him $32 to cover the train fare! Best of all? The student did in fact later pay back the loan. Nicely done, Silent Cal.

Zachary Taylor: killed by cherries

General Zachary Taylor, known to his troops as "Old Rough and Ready," was about as tough as they get, serving in four wars over a period of nearly 40 years. But it turned out there was one thing even an old soldier as tough as Taylor couldn't handle: cherries. Yep. In 1850, just a year after taking office, Taylor suddenly became violently ill after consuming a bowl of cherries, along with some iced milk, at a Fourth of July celebration. Less than a week later, he was dead. Rumors about his death swirled for decades, with some believing he was poisoned, as his symptoms were consistent with arsenic poisoning. But after he was exhumed for an autopsy in 1991, no sign of foul play was found, only a deathly aversion to fruit.

James Buchanan's one-man rescue squad

James Buchanan is known for two things: being one of the worst presidents ever, and being the only unmarried president in American history. However, research has uncovered yet another interesting fact: the man who was displaced by the Great Emancipator, Abraham Lincoln, actually went on several one-man rescue missions to personally free slaves. It's a bit ironic, given that some blame Buchanan's indecision in dealing with slavery as one of the main causes of the Civil War. But while Buchanan publicly expressed frustration with abolitionists, on a personal level he sympathized. According to his nephew and biographer, James Buchanan Henry, Buchanan purchased several slaves during his time in office, brought them over the border into the free state of Pennsylvania, and then emancipated them.

It wasn't the first time, either — as a young man, he purchased the slaves of his sister's future in-laws and then freed them, because he didn't want her name to be stained with the vile legacy of slavery. You go, Jimmy!