Why Andrew Jackson Had A 1,400 Pound Block Of Cheese In The White House

The reason why Andrew Jackson had a monstrous block of cheese in the White House when he served as the seventh president of the United States is also the reason you should always remember that "based on a true story" is never actually the true story. Case in point: were you to believe the story told of said cheese on the political drama "The West Wing," you'd think that Jackson was some kind of magnanimous do-gooder who weirdly chose dairy as the medium of his philanthropic pursuits.

That, however, is not the reason for Jackson's big block of cheese. Let us not forget that, in addition to the thousands of Native Americans who died on the Trail of Tears, Andrew Jackson also once killed a man by cheating in a duel. And his biggest regret on upon leaving office was having failed to kill more. Suffice to say: there is enough evidence on Jackson to prove that generous and forgiving he was not. So why in the world did he put such a gigantic slab of cheddar in the White House?

The huge block of cheese thing had already been done before Jackson

One of the weirdest things about Andrew Jackson's gargantuan chunk of cheese was that it wasn't the first time a bunch of Americans had gotten together and decided to give a president a gargantuan chunk of cheese. According to journalist Benjamin Perley Poore, author of the 1886 book "Perley's Reminiscences of Sixty Years in the National Metropolis," a bunch of avid cheesemaking supporters of Thomas Jefferson had already done it during his presidency.

Instead of thinking up something original — like a swimming pool full of molasses or something — some of Jackson's supporters felt that he deserved all the pomp and circumstance that Jefferson's cheesemongers had given him. So they curdled up a "mammoth cheese for 'Old Hickory.'"

Jackson sent the cheese on tour to cities like New York, Philadelphia, and Baltimore, then brought it to the White House. It spent a year on display there, then came Jackson's going-away party. In 1837, a couple weeks before Martin Van Buren was inaugurated, Jackson fed his party guests with the humongous cheese. Poore wrote that people got so into eating the cheese that "the air was redolent with cheese, the carpet was slippery with cheese," and all forgot about a juicy (for those days) sex scandal for a time. Nor was that the last time the big cheese served a 1,400-pound cheese in the White House. The Obama administration brought it back for a while with Big Block of Cheese Day.