Fun Facts to Know About the White House Residents

  • Grades: 3–5, 6–8, 9–12

George Washington is said to have donated some of his own silver spoons and forks when our new country needed silver and gold to make money.

John Adams is said to have held the first fireworks display at the White House.

Thomas Jefferson had a pet mockingbird that flew freely around the White House unless Jefferson had guests.

James Madison's wife, Dolley, loved to give parties. She regularly served ice cream to her guests.

James Monroe toured the whole country while he was president. At that time St. Louis was the most western city in our country!

John Quincy Adams was the first president to be photographed.

Andrew Jackson's supporters came to a party at the White House after he was elected. They broke dishes and stood on the furniture in their muddy boots.

Martin Van Buren was a widower. He lived in the White House with his four sons.

William Henry Harrison was president only 32 days. He caught pneumonia and died after standing outside for hours during his inauguration.

John Tyler was the first president to get married while in office.

James K. Polk's wife was very strict. She did not allow card playing, dancing, or drinking in the White House.

Zachary Taylor brought his horse, Old Whitey, with him to the White House. Old Whitey used to stand on the White House lawn, eating the grass.

Millard Fillmore established the White House library. Before this time there was no permanent collection of books in the White House.

Franklin Pierce ordered the first bathtub for the White House. Many people were upset. They thought taking baths was not healthy and would make you sick!

James Buchanan was the only president who never married.

Abraham Lincoln used to walk alone at night to the War Department to find out news about the Civil War.

Andrew Johnson did not learn to read until he was 17 years old. His parents had been too poor to send him to school.

Ulysses S. Grant helped set up Yellowstone National Park, which was our country's first national park.

Rutherford B. Hayes had the first telephone installed in the White House. Alexander Graham Bell, the inventor of the telephone, gave Hayes personal instructions on how to use it.

James A. Garfield could write with both hands. Sometimes he amused people by writing Greek with one hand and Latin with the other!

Chester A. Arthur thought the White House was too gloomy so he redecorated it. Twenty-four wagonloads of old furniture were carted away to make room for new, more fashionable furniture.

Grover Cleveland was both the twenty second and twenty-fourth president. He is also the only president to have had his wedding inside the White House.

Benjamin Harrison had the White House wired for electricity, but because he was afraid of getting shocked, he would not touch the switches!

William McKinley's picture is on the 500 dollar bill. Guam, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico all became part of the United States during his term.

Theodore Roosevelt had the West Wing built onto the White House. He moved his office there so he could work in peace and quiet.

William Howard Taft started the tradition of the president throwing out the first ball at the beginning of baseball season.

Woodrow Wilson was president when World War I began. He tried to keep our country out of the war. Then, when we had to go to war, Wilson said he hoped it would be the "war to end all wars."

Warren G. Harding was the first president to give a speech over the radio.

Calvin Coolidge liked to sit outside at night to think and relax. But so many people stopped and pointed at him that he finally gave up and sat inside.

Herbert C. Hoover was the first president to be born west of the Mississippi River.

Franklin D. Roosevelt got permission to build a swimming pool and a movie theater in the White House.

Harry S. Truman and his wife, Bess, lived across the street from the White House in Blair House while the White House had some much-needed construction work done.

Dwight D. Eisenhower was the first president to use a helicopter that took off and landed on the White House lawn.

John F. Kennedy's young son, John Jr., used to hide under the president's desk. John Jr. called the desk "my house."

Lyndon B. Johnson was the first president to fly all the way around the world visiting other governments.

Richard Milhous Nixon was the first president to resign from office.

Gerald R. Ford swam laps in the White House pool almost every day. Once he gave a press conference while he was swimming!

Jimmy Carter's daughter Amy had a tree house on the South Grounds of the White House. Sometimes she watched special ceremonies from there.

Ronald Reagan was the first movie actor to be elected president.

George Bush invited tennis champions to play with him on the White House tennis courts.



Adapted from The Story of the White House by Kate Waters. (Copyright 1991. Published by Scholastic.)


  • Subjects:
    The Presidency, Historic Figures
  • Skills:
    Social Studies