William McKinley with Ham

William McKinley with Ham

25th PRESIDENT

NAME: William McKinley, Jr. He was named after his father. He dropped the “junior” on his father’s death.

PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION: A brawny figure, with a barrel chest, broad shoulders, and, with advancing years, a swelling paunch, McKinley stood 5 feet 7 inches tall and weighed up to nearly 200 pounds. His handsome features were marked by deeply set blue-gray eyes guarded by bushy eyebrows, a fair complexion, a strong jaw punctuated by a cleft chin, and a rather large nose. He spoke in a strong, clear voice. He had good posture and walked briskly. He was the only clean-shaven president between Andrew Johnson and Woodrow Wilson. He wore reading glasses. He dressed conservatively, typically in a white vest, and refused to be photographed unless he was impeccably groomed. During political campaigns he wore a red carnation in his buttonhole for good luck, a practice that prompted the Ohio legislature to designate the scarlet carnation the state flower. His health generally was sound except for a brief physical breakdown in college, perhaps brought on by overwork.

PERSONALITY: By all accounts, McKinley was open, friendly, even tempered, cheerful, optimistic, and universally well liked. “McKinley was more than popular,” according to historian Margaret Leech, “he was beloved…Even his political opponents were attracted by the peculiar sweetness of his personality.” Biographer Charles S. Olcott concluded, similarly, “His uniform courtesy and fairness commanded the admiration of Democrats as well as Republicans…The general public found him free from vanity or affectation.” Yet he did not gush with emotion. Rather, he worked a subtle charm effective with people from all walks of life. He enjoyed having lots of people around. Although not a particularly gifted storyteller, he had a dry wit and enjoyed a good, clean joke but bristled at off-color remarks.

PRIMARY SOURCE: DeGregorio, William A. The Complete Book of U.S. Presidents. 7th ed. Fort Lee: Barricade Books, 2009.

William McKinley with Ham

Benjamin HarrisonTheodore Roosevelt
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Benjamin Harrison with Ham

Benjamin Harrison with Ham

23rd PRESIDENT

NAME: Benjamin Harrison. He was named after his paternal uncle Dr. Benjamin Harrison and his great-grandfather Benjamin Harrison, signer of the Declaration of Independence.

PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION: A stocky figure with a large paunchy torso set atop short stubby legs, Harrison stood about 5 feet 6 inches tall and had a fair complexion, blue eyes, and light brown hair that had been corn-silk blond in his youth. He was among the last of the nineteenth-century statesmen to wear a full beard; Harrison’s had a reddish tinge. He spoke in a high, soft voice. He dressed fashionably. His health generally was sound, except for a brief physical breakdown in 1867 brought on from overwork.

PERSONALITY: Known as the “human iceberg,” Harrison was stiff and formal in dealing with people. He disliked small talk. He could not tolerate inefficiency or incompetence in subordinates. He tackled problems through mastery of detail. Although he lacked both charisma and the common touch, he was widely respected for his intelligence, honesty, attention to duty, and diligence. “Integrity formed the backbone of Harrison’s character,” according to biographer Harry J. Sievers. “His active intellect firmly backed by moral courage, he was regarded as a bulwark of political decency.” He was among the best extemporaneous speakers of his day.

PRIMARY SOURCE: DeGregorio, William A. The Complete Book of U.S. Presidents. 7th ed. Fort Lee: Barricade Books, 2009.

Benjamin Harrison with Ham

Grover ClevelandWilliam McKinley
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Grover Cleveland with Ham

Grover Cleveland with Ham

22nd & 24th PRESIDENT

NAME: Stephen Grover Cleveland. He was named after the Reverend Stephen Grover, whom Cleveland’s father had succeeded as minister in Caldwell, New Jersey. By age 19 he began signing his name S. Grover Cleveland and a couple years later dropped the initial.

PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION: A massive, hulking figure, at 250 pounds the heaviest president up to that time, Cleveland stood 5 feet 11 inches tall and had a great bull neck, strong jaw, double chin, and ham-like fists. His hair, quite thin by middle age, was brown, his eyes blue, and his complexion fair. He wore a great bushy mustache. He spoke crisply in a strong resonant voice. His health generally was sound. In 1893, at the beginning of his second term as president, a malignant tumor was discovered in his mouth. In a secret hour-long operation performed aboard a yacht owned by Commodore E.C. Benedict as it cruised the East River off Manhattan, a team of doctors led by Dr. Joseph Bryant removed the president’s left upper jaw and part of his palate and fitted him with a vulcanized rubber prosthesis that retained the natural contour of his jawline. In this operation and in a second one performed to remove suspicious tissue nearby, all surgery was done from within the mouth to avoid an external scar. The cancer never recurred. Although speculation that Cleveland was seriously ill arose in the press, the White House categorically denied it. The operation remained a secret until 1917, when Dr. W.W. Keen, one of the physicians present, described it in detail for the Saturday Evening Post.

PERSONALITY: In his Pulitzer-prize winning biography, Allan Nevins observed that Cleveland had a dual personality. “To the end of his life,” wrote Nevins, “his intimates were struck by the gulf which separated the exuberant, jovial Cleveland of occasional hours of carefree banter, and the stern, unbending Cleveland of work and responsibility, whose life seemed hung round by a pall of duty.” He had a quick temper and spoke bluntly.

PRIMARY SOURCE: DeGregorio, William A. The Complete Book of U.S. Presidents. 7th ed. Fort Lee: Barricade Books, 2009.

Grover Cleveland with Ham

Chester ArthurBenjamin Harrison
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Chester Arthur with Ham

21st PRESIDENT

NAME: Chester Alan (pronounced Alán) Arthur. He was named after Dr. Chester Abell, the physician who delivered him, and his paternal grandfather, Alan Arthur.

PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION: A sturdily built, handsome figure, Arthur stood 6 feet 2 inches tall and had a chubby, round face, high forehead, fleshy nose, black eyes, and wavy brown hair. As a young man he was trim, weighing perhaps 175-185 pounds, but a penchant for late-night feasts brought him up to 225 pounds by the time he became president. His most distinctive feature was the sidewhiskers and mustache he wore throughout most of his career. A fastidious dresser, he had an extensive wardrobe that is said to have included 80 pairs of pants and changed clothes for every occasion, often several times a day. He was nicknamed Elegant Arthur. While he was president his health steadily eroded from terminal Bright’s disease.

PERSONALITY: Arthur was an amiable, easy-going fellow, an accomplished raconteur, a careful observer of social amenities, a man of charm, grace, and polish. Yet, observes biographer Thomas C. Reeves, “Though few would have guessed it of this urbane politician, Arthur was a deeply emotional, even romantic person, capable of great loyalties and easily brought to tears.” Reeves notes further that Arthur spent considerable effort to conceal that he retained much of the romanticism of his youth.

PRIMARY SOURCE: DeGregorio, William A. The Complete Book of U.S. Presidents. 7th ed. Fort Lee: Barricade Books, 2009.

Chester Arthur with Ham

James GarfieldGrover Cleveland
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James Garfield with Ham

James Garfield with Ham

20th PRESIDENT

NAME: James Abram Garfield. He was named after his older brother James Garfield, who had died in infancy, and his father, Abram Garfield.

PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION: A muscular, robust, handsome figure, Garfield stood 6 feet tall and weighed about 185 pounds. He had a disproportionately large head, a prominent forehead, light brown hair, blue eyes, and an aquiline nose. He wore a beard from young adulthood. He was left-handed. His health generally was sound, except during periods of overwork, when he complained of body aches and indigestion.

PERSONALITY: Although a pugnacious youth, Garfield matured into a good-natured, amiable, and gregarious fellow. Extremely tactile, he liked to hug and stroke friends and characteristically slung an arm around the shoulders of whomever he was talking to. He was a gifted orator, among the most popular and persuasive of his day. He was most ambitious but did little to promote his own fortunes. “I so much despise a man who blows his own horn,” he commented, “that I go to the extreme of not demanding what is justly my due.” To refrain from self-aggrandizement became the guiding principle of his life. “He was convinced that he was destiny’s child,” biographer Allan Peskin has written, “marked out for some special purpose. Secure in his faith, he place his career in the hands of his destiny, preferring to drift with the tide of fortune rather than take the initiative and oppose it.” As a young adult he experienced a prolonged period of mental depression, a period he later referred to as his “years of darkness.” Similarly after his election as president but before the inauguration, he was overcome with a sense of foreboding. He complained of severe headaches. He began having nightmares of being naked and lost. Throughout his life, his self-confidence was fragile.

PRIMARY SOURCE: DeGregorio, William A. The Complete Book of U.S. Presidents. 7th ed. Fort Lee: Barricade Books, 2009.

James Garfield with Ham

Rutherford HayesChester Arthur
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Rutherford B. Hayes with Ham

19th PRESIDENT

NAME: Rutherford Birchard Hayes. He was named after his father, Rutherford Hayes, and his mother, Sophia Birchard.

PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION: A robust, broad-shouldered, handsome figure, Hayes stood 5 feet 8.5 inches tall and usually weighed 170-180 pounds. He had a large head with a high forehead, deeply set blue eyes, a straight nose, firm lips, and sound, straight teeth. The auburn hair of his youth turned a dark brown and then white. From his service in the Civil War until his death, he wore a full beard. His health generally was sound. He dressed simply, often in ill-fitting clothes.

PERSONALITY: “Hayes was never a solitary, a boy of moods,” wrote biographer H.J. Eckenrode. “He had no seasons of exaltation followed by depression… All his life he liked society and shone in it in a modest way – not sparkling, not brilliant, but pleasing, satisfying. He had a gift of friendship and most of those he loved in youth he loved in age.” As a young man, however, Hayes went through a period of great inner tension, which he himself attributed to a fear that he would one day lose his mind, as some relatives, on both sides of his family, had done. Overcoming this fear, he matured into a relaxed, easy-going fellow, a good conversationalist, and a keen observer of human nature. He genuinely loved people and was interested in their thoughts and problems. When travelling by train, he invariably sat in the smoking car, eager to strike up a conversation. He had a remarkable memory for the names and faces of the most casual acquaintances. As a politician he respected the opposition and welcomed constructive criticism. Although not regarded as a great orator in his day, he delivered well-planned, reasoned, addresses in a clear, pleasant voice.

PRIMARY SOURCE: DeGregorio, William A. The Complete Book of U.S. Presidents. 7th ed. Fort Lee: Barricade Books, 2009.

Rutherford B. Hayes with Ham

Ulysses S. GrantJames Garfield
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Ulysses S. Grant with Ham

Ulysses S. Grant with Ham

18th PRESIDENT

NAME: Hiram Ulysses Grant. He remained nameless for a month after his birth. His mother considered naming him Albert. But in the end he was named Hiram, after his maternal grandfather, and Ulysses after the hero of Greek mythology. The prospect of entering West Point with the initials H.U.G. emblazoned on his trunk embarrassed him, so as a new cadet he began signing his name Ulysses H. Grant, or U.H. Grant. But soon he learned that Representative Thomas L. Hamer, who had arranged for his appointment, had enrolled him erroneously under the name Ulysses Simpson Grant. Grant went along with the change, finding nothing objectionable under the initials U.S.G. Classmates began calling him U.S., or Uncle Sam, Grant. Thereafter he was known to friends as Sam.

PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION: Grant stood 5 feet 7 inches tall and, though rather slightly built, as muscular. On entering West Point at 17, he as just 5 feet 1 inch tall, a scant one inch above the academy’s minimum height requirement, but sprouted 6 inches by graduation. He had soft blue eyes, wavy brown hair, thin lips, and delicate hands with long, slim fingers. He sported a full beard and mustache. He wore false teeth. He suffered from migraine headaches all his life. At West Point, he developed the nagging cough, hoarseness, and abrupt eight loss typical of tuberculosis, a disease prevalent in the Grant family.

PERSONALITY: Ironically, the man who achieved fame on the battlefield was particularly squeamish. Grant could not stomach the sight of animal blood. Rare steak nauseated him; he insisted that his meat be well done. He never touched fowl. “I could never eat anything that went on two legs,” he explained. He did not hunt, even as a boy in rural southern Ohio where shooting game was a favorite youthful past time. Grant was modest, self-effacing, soft-spoken, and mild-mannered. One biographer, W.E. Woodward, went so far as to suggest that he was bit effeminate. “Young Grant had a girl’s primness of manner and modesty of conduct,” he wrote. “There was a broad streak of the feminine in his personality. He was almost half-woman. But this strain was buried in the depths of his soul; it never came to the surface, except indirectly, and he was probably not aware of it himself.” Grant was somewhat prudish. He seldom used foul language. He disliked dirty jokes. And in the field he always bathed alone in a closed tent, never allowing even his aides to glimpse him naked. A serious, well-disciplined soldier, Grant spurned military pomp and pageantry. He was loyal to friends. A superstitious man, he believed it bad luck to retrace one’s steps. If he inadvertently walked beyond his destination, for example, he would not simply turn around and walk back down the same street, but rather would keep going further away from the place and return via another road.

PRIMARY SOURCE: DeGregorio, William A. The Complete Book of U.S. Presidents. 7th ed. Fort Lee: Barricade Books, 2009.

Ulysses S. Grant with Ham

Andrew JohnsonRutherford Hayes

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Andrew Johnson with Ham

Andrew Johnson with Ham

17th PRESIDENT

NAME: Andrew Johnson. According to one theory, he was named after Andrew Jackson; according to another, he was given the name of a maternal uncle.

PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION: Stocky, though well proportioned, Johnson stood 5 feet 10 inches tall and had a swarthy complexion, broad forehead, thick dark hair that was graying when he became president, piercing deeply set black eyes guarded by protruding bushy eyebrows, a square jaw with a cleft chin, and a large nose. His health generally was sound, though as president he suffered from kidney stones. He began wearing reading glasses in his fifties. He dressed neatly, usually in black.

PERSONALITY: Johnson was simple and direct in manner. He spoke bluntly and to some appeared cold. He was generally reserved and sober but went out of his way to remain on friendly terms with old acquaintances and often loaned money to people down on their luck. “I found him kind and helpful,” recalled one Tennessee neighbor, “especially to poor young men and he was entirely without condescension.” Because of his own common roots, he throughout his life identified with the underdog. He shunned Washington society, preferring the company of old friends. Yet he was ever polite and carried himself with great dignity. Possessed of a strong, clear voice, Johnson was a gifted orator.

PRIMARY SOURCE: DeGregorio, William A. The Complete Book of U.S. Presidents. 7th ed. Fort Lee: Barricade Books, 2009.

Andrew Johnson with Ham

Abraham LincolnUlysses S. Grant

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Abraham Lincoln with Ham

Abraham Lincoln with Ham

16th PRESIDENT

NAME: Abraham Lincoln. He was named after his paternal grandfather.

PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION: Lincoln, the tallest president, stood 6 feet 4 inches tall, weighed about 180 pounds, and had long, gangling limbs and a rather sunken chest. His course black hair was gray at the temples while he was president. His eyes were gray, the left one being slightly higher than the right. He began wearing reading glasses at age 48. He had a wart on his right cheek above the corner of his mouth. He also had a white scar on his thumb from an accident with an ax and a scar over his right eye from a fight with a gang of thieves. Long hours swinging an ax had given him muscular arms and shoulders. By conventional standards, Lincoln was homely; to some, downright ugly. “His cheekbones were high, sharp and prominent,” wrote his law partner William Herndon, “his eyebrows cropped out like a huge rock on the brow of a hill; his long sallow face was wrinkled.” But to his private secretary John G. Nicolay, Lincoln’s features were too complex to be recorded accurately by photographers, painters, or sculptors. “Graphic art,” he commented, “was powerless before a face that moved through a thousand delicate gradations of line and contour, light and shade, sparkle of the eye and curve of the lip, in the long gamut of expression from grave to gay, and back again from the rollicking jollity of laughter to that far-away look.” For his part, Lincoln was comfortable with his homely appearance and readily poked fun at himself. His careless dress habits further detracted from his appearance.

During his term as president, Lincoln complained of frequent fatigue, severe headaches, and cold hands and feet. This and other evidence gathered over the course of 20 years of research into Lincoln’s medical history has led Dr. Harold Schwartz of the University of Southern California School of Medicine to conclude that at the time of his assassination Lincoln was dying of heart disease. Writing in the Western Journal of Medicine in 1978, Dr. Schwarz asserted that Lincoln suffered from Marfan’s syndrome, a hereditary disease that affects bone growth and heart function. Dr. Schwartz noted that Lincoln had disproportionately long arms and legs, unusually long middle fingers, and a sunken chest – all typical of Marfan sufferers. Moreover, Dr. Schwartz observed, Lincoln once commented that his left foot vibrated involuntarily hen he sat with his left leg crossed over his right. This, said Dr. Schwartz, undoubtedly was caused by aortic regurgitation, a Marfan-related disorder in which the valves of the great artery leading from the heart do not close properly, causing blood to flow in spurts with enough force to wiggle a dangling foot. Lincoln also struggled with chronic constipation throughout much of his life.

PERSONALITY: By all accounts, Lincoln was disarmingly unpretentious, a plain-spoken man genuinely interested in people and their problems. A good listener, he typically sat in silence rubbing his chin while a visitor explained his point of view. He was at his best in relaxed conversation with small groups. His ready wit, down-home logic, and seemingly endless store of anecdotes delighted those present. “His custom of interspersing conversation with incidents, anecdotes, and witticisms,” commenting one observer, “are well calculated to impress his hearers with the kindheartedness of the man. And they are so adroitly and delicately mingled in the thread of his discourse that one hardly notices the digression.” For all his good humor, however, Lincoln had a dark side; he wrestled with severe bouts of mental depression. Long time friend Joshua Speed recalled that when he first met Lincoln, then a young lawyer, “I look up at him, and I thought then, as I think now, that I never saw so gloomy and melancholy a face in my life.” Lincoln himself once complained, “If what I feel ere equally distributed to the whole human family, there would not be one cheerful face on the earth. Whether I should eve be better, I cannot tell; I awfully forebode I shall not. To remain as I am is impossible; I must die or be better, it appears to me.” Lincoln spoke in a high pitched voice with a marked frontier accent, pronouncing such words as get, there, and chair as git, thar, and cheer and saying haint for haven’t.

SOURCE: DeGregorio, William A. The Complete Book of U.S. Presidents. 7th ed. Fort Lee: Barricade Books, 2009.

Abraham Lincoln with Ham

James BuchananAndrew Johnson
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James Buchanan with HamJames Buchanan with Ham

15th PRESIDENT

NAME: James Buchanan. He was named after his father.

PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION: An imposing, handsome figure, Buchanan stood a bit over 6 feet tall and had broad shoulders and a sizable paunch. He had a very fair complexion and large blue eyes. His massive forehead receded to silky gray hair, which he wore swept up and back. He had rather small feet for his size and took quick steps. His most distinctive feature was a wryneck; his head was habitually cocked to the left. Unlike most victims of wryneck, his was not caused by muscular malfunction. Rather, it was a result of a peculiar eye disorder. One eye was nearsighted, the other farsighted; also the left eyeball was pitched higher in the socket than was the right. To compensate, Buchanan early developed the habit of cocking his head and closing one eye. If he were talking to someone or examining something close up, he would wink shut the farsighted eye; if gazing in the distance, he closed the nearsighted one. For reading he found it easier to focus with a candle in front of his eyes. He apparently coped well with the disorder, for he read much throughout his career and did not wear glasses until near the end of his life. His health otherwise generally was sound. One of Buchanan’s eyelids twitched, which, combined with his personality (in 1825, at least) led a modern Jackson biographer to describe Buchanan as a “winking, fidgeting little busybody.”  Buchanan, a wealthy bachelor with Epicurean tastes, was celebrated for serious drinking. He chided his liquor merchants for delivering champagne to the White House in small bottles. He would use his Sunday ride as an excuse to visit the Jacob Baer distillery in Washington and pick up a ten-gallon cask of “Old J.B. Whiskey.” It would amuse him when White House guests mistook the initials J.B. for his own. A journalist of the time wrote “There was no head ache, no faltering steps, no flushed cheek” associated with Buchanan’s drinking. “Oh no! All was as cool, as calm and as cautious and watchful as in the beginning. More than one ambitious tyro who sought to follow his example gathered an early fall.” Buchanan would begin his drinking with cognac and end with old rye. Two or three bottles might be consumed at one sitting. The press commented on his resistance to alcohol’s effects. Buchanan dressed carefully, commonly in a black suit and white neckwear.

PERSONALITY: According to biographer George Ticknor Curtis, Buchanan’s personality was marked by “strong family affections,” “engaging social qualities,” “fidelity to friends,” a “forgiving temper toward those who had injured him,” and generosity. He freely loaned money to friends in need and gave funds to the poor. He bought slaves in Washington and freed them in Pennsylvania without any guarantee of reimbursement. He was scrupulous to avoid even the appearance of conflict of interest. He declined all offers of free transportation passes and, as president, turned gifts over to the Patent Office. Buchanan carried himself with an air of dignity and was at all times graceful and courteous. He was not an especially gifted speaker.

SOURCES: DeGregorio, William A. The Complete Book of U.S. Presidents. 7th ed. Fort Lee: Barricade Books, 2009; and http://www.doctorzebra.com

James Buchanan with Ham

Franklin PierceAbraham Lincoln
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