James Monroe with HamJames Monroe with Ham

5th PRESIDENT

NAME: James Monroe

PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION: Slightly over 6 feet tall, Monroe was sturdily built with broad shoulders and a large frame. He has a high forehead, and from early adulthood deep bays indented in his hairline. The dark wavy hair of his youth had grayed almost completely by the time he became president. Hi angular face was distinctive for its oversized nose, wide-set blue-gray eyes, and dimpled chin. He always appeared well groomed but did not keep up with fashion changes in clothes. His health generally was good.

PERSONALITY: Monroe’s greatest asset was his disarming, warm personality. Although conceding that Monroe lacked brilliance and a nimble mind, biographer Harry Ammon pointed out that he “had a rare ability of putting men at ease by his courtesy, his lack of condescension, his frankness, and by what his contemporaries looked upon as his essential goodness and kindness of heart.” Monroe at least partially overcame an early shyness but remained markedly low-key and reserved, especially among strangers. Acutely sensitive to criticism, he at times took offense where none was intended. Rather than lash back at his critics, however, he usually bottled up his feelings. “Operating as he did with such an elevated sense of his on integrity,” Ammon has written, “he could not easily adjust when old friends failed to approve his conduct.”

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

James Monroe with Ham

James MadisonJohn Quincy Adams
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James Madison with Ham

4th PRESIDENT

NAME: James Madison, Jr. He was named after his father.

PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION: Madison, the shortest and slightest president, stood about 5 feet 4 inches tall and weighed just 100 pounds. He had brown hair, blue eyes, and a rather tawny complexion. His nose was scarred from once having been frostbitten. He wore a size 7.25 hat. Until his last years he always appeared young for his age. From his youth, he was sickly, weak, and nervous, though he toughened his constitution somewhat in later years through rigorous exercise. He suffered from what his principal biographer, Irving Brant, has called “epileptoid hysteria,” psychosomatic seizures similar to those of epilepsy that suspended the intellectual functions. Madison spoke in a thin, low voice. His speeches before deliberative bodies usually went unheard in the back benches. Even the recorder at the Virginia legislature complained that he could not always make out Madison’s words clearly. Neat in appearance, Madison dressed carefully, usually in black.

PERSONALITY: Madison was shy and reserved with strangers and never learned the politically useful art of ┬ásmall talk. Because of his shyness, as well as his small stature and weak voice, he made a very bad first impression. Contributing to his poor image was his deliberative nature. He deferred decisions whenever possible until all sides had been considered thoroughly. For this, some regarded him as weak and indecisive. But others agreed with Treasury Secretary Albert Gallatin, who said, “Mr. Madison is…slow in taking his ground, but firm when the storm rises.”

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

James Madison with Ham

Thomas JeffersonJames Monroe

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Thomas Jefferson with Ham

Thomas Jefferson with Ham

3rd PRESIDENT

NAME: Thomas Jefferson. He was named after his paternal grandfather, Thomas Jefferson II (c. 1677-1731), a prominent landowner, militia captain, and justice of Chesterfield County, Va.

PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION: Tall (6 feet 2.5 inches) and thin, Jefferson had small hazel eyes, an angular nose, thin lips, sound straight teeth, a pointed chin, a long neck, and reddish hair that turned sandy as it grayed. In his youth he was heavily freckled and rather gawky. His hands and feet were large. He walked in a loping gait and maintained poor posture. “He sits in a lounging manner on one hip, commonly,” observed Senator William Maclay, “and with one of his shoulders elevated much above the other.” He paid little attention to fashion but dressed in whatever was most comfortable, often mixing styles from different periods. When Anthony Merry, a British minister to the United States, called on President Jefferson, he was appalled to find the chief executive “not merely in undress, but actually standing in slippers down at the heels, and both pantaloons, coat and under-clothes indicative of utter slovenliness and indifference to appearances, an in a state of negligence actually studies.” His health generally was good, except for severe headaches that struck usually after a personal loss and sometimes lingered for weeks. In later years he suffered from rheumatism. From 1786 his right hand was crippled (from an accident which occurred when Jefferson attempted to leap a fence while strolling with Mrs. Maria Hadfield Cosway, with whom he had a post-marital affair. He was 43 and she was 27 years of age at the time.)

PERSONALITY: “Mr. Jefferson displays a mild easy and obliging temper,” commented the duc de La Rochefoucald-Liancourt, “though he is somewhat cold and reserved. His conversation is the most agreeable kind.” Jefferson was open and approachable, yet he maintained an impregnable core of inner feeling that has frustrated his biographers. He had an insatiable curiosity about all aspects of life. His fondness for structure and order can be seen in the meticulous records he maintained on plant life and weather conditions at Monticello. Despite his many years of politics, he never acquired to attributes usually considered essential to success in that profession: a thick skin and a gift for oratory. He was acutely sensitive to public criticism and, although captivating in small groups, delivered notoriously unmoving speeches before large crowds. He tended to mumble softly out of earshot of much of his audience.

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

Thomas Jefferson with Ham

John AdamsJames Madison
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John Adams with Ham

John Adams with Ham

2nd PRESIDENT

NAME: John Adams. He was named after his father.

PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION: Adams was short, about 5 feet 6 inches, stocky in his youth, and portly in middle age. He had quick blue eyes and fine brown hair. Ironically, Adams, the longest-living president, was beset by a train of maladies throughout his 90 years. “My constitution is a glass bubble,” he once said. He caught cold at the slightest draft; Boston’s air gave him acute chest pains; headaches, heartburn, and general weakness slowed him down. His eyes were weak from his youth. In Amsterdam in 1781 he contracted a severe fever and lapsed into a five-day coma before shaking off this “Dutch complaint,” which lingered three months. By the time he became president, his hands shook with palsy, and most of his teeth had fallen to pyorrhea. He refused to wear the ill-fitting dentures of the period and thus from this time talked with a lisp.

PERSONALITY: “There are few people in this world with whom I can converse,” Adams once admitted. “I can treat all with decency and civility, and converse with them, when it is necessary, on points of business. But I am never happy in their company.” This confession sums up the paradox of Adams’s personality; he genuinely loved and had deep compassion for humanity but never learned to deal with individual human beings. To his immediate family, he was a warm, generously loving man; to outsiders, he appeared cold , aloof, conceited. As a youth he was driven by ambition. He was determined to be a man of substance and, if circumstances afforded the opportunity, a great man. Throughout his life he wrestled with his passions. From his mother he inherited his pugnacity, drive, ready temper, and broad mood swings. He frequently fell to black despair, fits of depression that were usually triggered by the onset of some illness, public criticism, or lack of recognition of his achievements. Some historians believe that he may have been manic-depressive. Somewhat paranoid, too, he was quick to see in his unpopularity a plot by others to discredit him and steal credit for themselves. A proper Puritan, he was shocked by the open sexuality of eighteenth-century France. At a dinner party in Bordeaux in 1778, a Madame de Texel, addressing Adams with innocent frankness, wondered aloud how Adam and Eve ever learned how to have sex, for no one else was around to explain the facts of life to them. Adams was thoroughly embarrassed, having never before heard a woman discuss such matters. He blushed but quickly regained his composure to explain with mock seriousness. “There was a physical quality in us resembling the power of electricity or of a magnet, by which when a pair approached within a striking distance they flew together like the needle to the pole or like two objects in electric experiments.”

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

John Adams with Ham

George WashingtonThomas Jefferson
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George Washington with Ham

George Washington with Ham

1st PRESIDENT

NAME: George Washington. He was probably named after George Eskridge, a lawyer in whose charge Washington’s mother had been left when she was orphaned.

PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION: Washington was a large powerful man – about 6 feet 2 inches tall, 175 pounds in his prime, up to more than 200 pounds in later years. Erect in bearing, muscular, broad shouldered, he had large hands and feet (size 13 shoes), a long face with high cheek bones, a large straight nose, determined chin, blue-gray eyes beneath heavy brows and dark brown hair, which on formal occasions he powdered and tied in a queue. His fair complexion bore the marks of small pox he contracted as a young man. He lost his teeth, probably to gum disease, and wore dentures. According to Dr. Reidear Sognnaes, former dean of the University of California at Los Angeles School of Dentistry, who has made a detailed study of Washington’s bridgework, he was fitted with numerous sets of dentures, fashioned variously from lead, ivory, and the teeth of humans, cows, and other animals, but not from wood, as was popularly believed. Moreover, he was not completely toothless. Upon his inauguration as president, Washington had one of his own teeth left to work alongside the dentures. He began wearing reading glasses during the Revolution. He dressed fashionably.

PERSONALITY: A man of quiet strength, he took few friends into complete confidence. His critics mistook his dignified reserve for pomposity. Life for Washington was a serious mission, a job to be tackled soberly, unremittingly. He had little time for humor. Although basically good natured, he wrestled with his temper and sometimes lost. He was a poor speaker and could become utterly inarticulate without a prepared text. He preferred to express himself on paper. Still, when he did speak, he was candid, direct, and looked people squarely in the eye. Biographer Douglas Southall Freeman conceded that Washington’s “ambition for wealth made him acquisitive and sometimes contentious.” Even after Washington had established himself, Freeman pointed out, “he would insist upon the exact payment of every farthing due him” and was determined “to get everything that he honestly could.” Yet, neither his ambition to succeed nor his acquisitive nature ever threatened his basic integrity.

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

George Washington with Ham

Barack ObamaJohn Adams
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