You’d think that any person who would one day become the most powerful political leader in the world would practise discretion, but some of the 43 Presidents of the United States have taken part in some pretty risqué behaviour either before or during their tenure at the White House. Of course, everyone knows about JFK’s womanizing or Clinton’s activities with a certain intern, so here some other ‘presidential affairs’ which are less talked about.
10. John Adams was a fan of Skinny Dipping
John Adams (1735 – 1826) was 90 years old when he died. That’s a pretty impressive lifespan for someone born in the 18th century and a 2008 ‘study’ by Gold’s Gym attributes Adams’ long life to his strict exercise regime. The second president of the United States was said to walk three miles every day and swam the width of Potomac river each morning at 5am – completely nude. Adams’ love for naked swimming was so well-known that Anne Royall became the first female journalist to interview a president when she surprised Adams during one of his early morning baths and reportedly sat on his clothes until he agreed to talk to her. Adams’ was also said to have been a fan of outdoor sex and once wrote “The art of making love, muffled up in furs, in the open air, with the thermometer at Zero, is a Yankee invention, which requires a Yankee poet to describe”.
9. Andrew Jackson Owned a Foul-Mouthed parrot
Andrew Jackson (1767 – 1845) was a quick-tempered, angry man who was known to settle disagreements by duelling. Of course, this was all before he became the seventh president of the United States in 1829. One of these most infamous ‘disputes’ was between Jackson and Charles Dickinson, an attorney and horse breeder from Tennessee, in 1806. A series of misunderstandings and insults led to the the two trading barbs before they both agreed to a duel to settle their differences. Jackson knew Dickinson to be an excellent marksman so on the day of the duel he stood still and waited to be shot. Dickinson narrowly missed his opponent’s heart but this gave Jackson plenty of time to raise and aim his gun for a fatal shot. The bullet in his chest couldn’t be removed and Jackson carried it in his body for the rest of his life. Another of the most popular stories attributed to Jackson actually occurred after his death. He apparently passed on his penchant for swearing and bad temper to his pet parrot, Poll, who was brought to his funeral because he was the former president’s companion after his wife’s death some years early. However, the parrot had to be removed from the ceremony according to one attendee because it “got excited and commenced swearing so loud and long as to disturb the people and had to be carried from the house”.
8. Andrew Johnson was Drunk During his Inauguration as Vice President
Having impressed the president during his years as military governor of Tennessee, Andrew Johnson (1808 – 1875) emerged as the strongest candidate to be Abraham Lincoln’s running mate in his reelection campaign in 1864. After Lincoln secured his reelection bid, Johnson travelled to Washington to be sworn in on March 4, 1865, replacing Hannibal Hamlin as vice president. However, it may have been better if he had stayed at home. The night before the inauguration Johnson preemptively celebrated a little too hard and drank heavily at a party in his honour. The next morning he was hung over and asked Hamlin for some whiskey so he could gather his strength. Apparently this ‘hair of the dog’ solution didn’t quite work as intended as Johnson gave a slurred, incomprehensible speech and rambled on for almost 17 minutes in front of the Senate. Hamlin was finally able to interject himself to swear Johnson in but the new vice president didn’t manage to get that right either and when he put his hands on the bible he proclaimed “I kiss this Book in the face of my nation the United States.“ Senator Zachariah Chandler later remarked that Johnson was “too drunk to perform his duties & disgraced himself & the Senate”. Lincoln defended Johnson and stated that he wasn’t a drunk, but the newly appointed vice president avoided public appearances until he was sworn in as president following Lincoln’s assassination some months later. Ironically, Johnson had also been marked for assassination the same night but his would-be killer got too drunk at a hotel bar to carry out his part of the plot.
7. George Washington Grew Marijuana
Before he became the first president of the United States, George Washington (1732 – 1799) was a keen farmer on his Mount Vernon estate in Virginia. A meticulous record keeper when it came to agricultural concerns, Washington once wrote that he was concerned about the temperamental returns of tobacco production and turned his attention to other crops. Hemp became one of Washington’s primary crops and he was keen to yield big returns on this new investment. Hemp was widely used during this time to make rope, canvases and fabrics, so sadly it’s highly unlikely that he grew hemp for any sort of recreational purposes. Nevertheless many have jumped on the following quote as proof that Washington was a fan of smoking the substance: “Began to separate the Male from the Female hemp … rather too late.” The female strain contains a higher content of THC levels and some have interpreted this diary entry as proof that Washington had recognised the potent, ‘smokable’ qualities of female hemp. However, industrial hemp does not yield enough buds to be used in any recreational sense and it’s much more likely that Washington was separating the two as the male hemp made stronger fiber and the female hemp could be used to seed the next crop.
6. James Buchanan was Probably Gay
It seems almost unthinkable that American attitudes of the 19th century would have accepted a homosexual head of state, so it should come as no surprise that James Buchanan (1791 – 1868) never publicly announced that he was gay. However, many historians and biographers not only strongly believe that the fifteenth president of the United States was in a long, intimate relationship with fellow politician William Rufus King, but also that contemporaries of Buchanan knew about his sexual orientation and were even vocal with their suspicions. The pair had lodged together for 10 years from 1834 to 1844 before King left to serve as Minister for France. After King’s departure one of Buchanan’s private letters stated “I feel that it is not good for a man to be alone” and goes on to say that he might as well as marry an old maid who can feed him and look after him without expecting anything in the way of romantic affection. The pair didn’t live together again when King returned to the Senate in 1846, but they were always in each other’s company and attended social functions together. They were known as “siamese twins” around Washington and other choice quotes include references to King being Buchanan’s “better half” and ‘’wife” and Andrew Jackson referred to them both as “Aunt Fancy and Miss Nancy”. King passed away in 1853, four years before Buchanan became president. Buchanan referred to him as “among the best, the purest and most consistent public men I have known” and to this date he is still the only bachelor to have ever served as president.
5. Warren Harding Partied During the Prohibition and Had Affairs
Seemingly unfazed by the fact that he was president during the early years of the Prohibition, Warren Harding (1865 – 1923) was said to have frequently entertained late night guests with a constant supply of alcohol while his wife happily mixed drinks. In fact, he moved his huge supply of booze straight into the White House as soon as he was inaugurated. He was also a keen poker player and once won a pearl necktie pin worth $4,000. However, he also once lost a china set which dated back to the presidency of Benjamin Harrison. Harding’s partying ways were well-known and he insisted that what he did in the White House was his own business, but he did practice some discretion when it came to his extramarital affairs. Well, he tried to at least. Harding had a string of affairs, the first of which occurred only 3 years into his marriage to his long-suffering wife Florence. One of his most well-known ‘relationships’ was with Nan Britton, a young woman who became his mistress at the age of 22 (he was 51) when she started working as his campaign volunteer. Britton wrote a tell-all book published in 1928 called The President’s Daughter where she claimed to have had sex with Harding in a coat closet in the White House while Secret Service agents guarded the door. She also believed that her daughter had been fathered by Harding, but was unable to prove her case following his sudden death in 1923. Harding also had a 15 year relationship with Carrie Fulton Phillips which took place between 1905 and 1920; before and during his tenure as a senator but not as president. The pair exchanged more than 100 letters during this time, most of which have been made publicly available by The Library of Congress. Harding didn’t hold back in his steamy correspondence – often referring to his penis as “Jerry” and remarking “Wish I could take you to Mount Jerry. Wonderful spot.” In another choice passage he wrote ”I hurt with the insatiate longing, until I feel that there will never be any relief untiI I take a long, deep, wild draught on your lips and then bury my face on your pillowing breasts.”
4. Jefferson had a thing with his Slaves
Thomas Jefferson’s (1743 – 1826) attitude toward slavery has always been a contentious issue amongst historians. Jefferson was vocal in his opposition to slavery and was a firm believer in gradual emancipation, yet many criticise his presidency for failing to take action on the issue and find that his views were in direct opposition to his actions. Jefferson owned hundreds of slaves on his plantations during his lifetime. After the death of his wife in 1782, Jefferson started a relationship with Sally Hemings, a mixed-race slave. In 1787, 14 year old Hemmings – who was actually the half-sister of Jefferson’s late wife – stayed with him for two years in Paris where he was serving as the Ambassador to France. It is believed that the two had a relationship up until his death and that he had fathered six of her children, four of whom survived. Public and private accusations were made against Jefferson but he denied being the father of Hemings’ children. However, a major DNA test in 1998 proved that there was a paternal match between the Jefferson male line and Hemings’ descendants and it is now accepted that Jefferson was the father to Hemings’ children.
3. Calvin Coolidge had a Vaseline Kink
Nothing quite says power trip like having Vaseline rubbed into your head every morning. Apparently Calvin Coolidge (1872 – 1933) loved the sensation so much that he had he applied while he ate breakfast in bed. Whether he got something out of it or just felt like starting the day with a scalp massage we’ll never know, but it’s an interesting guilty pleasure for a man who was known for his quiet, steadfast demeanour. Interestingly, Coolidge is also the inspiration for a sexual phenomenon found in mammals – although it’s a type of behaviour that befits his reputation. One famous anecdote attributed to Coolidge is that when he was visiting a government farm with his wife, Mrs Coolidge inquired how often the roosters mate. The farmer told her that it was dozens of times a day and she replied “Tell that to the President when he comes by.” The farmer dutifully repeated this to Coolidge who asked if it was the same hen each time. When the farmer said that it was in fact different hens, the president quipped “Tell that to Mrs. Coolidge”. Thus, the Coolidge Effect refers to the theory that most males in mammalian species have an urge for variety in their sexual partners.
2. Grover Cleveland was Embroiled in a Shocking Sex Scandal
Grover Cleveland (1837 – 1908) is probably best known as the only president to serve two non-consecutive terms in office, but the man who had a reputation for being an honest statesman was involved in one of the most shocking sex scandals in American politics (well, at the time at least). In 1884 when he was running for presidency for the first time, Cleveland’s upstanding moral character was tarnished by allegations that he had fathered an illegitimate child with a woman by the name of Maria Halpin years earlier. Cleveland, who was a bachelor at the time, admitted that he had been involved with Halpin and had even paid child support to her. He also added that she was involved with several other men and that he only took responsibility because he was the only unmarried man out of her other partners. However, Halpin offered a very different perspective on events when reporters tracked her down after the story first broke. Cleveland had been courting Halpin for several months when one night he forced himself upon her. Halpin had no intentions of ever seeing Cleveland again but was forced to tell him that she was pregnant with his child. When her son was born nine months later, Halpin was spirited away to a local asylum without any warrant or reason and had her child placed in custody. Halpin was only kept for a few days before being released but she accused Cleveland of abduction and grossly abusing his power and connections to silence the possibility of a scandal.
1. Lyndon B Johnson was a Womanising Exhibitionist
Put simply, Lyndon B. Johnson (1908 – 1973) was not a shy man. He was tremendously proud about the size of his penis, which he affectionately nicknamed “Jumbo”. To show it off he would frequently urinate in public and wave it around at anyone unfortunate to walk into the bathroom when he was using the urinal. Poor White House staff also had to put up with him sitting on the toilet with the door open, issuing orders and carrying on conversations as he emptied his bowels. He also took great pleasure in persuading envoys to join in a spot of skinny dipping in the indoor pool which had been built for President Franklin Roosevelt. This was apparently a not-so-subtle method of intimidating others in a masculine show of force with his mini Johnson. In one his most infamous penis-flashing incidents, LBJ was apparently so sick of reporters haranguing him about why America was involved in Vietnam that he unzipped his pants and declared “This is why!”. Not to be bested by the antics of his predecessor, Johnson was also a terrible womaniser and is believed to have once remarked that he “had more women by accident than [Kennedy] ever had on purpose”. He shamelessly made passes at any woman he came across and his private mistresses were referred to by his staffers as LBJ’s “harem”. He also allegedly had a buzzer installed in the Oval Office so the secret service staff could let the president know if his wife was on her way.