3 Interesting Things to Ponder on Presidents' Day

Stephen L Kanaval |

The combining of George Washington's birthday and Abraham Lincoln's birthday, both in February, is the root of Presidents' Day (for the two days used to be observed separately). The day is now a time to celebrate all United States leaders past and present. Here are three other interesting things to ponder on Presidents' Day 2016:

1. George Washington had lost all his teeth in his 20s.

By the time our first president earned that moniker he had no teeth at all. A set of false teeth survive as part of his records. The dentures were an unsightly mix of human teeth, horse teeth, cattle teeth, and elephant ivory. The gums were molded lead. Dentures were extremely uncomfortable in the 18th century. They were not for eating and really not well suited for speech. He only wore them for portraits and appearances. The dentures were spring-loaded and hard to keep in the old trap.

2. Calvin Coolidge owned a pygmy hippo.

Move over Bo. Coolidge owned a pygmy hippo named "Billy." He also owned a bobcat, an antelope, and a wallaby. The 600 pound, Liberian-born Billy was a gift from Harvey Firestone. Coolidge donated the hippo to the Smithsonian Zoological Park and Billy was quickly turned into a stud. He sired 23 baby hippos and many of the hippos you see in American zoos across the country are descendants of Billy.

3. Ulysses S. Grant got a speeding ticket for riding his horse too fast.

D.C. police were not playing around with the 18th president. Grant was riding his horse drawn carriage at dangerous speeds. They police ticketed Grant and impounded the vehicle...horses. The story goes that Grant did not like to be chauffeured, but preferred to ride himself around town. Officer William West saw Grant riding expeditiously down M Street and grabbed the reigns. It took a block to slow the President down. When West realized that he had just pulled over the President of the United States, he was embarrassed and tried to let Grant go. Yet, Grant refused and paid the ticket. Years later, on in a press junket in Central Park, Grant challenged President Andrew Jackson's driver to a race through the park, and he rode hard winning easily.

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