May 8th 1884: Truman born
On this day in 1884, the future 33rd President of the United States Harry S. Truman was born. Truman served as Vice-President under Franklin D. Roosevelt and became President upon Roosevelt’s death in 1945. As President, Truman oversaw the end of World War Two and made the decision to use nuclear weapons against Japan. His other acts as President include passing the Marshall Plan to rebuild Europe, issuing the Truman Doctrine to contain communism and overseeing the Korean War. Truman left the presidency in 1953 and died in 1972 aged 88.
April 4th 1841: President Harrison dies
On this day in 1841, the 9th President of the United States William Henry Harrison died in office. Harrison’s time in office was the shortest of any US President, serving only 32 days. He died of complications from pneumonia which he supposedly caught at his inauguration, held in the middle of winter, as he did not want to look old and so refused to wear a coat. Harrison was the oldest President to take office, aged 68, until Ronald Reagan in 1981. He was succeeded upon his death by his Vice-President John Tyler.
February 9th 1825: John Quincy Adams elected
On this day in 1825, the disputed presidential election of 1824 was resolved when the House of Representatives elected John Quincy Adams as the 6th President. No presidential candidate in that election won a majority of Electoral College votes and so the decision came to Congress. Despite Andrew Jackson winning a plurality of the popular and electoral vote, Henry Clay agreed to transfer his electoral votes to John Quincy Adams which handed Adams the Presidency. Clay was then made Secretary of State, which Jackson and his supporters criticised as a ‘Corrupt Bargain’. Jackson eventually won the presidency in 1828.
May 26th 1868: President Johnson acquitted
On this day in 1868 President Andrew Johnson’s impeachment trial ended, finding him not guilty by one vote. Johnson became President in 1865 after the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, and oversaw the Reconstruction era after the Civil War. The unpopular President was impeached in February by the House of Representatives, with the main charge being that he violated the Tenure of Office Act by removing Edwin Stanton as Secretary of War. Johnson was then put on trial in the Senate, with Chief Justice Salmon Chase presiding, however he was found not guilty. He was one vote short of conviction and thus removal from office. Whilst Congress gave specific reasons for the impeachment, many still consider the affair mostly political. Johnson and Bill Clinton in 1998 are the only Presidents to have been impeached.
March 30th 1981: Reagan assassination attempt
On this day in 1981 at 2.27pm John Hinckley Jr. shot the President of the United States Ronald Reagan in the chest outside a hotel in Washington DC. The President was leaving the Washington Hilton after giving a speech when he and three others were shot by the gunman. Hinckley’s motivation was to impress the young actress Jodie Foster having seen her in the film ‘Taxi Driver’. When he opened fire on the day, he injured White House Press Secretary James Brady (who would later become an advocate of gun control and lend his name to the Brady Bill), police officer Thomas Delahanty and Secret Service agent Timothy McCarthy who had spread himself over Reagan to take the bullet. Hinckley was apprehended and eventually found not guilty by reason of insanity and remains in a psychiatric facility. Reagan suffered a punctured lung and, despite coming very close to death, made a speedy recovery at the George Washington University Hospital. In the operating room, Reagan joked “I hope you are all Republicans”, to which the lead surgeon replied “Today, Mr President, we are all Republicans”. When the First Lady, Nancy Reagan, arrived Reagan remarked to her:
“Honey, I forgot to duck”
On this day in 1919, the former US President Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt, died in his sleep from a heart attack. The then Vice President Roosevelt became the 26th US President in 1901 after the assassination of President William McKinley. He took office aged 42, becoming the youngest US President there had ever been. He is the fifth cousin of the 32nd US President Franklin D. Roosevelt, and his wife Eleanor Roosevelt’s uncle.
Whilst in office, Roosevelt attempted to move the Republican Party toward Progressivism, and emphasised the need for everyone to get a fair share (his ‘Square Deal’). His foreign policy embodied his slogan - “Speak softly and carry a big stick”. His negotiation of the end of the Russo-Japanese War won him a Nobel Peace Prize. He declined to run for re-election in 1908, and after leaving office travelled to Africa and Europe. When he returned, he tried to gain the Republican nomination, but lost to William H. Taft. He then launched his ‘Bull Moose Party’ and in 1912 became the only third party candidate to ever come second in a presidential election, but he lost to Woodrow Wilson.
Roosevelt was known for his strong personality and masculinity. For example, in 1912 he was shot whilst campaigning in Wisconsin. However Roosevelt continued with the speech for 90 minutes, refusing to go to hospital despite the fact that blood was seeping through his shirt. His opening comments were: “Ladies and gentlemen, I don’t know whether you fully understand that I have just been shot; but it takes more than that to kill a Bull Moose.” But despite this tough persona, one of Roosevelt’s lasting legacies is the ‘Teddy bear’. On a hunting trip in Mississippi in 1902, Roosevelt famously ordered the mercy killing of a wounded black bear. A toy maker was inspired by the story and thus the ‘Teddy bear’ was born. He is also now known as one of the four Presidents featured on Mount Rushmore, alongside George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln.
“Death had to take Roosevelt sleeping, for if he had been awake, there would have been a fight.”
- Vice President Thomas Marshall on Roosevelt’s death
April 14th 1865: Lincoln shot
On this day in 1865, the US President Abraham Lincoln was shot in Ford’s Theatre, Washington DC while attending a performance of ‘Our American Cousin’. Lincoln died the next day. He was shot by Confederate sympathiser John Wilkes Booth who escaped but was later tracked down and killed. Lincoln is often considered one of the greatest American presidents for his pivotal role in leading the Union to victory during the American Civil War and ending the practice of slavery. Lincoln was the first President to be assassinated and his death was widely mourned across the nation.
February 17th 1801: Jefferson elected President
On this day in 1801, the disputed 1800 presidential election was resolved when the House of Representatives elected Thomas Jefferson President of the United States and Aaron Burr as Vice-President. The pair had won the most votes in the Electoral College, defeating John Adams and his running mate Charles Pinckney, but as they did not have a majority the decision came to the House. After Jefferson was elected, he took the oath of office on March 4th 1801.
January 9th 1913: Nixon born
On this day in 1913, the future 37th President of the United States Richard M. Nixon was born. Nixon was born in Yorba Linda, California and later represented his state in the House of Representatives and the Senate as a member of the Republican Party. Nixon was Vice-President from 1953 to 1961 under President Eisenhower. He lost the 1960 election to the Democrat John F. Kennedy but later won the presidency in 1968. As President, Nixon initially increased US involvement in Vietnam and extended the war into Cambodia, but he eventually ended the war in 1973. In 1974 he became the first and only President to resign after revelations about illegal activities of his administration in the Watergate scandal. He was pardoned by his successor Gerald Ford and tried to rebuild his image until he died from a stroke in 1994 aged 81.
Today marks the 100th anniversary of his birth
April 30th 1789: Washington becomes the first President
On this day in 1789 the dominant general of the War of Independence and one of the framers of the Constitution, George Washington, was inaugurated first President of the United States on the balcony of Federal Hall on Wall Street in New York City. He was unanimously chosen President by the Electoral College and the runner-up, John Adams, became Vice President. At his inauguration, Washington set the first of many precedents in making an inaugural address. In office, he created a stable and strong national government with a cabinet system and ensured neutrality in the European wars. Washington was re-elected in 1792 but stepped down after two terms, thus setting the precedent that Presidents usually served two terms (this became part of the Constitution with the 22nd Amendment in 1951). Washington is still considered one of the greatest, if not the greatest, President in history for his systematic, effective and thoughtful leadership.
“Long live George Washington, President of the United States!”
- New York Chancellor Livingston upon swearing in the President
February 12th 1915: Cornerstone of the Lincoln memorial laid
On this day in 1915 in Washington DC, the cornerstone of the Lincoln Memorial was laid, a year after the official groundbreaking ceremony. There had been many attempts by Congress to build a monument to the 16th President Abraham Lincoln, and in 1910 a bill passed the Senate. On February 12th 1915, the 106th anniversary of Lincoln’s birth, a dedication ceremony took place and the cornerstone was laid. The building was completed in 1922, featuring a statue of Lincoln and inscriptions of his famous Gettysburg Address and Second Inaugural Address. The Memorial is now an iconic tribute to one of America’s greatest Presidents, and was the site of numerous speeches, such as Martin Luther King’s famous 1963 “I Have a Dream” speech.
The epitaph above the statue of Lincoln reads:
“IN THIS TEMPLE
AS IN THE HEARTS OF THE PEOPLE
FOR WHOM HE SAVED THE UNION
THE MEMORY OF ABRAHAM LINCOLN
IS ENSHRINED FOREVER”
On this day in 1860, Abraham Lincoln was elected the 16th President of the United States of America, and the first Republican to win the presidency. He won 40% of the popular vote, and decidedly beat three other candidates.
Lincoln went on to become one of the most famous and, according to some, the greatest President. His administration was notable for its leadership during the American Civil War from 1861-1865, and Lincoln’s issuing of the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863 which proclaimed the freedom of the majority of the slaves in the USA. It was the 13th Amendment of 1865 which finally abolished slavery completely.
Lincoln became the first President to be assassinated when he was shot by John Wilkes Booth at Ford’s Theatre in Washington DC on the 15th of April 1865.