Forty-five people have served as President of the United States across 46 presidential administrations (Grover Cleveland served two non-consecutive terms—more on that below, plus the sordid sex scandal that nearly brought him down). We’ve curated one great story or essay about every single one of them. Impress your friends by getting to know obscure facts about lesser-known presidents like Martin Van Buren—the diminutive architect of the Democratic Party known as the “Little Magician”—or Rutherford B. Hayes—mostly forgotten in the U.S., but a legend in Paraguay. Or learn something new about giants like George Washington, who was surprisingly unpopular toward the end of his second term.
Table of Contents
1. The Founding Generation (1789—1824)
2. Antebellum America (1824—1860)
3. Civil War and Reconstruction (1860—1876)
4. The Gilded Age (1876—1900)
5. The Progressive Era (1900—1920)
6. Prosperity, Depression, and War (1920—1945)
7. Cold War Presidents (1945—1992)
8. The Internet Age (1992—Present)
9. Related Collections
The Founding Generation (1789—1824)
Toward the end of his second term, Washington was so disliked that the House voted against adjourning for 30 minutes to wish him well on his birthday.
John Adams quietly returned power to where it rightfully rests—with the people.Save
University of Virginia grad Joshua Adams believes that if you want to understand the violence that erupted there in 2017, look back at history and the school’s complicated founder.
Few of America’s citizens have believed more fervently or optimistically in its promise than James Madison, and yet he fell prey to the same divisiveness and petty grievance that have dogged the country and its stewards since the founding.Save
Antebellum America (1824—1860)
The making of our sixth president in his own words.Save
How they came to Tennessee — and a chat with the man sifting through the papers a president left behind.Save
1840 marked the first time American women became openly involved in a presidential campaign.Save
His party expelled him. His cabinet resigned. He was even hung in effigy on the White House porch. What made America’s 10th president such a political pariah?Save
Arguably, no one-term president ever accomplished as much as he did.Save
Millard Fillmore gets little love from presidential historians, but he’s enjoyed favorite son status in Buffalo for more than 150 years. That's beginning to change.Save
Was his close friendship with William Rufus King just that, or was it evidence that he was the nation’s first gay chief executive?Save
Civil War and Reconstruction (1860—1876)
It seems safe to assume that even the most diligent researcher will not be able to discover significant new material about Lincoln – a diary, say, or previously unknown speeches and letters. Instead the biographer must take an original interpretative approach.Save
Members of Congress and some in Andrew Johnson’s own Cabinet wanted him gone. They did the next best thing.Save
The Gilded Age (1876—1900)
The 19th U.S. President lends his name to a city, region, school, and annual festival.Save
Historians have taken Garfield’s doctors to task for not applying sterile technique, and, thus, saving the President’s life. Are they right?
Forget Arnold Schwarzenegger or John Edwards. One of the greatest political sex scandals happened to Grover Cleveland.Save
Consider Benjamin Harrison’s role in the entirely on purpose “Panic of 1893.”Save
Grover Cleveland is the one successful presidential Comeback Kid.
In 1896, William McKinley ran for office without having to ever leave home.
The Progressive Era (1900—1920)
At his namesake park in North Dakota, reconciling the president’s conservation successes with his racist views.Save
The 28th president never uttered a single public statement about the 1918-1919 flu pandemic that killed hundreds of thousands of Americans.Save
Prosperity, Depression, and War (1920—1945)
Even in the age of Anthony Weiner sexts and John Edwards revelations, it still has the power to astonish.Save
Near-silent, famously prudish, yet also quite funny and the proud owner of the White House pet raccoon, our 30th president, Calvin Coolidge, makes a pretty strong argument for never ignoring the quiet ones.Save
Cold War Presidents (1945—1992)
Truman’s dramatic transformation from segregationist to civil rights advocate was nothing short of astonishing.Save
How Eisenhower reshaped the presidency in the service of the struggle against the Soviets.Save
John F. Kennedy might not have really written Profiles in Courage, but he certainly promoted it.Save
While we tend to focus on the bipartisan rebellion that led to Nixon’s resignation, it’s also worth understanding how public opinion and the party eventually turned against the president.Save
The Internet Age (1992—Present)
Bill Clinton became the first president to be impeached since Andrew Johnson, in 1868. A recounting by people who played a role.Save
Can a batch of new books, a documentary, and Donald Trump’s calamitous administration resuscitate the legacy of our 43rd president—and his illustrious family?
A life marked by missteps and personal tragedy has also been buoyed by a series of remarkably fortuitous events. And the combination hit the moment just right.Save
An electoral chaos reading list.
From the Veep who wrote a #1 song to the one considered the most useless in history.
Looking back at the highs and lows of past presidential inaugurations.