George Washington

The Houdoun statue of George Washington was lit by the afternoon sun streaming into the rotunda inside the Virginia State Capitol last year.

Ah, Presidents’ Day, when mattresses go on sale. But wait. Let’s remember the official and legal name of the federal holiday on the third Monday in February is still George Washington’s Birthday. Washington was our first, but how much do you know about him and the presidents who followed? Quiz yourself on your presidential trivia savvy. Answers below.

1) Washington had to create the presidency of the fledgling United States, including what to call the chief of government. Which of these titles did Vice President John Adams suggest to Washington?

A) “His Mightiness”

B) “His Elective Majesty”

C) “His Highness, the President of the United States and the Protector of Their Liberty”

D) All of the above

2) Whose foes dubbed him “His Accidency”?

A) President Andrew Johnson

B) President Harry Truman

C) President John Tyler

D) President Gerald Ford

3) Which president gave the shortest inaugural address in history?

A) George Washington

B) Calvin Coolidge

C) Abraham Lincoln

D) Chester Arthur

4) Of the first 18 presidents, 12 were slave owners at some point in their lives. Which of these presidents never owned slaves?

A) Ulysses S. Grant

B) John Adams

C) Martin Van Buren

D) Andrew Johnson

5) Which president said of himself: “fluency in English is something I’m not often accused of”?

A) Donald Trump

B) Calvin Coolidge

C) George H. W. Bush

D) George W. Bush

6) True or False: Washington’s birthday is Feb. 22, 1732, but it used to be Feb. 11, 1731.

7) Speaking of birthdays, which president was born on the Fourth of July?

A) Thomas Jefferson

B) James Monroe

C) Calvin Coolidge

D) John Adams

8) Which president(s) won the Pulitzer Prize?

A) Bill Clinton

B) Barack Obama

C) John F. Kennedy

D) All of the above

9) Who was the last president who was neither Republican nor Democrat?

A) George Washington

B) Millard Fillmore

C) Abraham Lincoln

D) Franklin Pierce

10) President Zachary Taylor died after 16 months in office in 1850. How did he die?

A) He got sick after eating a bowl of cherries and drinking milk.

B) He got sick after drinking too much alcohol at a holiday party.

C) He contracted tuberculosis following a trip.

D) He suffered a heart attack.

BONUS: Which presidential candidate ran the first TV campaign ad?

A) Franklin Roosevelt

B) Dwight Eisenhower

C) Harry Truman

D) Richard Nixon

ANSWERS

1) D — But Washington went with the simple title the House suggested: The President of the United States.

2) C — Tyler was the first vice president to assume the top job after President William Henry Harrison caught a cold and died of pneumonia barely a month after giving the longest inauguration speech in history.

3) A — Washington’s second inaugural address on March 4, 1793, was just 135 words long and lasted less than two minutes.

4) B — John Adams, as well as his son, John Quincy Adams, never owned slaves.

5) C — Historian Jon Meacham quoted Bush’s self-deprecating comment in his eulogy of the former president in 2018.

6) True — Under the Julian calendar, Washington’s birthday was Feb. 11, 1731, but when Britain changed to the Gregorian calendar we use today, his birthday moved to Feb. 22, 1732.

7) C — Coolidge in 1872. Jefferson, Monroe and Adams all died on the Fourth of July.

8) C — JFK won the Pulitzer Prize for biography in 1957 for “Profiles in Courage,” a volume of short biographies. It’s now known that presidential speechwriter Ted Sorensen wrote much of the work.

9) B — Fillmore was a Whig.

10) A — Taylor is thought to have contracted a form of cholera from the cherries.

BONUS: B — “Eisenhower Answers America” in 1952 featured ordinary Americans asking the candidate questions in TV ad spots.

Sources: Library of Congress, Mount Vernon, National Archives, White House Historical Association, Pulitzer.com, history.com, “To the Best of My Ability,” James M. McPherson general editor.

Marsha Mercer writes from Washington. Contact her at: marsha.mercer@yahoo.com

© 2020, Marsha Mercer. All rights reserved.

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