20 Questions: U.S. Presidential Trivia Quiz

“The Twenty-Four Presidents of the United States,” Junction City Bulletin (Junction City, OR), March 21, 1901.

Hail to the chief! In light of the recent U.S. presidential inauguration, it’s the perfect time to test your knowledge on the American presidents. Try your hand at the twenty trivia questions below and scroll to the bottom to see the answers. From the interesting to the amusing to the somewhat bizarre, you may be surprised by some of the answers!  See how many you can answer correctly.

QUESTIONS

  1. Who was the first American-born president?
  2. Which president made Christmas a national holiday?
  3. “Old Whitey” was the beloved horse of which president?
  4. Which president was a classically trained pianist and played 4 other instruments?
  5. Who was the first and only U.S. president to serve non-consecutive terms?
  6. Which president signed the act creating the United States Marine Band?
  7. Which president and his wife attended Napoleon‘s coronation at Notre Dame Cathedral?
  8. Who was the first president to have written a biography of another president?
  9. Which president had turned down offers to play professional football?
  10. Who was the first president to attend baseball’s opening day and throw the ceremonial first pitch?
  11. Which president and his wife received a Siamese cat as a gift from the American consul of Bangkok?
  12. Which president was often mocked in the press for his unkempt appearance?
  13. Which president hired Louis C. Tiffany—first design director of Tiffany and Co.—for a massive renovation of the White House and its private chambers?
  14. Though three presidents (Adams, Jefferson, and Monroe) died on the 4th of July, which president was the only president to have been born on that date?
  15. Which president and his wife met in the fifth grade, were high school sweethearts, but did not marry until their mid-thirties? 
  16. Which president hated his painted portrait so much that he eventually burned it?  
  17. Which president put up the first Christmas tree in the White House?
  18. Which president donated all of his presidential salary (and his congressional salary before that) to charity? 
  19. Which president and his wife hold the record for longest married first couple?
  20. Who was the first president to ride in a car to his inauguration?

Idaho Republican (Blackfoot, ID), June 15, 1917.

ANSWERS:

  1. Who was the first American-born president?
    Martin Van Buren (1782-1862), 8th President.
    Van Buren was the first president to have been born after the American Revolution, in Kinderhook, New York on December 5, 1782, technically making him the first American-born president. The seven before him were all born in the American colonies.

    “Martin Van Buren,” The Circle Banner (Circle, MT), April 20, 1923.

    “Van Buren Memorial,” The Loup City Northwestern (Loup City, NE), May 27, 1909.

  2. Which president made Christmas a national holiday?
    Ulysses S. Grant (1822-1885), 18th President.
    On June 28,1870, Grant signed legislation making Christmas a federal holiday, as well as New Year’s Day, Independence Day, and Thanksgiving Day. Grant hoped Christmas and the other holidays would help bond people in the North and South through shared celebrations.

    “General Ulysses S. Grant,” Frostburg Mining Journal (Frostburg, MD), May 28, 1904.

    “National Holidays,” The New York Herald (New York, NY), June 1, 1870.

  3. “Old Whitey” was the beloved horse of which president?
    Zachary Taylor
    (1784-1850), 12th President.
    Old Whitey was nearly as popular as Taylor was—several times while the steed was grazing on the White House lawn, visitors would approach him and pluck a hair from his tail for a souvenir.

    “Zachary Taylor, President and General,” Evening Star (Washington, DC), July 8, 1934.

    “Taylor’s Old Whitey,” Evening Star (Washington, DC), May 31, 1901.

  4. Which president was a classically trained pianist and played 4 other instruments?
    Richard Nixon
    (1913-1994), 37th President.
    Nixon’s mother encouraged him to play piano at an early age and he went on to learn violin, clarinet, saxophone, and accordion. In 1963, his musical talent became a political asset when he performed a song he wrote on “The Jack Paar Program,” which helped to repair his image after losing the California gubernatorial election the year prior.

    Pictured is an earlier appearance by Nixon on Paar’s program the year before. [Richard Nixon chats with Jack Paar on the latter’s television program], 1962. Prints & Photographs Division.

  5. Who was the first and only U.S. president to serve non-consecutive terms?
    Grover Cleveland
    (1837-1908), 22nd and 24th President.
    Between terms, Cleveland moved back to New York City, worked at a law firm, and his wife gave birth to their famous first daughter, Baby Ruth.

    Grover Cleveland. The San Francisco Call (San Francisco, CA), June 25, 1908.

    “Rosy Little Ruth,” St. Paul Daily Globe (St. Paul, MN), December 27, 1891.

  6. Which president signed the act creating the United States Marine Band?
    John Adams
    (1735-1826), 2nd President.
    Adams signed a congressional act creating the United States Marine Band in 1798, which is now the oldest active professional musical organization in the United States. Known as “The President’s Own,” they played the first ever New Year’s celebration at the president’s house and later at Thomas Jefferson’s inauguration.

    “John Adams,” The Adair County News (Columbia, KY), July 3, 1918.

    “Our Marine Band Celebrates,” Evening Star (Washington, DC), June 17, 1934.

  7. Which president and his wife attended Napoleon’s coronation at Notre Dame Cathedral?
    James Monroe
    (1758-1831), 5th President.
    In 1804, Monroe and his wife, Elizabeth, attended Napoleon’s coronation while he was serving as the American ambassador to Britain and France.

    “James Monroe,” Evening Star (Washington, DC), March 2, 1952.

    “The Emperor in his Coronation Robes,” The Birmingham Age-Herald (Birmingham, AL), April 19, 1914.

  8. Who was the first president to have written a biography of another president?
    Herbert Hoover
    (1874-1964), 31st President.
    After he left office, Hoover wrote a number of books, including The Ordeal of Woodrow Wilson, the first biography of a president written by another president.  Woodrow Wilson had published a biography about George Washington in 1897, but that was before Wilson became president in 1913. 

    “Herbert Hoover,” American Magyar Journal (Youngstown, OH), April 19, 1928.

    “Herbert Hoover Bares Woodrow Wilson Trial,” Evening Star (Washington, DC), April 27, 1958.

  9. Which president had turned down offers to play professional football?
    Gerald Ford
    (1913-2006), 38th President.
    Ford attended the University of Michigan, where he was a star football player. The team won national titles in both 1932 and 1933. After graduation, he turned down offers to play with both the Detroit Lions and Green Bay Packers. Instead, he took a coaching job at Yale University in 1935 because he also wanted to attend law school. He left after six seasons with a law degree in hand.

    [President Gerald Ford speaking into microphones], 1974. Prints & Photographs Division.

    “Veller of Indiana on All-Star Squad, The Indianapolis Times (Indianapolis, IN), December 11, 1934.

  10. Who was the first president to attend baseball’s opening day and throw the ceremonial first pitch?
    William Howard Taft
    (1857-1930), 27th President.
    In 1910, Taft became the first president to attend baseball’s opening day and throw the ceremonial first pitch, a tradition that has been honored by nearly every president since.

    “William Howard Taft,” The Seattle Republican (Seattle, WA), June 28, 1912.

    “Bill Taft ‘Fan’ Throws First Ball,” The Salt Lake Herald-Republican (Salt Lake City, UT), April 15, 1910.

  11. Which president and his wife received a Siamese cat as a gift from the American consul of Bangkok?
    Rutherford B. Hayes
    (1822-1893), 19th President.
    The first Siamese cat to arrive in America was sent as a gift to Hayes and his wife, Lucy, by the American consul in Bangkok. Siam the cat landed at the White House in 1879 after traveling to Hong Kong then San Francisco, and then by train to Washington, DC.

    “Rutherford B. Hayes,” Evening Star (Washington, DC), April 1, 1956.

    [No headline]. Daily Globe (Minneapolis, MN), July 10, 1879.

  12. Which president was often mocked in the press for his unkempt appearance?
    Abraham Lincoln
    (1809-1865), 16th President.
    Before being known as the Great Emancipator, Lincoln was known for his disheveled appearance. Newspapers often ridiculed him for it; some called him “hatchet-faced” and described him as lean and gangly. One newspaper referred to his “thatch of wild republican hair” with his “irregular flocks of thick hair carelessly brushed” across his face.

    Abraham Lincoln. The Nonpartisan Leader (Fargo, ND), February 7, 1921.

    “Bull Run Russell’s Description of President Lincoln,” The Weekly Pioneer and Democrat (Saint Paul, MN), January 23, 1863.

  13. Which president hired Louis C. Tiffany—first design director of Tiffany and Co.—for a massive renovation of the White House and its private chambers?
    Chester A. Arthur
    (1829-1886), 21st President.
    Arthur hired Tiffany to do all of the redesign. To help cover some of the cost, Arthur had 24 wagon-loads of old furniture, drapes, and other household items (some of which dated back to the Adams administration) sold at auction.

    “Chester A. Arthur,” The State Herald (Holyoke, CO), November 12, 1920.

    “Mrs. Cleveland’s Favorite Corner,” The Morning Times (Washington, DC), February 16, 1896.

  14. Though three presidents (Adams, Jefferson, and Monroe) died on the 4th of July, which president was the only president to have been born on that date?
    Calvin Coolidge
    (1872-1933), 30th President.
    Coolidge was born on July 4, 1872 in Plymouth Notch, Vermont and is the only president to be born on Independence Day.

    Calvin Coolidge. New-York Tribune (New York, NY), June 20, 1920.

    “Many important people call on Mr. Coolidge at his Main Street home,” Evening Star (Washington, DC), June 30, 1929.

  15. Which president and his wife met in the fifth grade, were high school sweethearts, but did not marry until their mid-thirties? 
    Harry S. Truman
    (1884-1972), 33rd President.
    On June 28, 1919, Truman married Elizabeth Virginia Wallace, known as Bess, in Independence, Missouri, the town they both lived much of their lives.

    “Picture Highlights in the Life of President Harry S. Truman,” The Wilmington Morning Star (Wilmington, NC), April 18, 1945.

  16. Which president hated his painted portrait so much that he eventually burned it?  
    Theodore Roosevelt
    (1858-1919), 26th President.
    For his official White House portrait, Theodore Roosevelt chose the famed French portraiture artist Theobald Chartran, who had earlier done portraits of the First Lady Edith Roosevelt and Alice Roosevelt. “It was difficult to get the president to sit still,” newspapers reported Chartran said before the painting was unveiled and displayed in France in 1903. “I never had a more restless or more charming sitter.” Roosevelt, however, hated the painting, and after hiding it in a dark hall of the White House for years, he eventually burned it.

    “President Theodore Roosevelt,” The Seattle Republican (Seattle, WA), December 13, 1907.

    “Two Men’s Work Gets Attention,” The San Francisco Call (San Francisco, CA), May 17, 1903.

  17. Benjamin Harrison (1833-1901), 23rd President.
    Harrison had a tight-knit family and loved to amuse and dote on his grandchildren. He put up the first White House Christmas tree in 1889, and was known to put on the Santa suit for entertainment.

    “Benjamin Harrison,” Evening Star (Washington, DC), April 1, 1956.

    “A Christmas Tree at the White House,” Waterbury Evening Democrat (Waterbury, CT), December 23, 1889

  18. Which president donated all of his presidential salary (and his congressional salary before that) to charity?
    John F. Kennedy
    (1917-1963), 35th President.
    Born into wealth and prestige, JFK was one of the richest men to take office. He lived off the Kennedy family’s considerable trusts, so he donated his congressional salary and later his presidential salary to charities like the United Negro College Fund and Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts of America. President Herbert Hoover had also donated his presidential salary during his term in office (1929-1933), as did President Donald Trump (2017-2021).

    “John F. Kennedy for President,” Montana Farmer-Stockman (Great Falls, MT), November 1, 1960.

    [No headline]. Navajo Times (Window Rock, AZ), November 29, 1962.

  19. Which president and his wife hold the record for longest married first couple?
    Jimmy Carter
    (1924-), 39th President.
    Jimmy Carter married Rosalynn Smith on July 7, 1946, in their hometown of Plains, Georgia. The Carters 74-year marriage makes them the longest married of any first couple. The record was previously held by George H.W. Bush and his wife Barbara, who were married for 73 years and died within months of each other in 2018. The third-longest presidential marriage was that of John and Abigail Adams at 54 years.

    [President Jimmy Carter and First Lady Rosalynn Carter dance at a White House Congressional Ball, Washington, D.C.], 1978. Prints & Photographs Division.

    [Presidential nominee George H.W. Bush and wife Barbara Bush wave to crowd at the 1992 Republican National Convention in Houston, Texas], 1992. Prints & Photographs Division. 

    John and Abigail Adams. The Nevada County Picayune (Prescott, AR), December 16, 1920.

  20. Warren G. Harding (1865-1923), 29th President.
    On March 4, 1921, Harding became the first president to ride to and from his inauguration in an automobile.

    “Warren G. Harding,” Evening Star (Washington, DC), June 20, 1920.

    “1921- President Harding rides to inauguration in a motor car,” The Bridgeport Times and Evening Farmer (Bridgeport, CT), March 4, 1921.

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    * The Chronicling America historic newspapers online collection is a product of the National Digital Newspaper Program and jointly sponsored by the Library and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

9 Comments

  1. Spain James
    January 29, 2021 at 2:15 pm

    I would like to note that this was the North America before any of the presidents were born, and the United States of America did not exist until after Van Buren was born.

    Therefore, the first question is misleading and should be revised.

    • Heather Thomas
      January 29, 2021 at 2:38 pm

      The United States was founded on July 4, 1776 with adoption of the Declaration of Independence, which is why we celebrate the nation’s birthday on Independence Day. Within the text of the Declaration is the line, “The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America…”

      President Martin Van Buren was born on December 5, 1782. His predecessor, President Andrew Jackson, was born on March 15, 1767. This means that Van Buren was the first president to be born in the United States of America.

  2. Tony O’Connor
    January 29, 2021 at 11:05 pm

    Old Kinderhook (OK), Martin Van Buren, had a couple of other unusual facts. Per the LOC display on the Magna Carta, he is the only president not related to a signer of the Magna Carta. He is also the only president to have English as his second language.

  3. Ann Preston
    February 16, 2021 at 9:34 am

    Thanks for such an interesting and informative quiz.
    I would enjoy seeing more of these in your newsletter.
    You guys always do such an amazing job!

  4. Ellen Cabral
    March 14, 2021 at 2:56 pm

    I watched Hamilton a few months ago and have seen been so interested in learning about Washington and all our presidents. There’s so much more to learn! Your quiz was so interesting, thank you!

  5. Chasidy Walker
    March 19, 2021 at 1:53 pm

    Question 18 should be updated. President Trump, love him or hate him, donated his presidential salary to charity also. There were plenty of other presidents who were polarizing, even flat out hated and we don’t erase them from existence so I hope this discrepancy was just due to the date it was written.

    • Heather Thomas
      March 19, 2021 at 2:27 pm

      Thank you Chasidy. You’re right, President Donald Trump did donate his presidential salary and it truly was just a matter of the timing when I wrote the blog post. I will add his name to the answer of the question.

  6. Franklin Shepard Inc.l ouistern34
    April 13, 2021 at 2:32 pm

    good

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