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The founding fathers of America are often referred to as the individuals who helped the 13 colonies break free from Great Britain. Although there are literally dozens of founding fathers, this article will focus on fun facts about the best known and most popular founding fathers.
The first president of the United States, George Washington, became a pivotal influence in American history with his leadership over the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War. During his two elected terms from 1789-1797, he established many policies such as directing against the formation of political parties as well as forming the tradition of limiting a president to serving two terms.
Here are five interesting facts about George Washington:
- George Washington did not wear wooden dentures; rather, he wore dentures that were made of ivory that were cast in a silver plate.
- Washington had to drop out of school at the age of 15 to become a surveyor because his mother could not afford to send him to college.
- During his first inauguration speech in 1793, Washington only spoke 133 words before concluding.
- Rather than greeting people with handshakes, Washington preferred bowing, and this tradition lasted until Thomas Jefferson became president.
- Even though Washington D.C. was named after Washington in 1790, he never lived there.
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Probably the most versatile of all the founding fathers, Benjamin Franklin is famous for signing the Declaration of Independence as well as being a diplomat in France. An avid inventor and a countless innovator, Franklin is probably one of the most interesting of these colonial Americans. Although he had many family-tie problems such as ignoring his wife and disowning his son, Franklin is known for his endless contributions to American history.
Here are five fast facts about Benjamin Franklin:
- Benjamin Franklin had countless nicknames such as "The Newton of Electricity" (for his discovery of electricity), "Poor Richard" (for his book called Poor Richard's Almanac), and "The Prophet of Tolerance" (for his advocacy of toleration in religion).
- Some historians believe that Franklin's advocacy for liberty originated from his older brother James Franklin. Benjamin Franklin claimed in his autobiography that his older brother was almost a tyrant when he worked under him as a printer.
- Franklin published the first political cartoon called "Join or Die." This cartoon urged the 13 colonies to unite against Great Britain or risk being separated and weakened.
- Franklin pushed for public sanitation by hiring the first street sweeper in Philadelphia.
- He also created the first public hospital in Philadelphia called the Pennsylvania Hospital that would treat poor or mentally ill patients.
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Before John Adams became the second president of the United States, he helped Thomas Jefferson craft the Declaration of Independence as well as coordinated a peace treaty with Britain at the end of the American Revolution. Well-versed in law and diplomacy, Adams would become a significant shaker in American policies – even if he was disliked for some of his policies.
Here are five interesting facts about John Adams:
- John Adams became the first vice president under George Washington. It is not surprising that he would become the second president of the United States after Washington stepped down.
- Although Adams was well informed in foreign policy and law, he often alienated his cabinet by ignoring their advice. This would come to haunt Adams when he signed the Alien and Sedition Acts in 1798.
- John Adams' son, John Quincy Adams, would become the sixth president of the United States.
- Adams was the first president to live in the White House. He supposedly got lost in the surrounding woods the first time he visited the White House.
- When Adams lost his presidency to Thomas Jefferson, he was so angry that he did not attend Jefferson's inauguration.
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Elected as the third president of the United States, Thomas Jefferson is credited for being the primary author of the Declaration of Independence. He is often thought of as a mover in American policies and rivals George Washington in popularity. He would later promote his ideals of republicanism and serve as president for two consecutive terms.
Here are five fast facts about Thomas Jefferson:
- Jefferson was fluent in seven languages that included English, German, French, Spanish, Italian, Greek and Latin.
- Jefferson was a lavish spender and spent almost $11,000 ($198,000 dollars today) on wine over his two terms as president.
- Thomas Jefferson and John Adams died on the same day on July 4th, 1826. This date was the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence.
- When Jefferson had financial problems, he sold his books for $25,000. These books would be used to start the Library of Congress.
- Even though Jefferson advocated against slavery, he had slaves to work on his plantation.
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James Madison would serve as the fourth president of the United States after Thomas Jefferson. Primarily known as the father of the U.S. Constitution, Madison is also attributed to writing the Federalist Papers which supported the ratification of the Constitution. Madison would serve for two terms and would face certain conflicts such as the War of 1812 between the United States and Great Britain.
Here are five interesting facts about James Madison:
- Madison is credited for creating cabinet positions in the executive branch as well as proposing 12 amendments to the Constitution. Ten of these would later become the Bill of Rights.
- When the War of 1812 broke out, many critics labeled it as "Mr. Madison's War."
- Madison was a short president and only stood at five feet and five inches.
- When the British attacked the White House during the War of 1812, Madison's wife carried many valuables such as George Washington's portrait while fleeing the White House.
- Madison may have been unlucky, because two vice presidents died while serving under Madison.
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Alexander Hamilton served as the first Secretary of the Treasury under President Washington. He would serve this title for six years until he was forced out of office under the threat of blackmail from an affair he took part in. Like Madison, Hamilton contributed to the Federalist Papers and was a bitter opponent against John Adams. He is often credited for forming the first U.S. Mint.
Here are five fun facts about Alexander Hamilton:
- Hamilton was born in Charleston, Nevis, which was an island in the British West Indies.
- Like Washington, Hamilton served in the Continental Army and later became Washington's aide-de-camp.
- In 1804, Hamilton engaged in a duel against Aaron Burr. He was fatally shot and died a few days later.
- Hamilton negatively influenced John Adams' second attempt for reelection and helped allow Thomas Jefferson to become the third president of the United States.
- Hamilton is currently depicted on the $10 US dollar bill.
The founding fathers had a tremendous influence on the history of the United States. Even though these fun facts about the founding fathers only depict a small facet of information from each of these individuals, it reveals how each one influenced America for what it is today.
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- American History Central. "Alexander Hamilton."
- American Presidents: Life Portraits. "James Madison."
- Feldman, Barbara J. "Ten Facts About John Adams."
- Oak Hill Publishing Company. ConstitutionFacts. "Fascinating Facts About the Founding Fathers."
- Revolutionary War and Beyond. "Fact About Benjamin Franklin."
- Scholastic. "Facts About George Washington."
- Duplessis, Joseph. "Benjamin Franklin." http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Benjamin_Franklin.PNG
- Jouett, Matthew Harris. "Thomas Jefferson." http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Thomas_Jefferson_by_Matthew_Harris_Jouett.jpg
- Stuart, Gilbert. "Portrait of George Washington." http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Gilbert_Stuart_Williamstown_Portrait_of_George_Washington.jpg
- Trumbell, John. "Alexander Hamilton." http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Alexander_Hamilton_portrait_by_John_Trumbull_1806.jpg
- Trumbell, John. "John Adams." http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Adamstrumbull.jpg
- Vanderlyn, John. "James Madison." http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:James_Madison.jpg