February is the month we observe a very important pair of presidential birthdays, but we’d like to challenge you to expand your President’s Day Weekend this year and remember all four of the presidents born in this brief month.
We begin with the father of all presidential firsts, George Washington himself. He was born in Pope’s Creek, VA on February 22, 1732, but he actually would have celebrated his birthday on February 11th because they went by a different calendar then. At age 14, he was given a set of 110 rules to live by, but never received formal education. His election to President was unanimous: all 69 electoral votes. He was inaugurated in both New York City and Philadelphia, the nation’s two first capitals. Washington was the first to receive the title of Lieutenant General and, although he died a four-star General, Jimmy Carter promoted him to a six-star General posthumously. His was a fascinating life and presidency!
The second President of February is William Henry Harrison, born February 9, 1773, also in Virginia. Nicknamed “Old Tippecanoe” for his service in quelling a Shawnee uprising at the Battle of Tippecanoe, he also served a pivotal role in the War of 1812. He resigned from the army in the middle of the war due to a dispute with the Secretary of War; post-war investigations ruled in his favor, declaring his resignation to be justified and awarding him a gold medal. At 68, he was the oldest elected President until Ronald Reagan. He delivered an epic two-hour-long inaugural address in the icy rain and, predictably, caught pneumonia. The pneumonia made his presidency the shortest in history—he died after just 30 days in office.
Surely you know Abraham Lincoln—commanded the Union during the Civil War, emancipated the slaves, assassinated by John Wilkes Booth. A Gettysburg favorite, he was born February 12, 1809 in Kentucky, the first born outside of the original 13 colonies. He was the tallest President (3/4” taller than Washington), the first bearded President, and the only President to hold a patent. You’ve heard him called “Honest Abe,” but his collection of nicknames included “Father Abraham,” “The Great Emancipator,” and “The Rail Splitter.” In 1863, he delivered the Gettysburg Address, which is quoted more than any speech in American history. There’s simply too much to list here, but you can easily find books on this American legend, especially in Gettysburg!
Youngest of the lot, but oldest elected President at 69, is Ronald Reagan. He hailed from Tampico, Illinois and was born on February 6, 1911. He was an actor, a jelly bean-lover, and a Captain in the army, where he served for nine years. Upon surviving an assassination attempt in his first term as President, he remarked to his wife, “Honey, I forgot to duck!” Often he is remembered for “Reagonomics,” the nickname given to his economic policy. He gave the order to invade Grenada and ended the Cold War through negotiations with Mikhail Gorbachev. Reagan is still highly regarded as an effective president—certainly more than he was as an actor!
Have a very Happy Presidents’ Day Weekend and be sure to read more about the enthralling men who have led our nation here!