Recently it has come to my knowledge that Napoleon Bonaparte was actually not as short as he is portrayed to be. In French units he is listed as 5’2, but in modern units this translates to around 5’6, which still sounds short in today’s time, but in the early 1800s France this was the average height. The fact that Napoleon Bonaparte is around my height led me to want to know more about heights of national leaders, so here is a list of all the Presidents of the United States heights in order of terms and a little information about them, just to put them in perspective:
George Washington: 6’2
President Washington was always described as being a very large and powerful looking man, which probably helped him become the first president of the United States when he came to the Continental Congress dressed in his military uniform and they all unanimously voted for him. As a brand new country, the United States needed a very strong and tall leader to represent what they would become as a nation.
John Adams: 5’7
President Adams was quite the contrast to President Washington, with him being around 7 inches shorter and having not that high of an approval rating because of the XYZ Affair and the Alien and Sedition Acts. He was also known to have a poor immune system and was sick quite often, even though he is one of the longest living presidents, which might be why he was shorter because of his poor health.
Thomas Jefferson: 6’2 ½
Although President Jefferson was pretty tall, he was very skinny and was described as an awkward human being. He was in relatively good health but would get major migraines that would leave him in bed for days that were sometimes caused by the failed social interactions with women.
James Madison: 5’4
President Madison was one of the smallest presidents ever in both height and size, weighing about 100 pounds, and appeared younger than he actually was. To combat his mistaken age, he would normally wear all black to make him appear more older. President Madison was also poor in health like President Adams, having epileptic seizures that would render him bed ridden.
James Monroe: 6’0
President Monroe is described as broad shouldered and sturdily built, and having a generally kind personality. He was well liked because of his reign during the “Era of Good Feelings”.
John Quincy Adams: 5’7 ½
President Quincy Adams was half an inch taller than his father, President Adams, but he also had the same poor immune system as his dad. He was also a very unlikeable man with a cold demeanor, but he did well in American diplomacy.
Andrew Jackson: 6’1
President Jackson was described as a long and lean president with 2 bullets lodged in his body from dueling accidents. The self made “extraordinary ordinary man” had quite the temper but also a very charismatic personality. Although he had a strong personality, he had chronic headaches and coughing fits, and supported himself with a cane in his later years.
Martin Van Buren: 5’6
Although President Van Buren was small in height, he had a stocky build and possessed a charming personality. Despite his good-natured personality he never really professed his political views. He suffered from President Jackson’s legacy, being blamed for the Panic of 1837 that was caused by President Jackson’s opposition to rechartering the United States Bank, then giving him the nickname “Martin Van Ruin”.
William Henry Harrison: 5’8
President “Tippecanoe” Harrison was of average height and somewhat slim, but he essentially died in office a month after taking oath because of his inauguration speech delivery in cold, wet weather without a hat or jacket. This caused him to contract pneumonia and become the first president to die in office.
John Tyler: 6’0
President Tyler, nicknamed “His Accidency”, was tall and slim like President Harrison. He was also another president who suffered poor health with a bad immune system.
James K Polk: 5’8
President Polk, the “dark horse” of the Democratic Party, had an average height but also a sturdy build like President Van Buren, and was generally well liked. Going along with the theme, he also suffered poor health and tired easily.
Zachary Taylor: 5’8
President Taylor was the same height as President Polk, but he had a disproportionate body with a long torso, short legs, and long arms. Surprisingly, he had generally good health and had a gentlemanly personality.
Millard Fillmore: 5’9
President Fillmore was a little overweight when he took office, but he had generally good health which is the longest streak of healthy presidents so far.
Franklin Pierce: 5’10
President Pierce possessed a fit body with a decent height along with a mop of curly hair. He suffered from chronic bronchitis which breaks the health streak of presidents and also struggled with alcoholism.
James Buchanan: 6’0
Standing 6 feet tall with broad shoulders, President Buchanan was a very imposing figure who had generally good health but suffered from wryneck which caused him to cock his head to the side. Apparently he was an avid drinker but could withstand the effects of liquor.
Abraham Lincoln: 6’4
President Lincoln is the tallest president of the United States so far, with a muscular body from chopping wood with an axe. It is debated on whether or not President Lincoln suffered from Marfan’s syndrome, which affects bone growth and heart function, and he might have been dying of heart disease at the time of his assassination with complaints of fatigue, headaches and cold hands and feet.
Andrew Johnson: 5’10
President Johnson was a stocky man who had generally good health but did suffer from kidney stones while president.
Ulysses S Grant: 5’8
President Grant had a pretty muscular build from his days at West Point and his army days. He did suffer from chronic headaches most of his life and developed a hoarse cough from West Point, and he was also squeamish of animal blood, even though he is known as a renowned war hero.
Rutherford B Hayes: 5’8 ½
President Hayes had a robust, sturdy build, and had generally good health throughout his life.
James A Garfield: 6’0
President Garfield also had a robust, muscular figure, but also had a disproportionately large head. He had relatively good health until he overworked himself into body aches and indigestion.
Chester A Arthur: 6’1
When searching for President Arthur’s height, I got conflicting measurements that ranged from 6’0, 6’1, and 6’2, so I just listed the average out of all three. I don’t really know why there are differing sources on his height; maybe he went to different doctors that recorded different heights or somehow his height fluctuated with age, but it is interesting to note since the other president’s heights were ranging in ½ an inch off rather than a whole 2 inches.
Grover Cleveland: 5’11
President Cleveland was a pretty heavy president, weighing about 250 pounds. He had relatively sound health despite this, but it was discovered that he had a tumor in his mouth, that was removed in secret and the tumor never returned.
Benjamin Harrison: 5’6
President Harrison had a stocky figure with short legs, and had generally good health excluding the physical breakdown caused by overwork.
Grover Cleveland: 5’11
President Cleveland remained the same height his second term, but it would feel wrong not to include him in order.
William McKinley: 5’7
President McKinley was a broad shoulder figure who had good health but also has a physical breakdown due to overwork like President Harrison.
Theodore Roosevelt: 5’10
Although he was scrawny and in poor health as a boy, President Roosevelt grew into a strong brawny man that was the most energetic of all the presidents.
William Howard Taft: 5’11 ½
President Taft had generally good health, but struggled with his weight throughout his life, weighing up to 332 as president, becoming one of the heaviest presidents of all time. After he was done with his presidency, he dieted and got down to 244 pounds. He didn’t enjoy his time as president but he excelled in being Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.
Woodrow Wilson: 5’11
President Wilson had generally bad health throughout his life, suffering from indigestion and overworking putting even more of a strain on his health, causing him to almost collapse multiple times. He eventually learned to pace himself in his work.
Warren G Harding: 6’0
President Harding was a large man who did suffer from nervous breakdowns because of nerves and also indigestion and heartburn.
Calvin Coolidge: 5’10
President Coolidge had a small figure and lived in terrible health during his presidency. He suffered from bronchitis, asthma, hay fever, and upset stomach along with his chronic respiratory and digestive problems, all of this lead him to tire very easily.
Herbert Hoover: 5’11 ½
President Hoover had a very round, husky figure and had generally good health.
Franklin D Roosevelt: 6’2
President Roosevelt stood tall before he was in the wheelchair and despite the polio, he was very muscular, especially in his upper body. It’s understandable why President Roosevelt hid his illness; he governed in a time where a nation needed a strong commanding figure, and although he was one, he needed to look the part too.
Harry S Truman: 5’9
President Truman had generally sound health, but lost ten pounds from the start of his term to the end. He did have a slow heartbeat and low blood pressure, but that didn’t stop his confident personality.
Dwight D Eisenhower: 5’10 ½
President Eisenhower was a very strong figure, but he suffered from colds frequently and actually had a heart attack during his presidency.
John F Kennedy: 6’0 ½
President Kennedy had a very athletic and muscular build, but did suffer from poor health. He dealt with chronic back ache, which he tried to correct with a spinal fusion surgery but he developed an infection which almost killed him. He recovered from the infection but the surgery did not relieve his back pains and he wore a back brace for support. He also suffered from Addison’s disease which caused an adrenal insufficiency.
Lyndon B Johnson: 6’3 ½
President Johnson is the second tallest president right behind President Lincoln with generally good health despite periodic kidney stones and a heart attack which he recovered from.
Richard Nixon: 5’11
Since childhood, President Nixon suffered from hay fever and motion sickness and in his late presidency he contracted phlebitis in his leg. Nixon suffered from inner conflict with the need to appear like a strong and tough leader, but at the same time wanting to be liked.
Gerald Ford: 6’0
President Ford retained his trim, muscular figure of his youth and is described as the most sporty president. He did have weak knees from prior football injuries.
Jimmy Carter: 5’9 ½
President Carter was a generally healthy president during his term, having only a bad knee and permanently bent finger from a cotton gin accident. He was diagnosed with cancer in August 2015 and underwent rounds of radiation and the removal of part of his liver, and in March 2016 he announced that recent scans of his brain showed no signs of cancer.
Ronald Reagan: 6’1
President Reagan was one of the oldest presidents, but he attained a youthful appearance in office. During his term he suffered from hay fever, diverticulitis, and an enlarged prostate. He underwent surgery for colon cancer in 1985, and any polyps that appeared in his colon were also removed after. He also had a malignant growth removed from his nose in both 1985 and 1987. He was diagnosed with alzheimer's in 1994.
George H W Bush: 6’2
President Bush suffers from Graves disease which causes an irregular heartbeat, which his wife also has.
Bill Clinton: 6’2
President Clinton has a slim build and suffers from chronic laryngitis caused by stomach acid and allergies.
George W Bush: 5’11 ½
President W Bush is slightly shorter than his father, President H W Bush, but he has a very athletic build from running every day.
Barack Obama: 6’1 ½
President Obama has a very trim figure and unlike others he actually lost weight on the campaign trail. He quit smoking in 2008 as a promise to his wife for her support in him running for president.
After going through each president, it’s clear that not all of them were in the best shape and some of them were in fact complete messes. It is interesting to see how these leaders of the free world are put into perspective of one another and that for most of them, their health didn’t get in the way of them governing. Also it is nice to see that as the years went on, the presidents did start to take better care of themselves, because being president is a very demanding job and can take a toil on the body. If you take anything away from this, let it be that the average height of all the presidents is 5’11 and that most of the presidents were horrible at taking care of themselves.
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"Heights of Presidents and Presidential Candidates of the United States." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, n.d. Web. 17 Dec. 2016
"Jimmy Carter No Longer Needs Treatment for Cancer." CNN. Cable News Network, n.d. Web. 17 Dec. 2016.http://www.cnn.com/2016/03/06/politics/jimmy-carte...
Newman, John J., and John M. Schmalbach. United States History: Preparing for the Advanced Placement Examination. Third ed. Des Moines, Iowa: Perfection Learning: AMSCO, 2015. Print.