The Richmond History Podcast

Friday, April 26, 2013

History of the USA in the Number of Living Presidents

After seeing the 5 living Presidents at The George W Bush Presidential Library, I got to thinking, is 4 a lot?  It is a lot to be in the same place at the same time, but it’s only the upper average to be alive at one time.  Seems about 2-4 is pretty standard.

Of course George Washington was the only one alive until John Adams, but 3 years into Adams term he became the only one when the original George W died in 1799.

After George's death there wasn't another Presidential death until July 4, 1826, but it was a doozy, when Thomas Jefferson and John Adams died on the same day.  But on July 3, 1826 Adams, Jefferson, Madison, and Monroe were all alive during the first year and a half John Quincy Adams' term making 5 living Presidents. 

While Jackson was in the White House the number was at 4 until Madison and Monroe died in 1836 and 1831 respectively leaving only 2.

Andrew Jackson, 1845
For about a month in 1841 there were 4 again, but William Henry Harrison became the first president to died in office shortly after his inauguration, but his Vice President John Tyler finished his term becoming the first President to never be elected president making it 3 elected Presidents and 4 total.

James K. Polk was President while 5 presidents were alive from his inauguration on April 4, 1845 until Andrew Jackson died on June, 8 1845.   When Zachary Taylor took office in 1849 it was back to 4 until Polk died 4 years and a week after his protégé, Jackson, leaving only 3 living presidents.

During the Civil War the living President total hit its height of 6 until 1862, when both John Tyler and Martin Van Buren died.  Tyler, the only southerner of the 6, sided with the Confederacy, even serving in the Confederate Legislature.

After 1862 the number of living Presidents fluctuated between 3 and 4 (except during Grover Cleveland’s term when Chester Arthur was the only other and Franklin Roosevelt's term when Herbert Hoover was the only other) until the 1990's when Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, and George H W Bush, lived in to the Clinton Administration making 6 again.  Nixon died in 1994, but when George W Bush was inaugurated the number went back to 6.  When Ford and Reagan both died during W Bush's term we were back to 4.  As Barack Obama took office the number is back to 5 and hopefully holds there and goes up.  

While I can't find anything saying that 5 Presidents have been in the same room together, I doubted it.  The majority of the time we had that many alive was in the 19th century when travel for men of that age would have been prohibitive.

If anyone knows of a equal size or larger gathering, comment and let me know.  Just because I couldn't find it doesn't mean it hasn't happened.

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