There are certain presidents who are remembered for generations after they’ve left office, with the likes of George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and Franklin D. Roosevelt listed as some of the best and most memorable presidents ever. There are also those who are remembered due to a lot of negativity, especially in the 21st century when 24-hour news coverage made political figures a bit less-likable.
Then, there’s the third category, filled with presidents that didn’t really do anything remarkable, but also didn’t do anything catastrophically bad. These men led the nation for brief periods of history that have largely been forgotten in the United States, but today, we remember those men. Here are five US Presidents you probably forgot about, highlighting some of the things that most people should probably remember.
William Henry Harrison
There’s only one thing that people truly remember about William Henry Harrison, and it’s the fact that he died almost immediately after moving into the White House. The reason that people don’t talk about his death very much these days is because he wasn’t assassinated or a leader during a war, but because he died from getting caught in a rainstorm and not changing his clothes.
Harrison, at the time, was the oldest person to take office and died of pneumonia just 31 days after being inaugurated. Would he have made a good president? It’s hard to say since he barely had time to unpack, but his death certainly left a mess in Washington. It wasn’t really clear who should take over, and this caused American law to change so that the Vice President assumes office if the President dies.
Chester A. Arthur
After the rules changed, there became some instances where the Vice President had to take over as the leader of the nation, and one of those examples was Chester A. Arthur. The Vermont-born Arthur had accomplished a lot in his political career while living in New York, and he became head of the state’s Republican Party at the end of the 1870s. When James Garfield became president following the 1880 election, Arthur became his VP.
This is sort of a two-for-one package as Garfield’s term was mostly forgettable due to being so short (six months), but his presidency ended in an assassination. From September 1881 until Grover Cleveland’s inauguration in 1885, Arthur served as United States President, but at the time was very disliked. History hasn’t really portrayed him in a negative light to the general public, though, as he’s mostly been forgotten altogether.
On the other side of the Grover Cleveland presidency is another forgettable president with the last name Harrison. The grandson of William Henry Harrison, Benjamin Harrison was born in Ohio and served as a United States Senator in the 1880s, representing Indiana. Harrison served in the position for six years and won the 1888 election over the one-term Cleveland.
The Republican had dominated in the northern states, collecting enough Rust Belt votes to edge out Cleveland. As for his presidency, it was largely forgotten. Harrison did some good things like moving the United States closer toward the Civil Rights Movement and antitrust laws, but rankings usually have him smack dab in the middle in terms of overall effectiveness.
When it comes to the legacy of Franklin Pierce, you probably only remember his haircut. Presidents, for the most part, have had very short haircuts, but Pierce looked like a modern-day hockey player compared to the other presidents throughout history. Pierce was the 14th President of the United States, and the New Hampshire native had been a Senator for five years after moving up the political ladder in his home state.
Pierce didn’t just win the 1852 election, either, he dominated Winfield Scott of the Whig Party, winning all but four states. However, Pierce served just one contentious term where not much was accomplished. He didn’t even have a Vice President for most of his term as William R. King died in the first month, muddying things up even more.
Even people who were alive for the presidency of Gerald Ford can’t remember much outside of the fact that he pardoned Richard Nixon, nearly choked on a tamale, and fell down a set of stairs when walking off of an airplane in Austria. Other than that, Ford was mostly known for his pre-Presidential days.
Ford was a standout college football player for the University of Michigan and only assumed the presidency because of Nixon’s resignation. Ford did not win his re-election bid in 1976, and the biggest positive takeaway from his presidency was First Lady Betty Ford’s fight against addiction stigma.