The executive branch has not always enjoyed the power and prestige it does today, but none can question its current role as the face of the Federal Government. As the years have wound on, more and more authority has come to be vested in that office, and correspondingly the men who have occupied it have become more and more central to the overall functioning of the American nation.
Congresspeople come and go, and the Supreme Court's decisions have enormous scope and consequence, but it is the President, above them all, that brings Americans to the barricades, that fills them with ardor. You might think you know a great deal about the Presidents. You might consider yourself a master of the history of the executive. But regardless of your knowledge, of your passion for Presidential history, are you wily enough to decipher these Presidential rebuses?
Yes, the rebus! The wiliest of visual puzzles - without knowledge, a visual jumble of disconnected imagery, a kaleidoscopic hallucinogen. But with the proper understanding, all snaps into focus and the answer is laid bare. Are you capable of disentangling these most cunning riddles? It won't be easy, but nothing worth doing ever is. Steel yourself for what just might be your greatest challenge, take a breath, and *click*!
Andrew Jackson, known as Old Hickory, was the seventh President of the US. He was noted for his cantankerous nature, his victory at the Battle of New Orleans, and his complicity in the Trail of Tears.
John Quincy Adams, son of John Adams, was the first son of a President to become President. He was the first American envoy to Russia and was a noted opponent of the Slave Power while he was in office.
An extraordinary polymath, Thomas Jefferson was the principal drafter of the Declaration of Independence and played a crucial role in the creation of the US Constitution. He was the founder of the Democratic party, which still exists today.
George Walker Bush was the second American President to be the son of a previous President. He is notable for having the massive terrorist attack known today as 9/11 happen under his watch, and for his decision to make war on Afghanistan and Iraq.
Jimmy Carter was a President with a tumultuous term of office. Under his presidency, the US faced a severe oil crisis, and the Iranian revolution took US hostages. Jimmy was notable for his unusual occupation prior to the office - he was a peanut farmer.
Grover Cleveland is notable for being the only President to serve non-consecutive terms in office. He supported the gold standard and was considered friendly to business interests in general. He declined to annex Hawaii, concerned that the country had been overthrown by outsiders.
The last of the so-called Virginia Dynasty and an original founding father, James Monroe was noted for his expansionistic bent. He acquired fishing rights for the US on the Pacific coast in Oregon, annexed Florida, and proclaimed the Monroe Doctrine, demanding non-interference from European powers in the western hemisphere.
Calvin Coolidge was known for his placid, quiet demeanor, his unflappable nature, and his dry wit. He was in favor of keeping the size of the Federal government small, and did not like to interfere much in the private sector, stating that "The Business of America is Business."
You can't help but remember John Tyler from the campaign jingle "Tippecanoe and Tyler too!". He rose to the Presidency after William Henry Harrison's death and was seen as a weak President. The Princeton disaster - a ship testing a new gun exploded - was seen as a blemish on his Presidency.
A staunch anti-abolitionist, Franklin "Handsome Frank" Pierce supported the fugitive slave act and supported the Kansas-Nebraska act, which eliminated the previous Missouri compromise.
Dwight Eisenhower was the five-star general who led the United States military in WW2 and was a generally beloved President. He completed construction of the national highway system and was noted for warning the US against the military industrial complex.
Millard Fillmore became President after the death of the previous office holder, Zachary Taylor. He was nominally against slavery but claimed that the Federal government had no power over it, which led to him enforcing the fugitive slave act.
Gerald Ford became President upon the resignation of Richard Nixon, having previously become Vice President upon the resignation of Spiro Agnew. He was known for his role in the Helsinki Accords, and for his decision to pardon Nixon. Thanks to his being a Navy man, there is an aircraft carrier named after him today.
William Howard Taft was a polarizing figure, and his presidency was marked by conflict with his friend Teddy Roosevelt. Their public break would lead to Wilson being elected in a landslide. After going back to Yale to teach law for a while, he became the first former President to be appointed to the Supreme Court.
Woodrow Wilson, elected due to a fracture in the opposition party, made many significant changes as President. He re-segregated the public service, making it so blacks could no longer work with whites, involved the United States in the Great War, and urged the formation of a League of Nations.
Benjamin Harrison was the only president to be the grandson of a previous president, William Henry Harrison. He saw the formation of the Hawley Smoot tariff, and oversaw the induction of many states into the Union, including much of the northwest and Hawaii.
George Washington was, of course, the first President of the United States. A leader of the rebellion against Great Britain, he was a former officer for the British army with a keen grasp of strategy and a great capacity for listening to the wisdom of others. He was President for two terms, setting a precedent, and warned against factionalization.
Lyndon Baines Johnson was sworn in upon the assassination of President Kennedy. While he had high hopes for his "Great Society" anti poverty campaign, increasing US involvement in the quagmire that was the Vietnam war overshadowed this and led to his decision not to seek reelection.
Harry S. Truman became President upon the death of the previous President, Franklin Roosevelt. He led the US in the remainder of the second world war, and he decided to drop atomic weapons on Japan. He is forever remembered for holding up the newspaper that proclaimed his electoral defeat, which was of course incorrect.
Barack Hussein Obama was the first African American President. He was particularly successful in implementing the Affordable Care Act, creating a marketplace for health care for all Americans regardless of pre-existing conditions, and for calling for an end to discrimination based on sexual orientation.
Abraham Lincoln is one of the nation's most well-regarded Presidents. Upon his election, the South began to secede, and soon the United States found itself embroiled in a Civil War. Lincoln led the Union to victory, only to die before he could begin the hard work of reconstruction.
James Madison is known as the father of the Bill of Rights due to his role in crafting those first ten amendments to the constitution. He helped create the Democratic-Republican party in order to counter Hamilton's more centralizing Federalist party.
John Adams was the second President of the United States. A statesman and lawyer, he was notable for negotiating the peace treaty with Britain and defending the soldiers responsible for the Boston Massacre in court- successfully! He was also cousin to noted brewer Sam Adams!
Franklin Delano Roosevelt was the only President to hold office for four terms. Seen as the inventor of modern liberalism with his numerous public works projects, he led the United States in the Great Depression and the Second World War. Few people realized that he could not walk unaided, due to his suffering from polio as a child.
Warren Gamaliel Harding made his fortune as a newspaper publisher. Elected through a "front porch campaign," which saw him stay at home rather than go around campaigning, he had to contend with the Teapot Dome scandals happening on his watch.
Ulysses S. Grant rose to command the US Army's forces in the Civil War. His conquest of Vicksburg cut the Confederacy in half, and he then went east and defeated Lee in the Wilderness, eventually forcing his surrender. His Presidency was seen as corrupt at the time, but modern historians have seen him in a better light.
William Henry Harrison is, unfortunately, most famous for his short rule in office - his insistence in holding his swearing-in ceremony in a blizzard resulted in him contracting pneumonia, which he quickly died from.
James Buchanan was known as a "doughface," or a northerner with southern sympathies, and indeed many of his actions as President eased the coming of the Civil War. He is rated extremely poorly for his actions in subsidizing Southern independence before the outbreak of war.
Chester Alan Arthur rose to the Presidency following the assassination of James Garfield. He took it on himself to reform corruption, something that was extremely popular due to the cross party way in which he pursued it. Nonetheless, his positive reputation did not last long after the end of his Presidency.
Martin Van Buren was, unusual for a President, raised in a Dutch-speaking home in New York State. The petticoat affair, a strange bit of drama involving the ostracism of some elite wives against a newcomer, resulted in him rising to public prominence. His Presidency did not go well, however, and he was not reelected due to the Panic of 1839.
Bill Clinton, a two-term President, was chiefly notable for his impeachment trial. He was charged with perjury and obstruction of justice, but both charges failed in the US Senate.
James Garfield, the only sitting House member to be elected President, is largely remembered for his unfortunate passing: he was shot by an assassin, and incompetent medical care resulted in his death.
Ascending to the office after the assassination of Lincoln, Andrew Johnson decided to quickly reintegrate the Southern States into the Union. This truncated reconstruction was controversial at the time, and he faced impeachment when he tried to remove Secretary of War Stanton, who he disagreed with on many issues.
Richard Nixon was a famous president for many reasons - he opened a diplomatic relationship with China, he oversaw the end of Vietnam - but the thing he will be remembered for is, unfortunately, his involvement in the Watergate break-in scandal, which resulted in his resignation in disgrace.
The youngest President ever elected at the time, JFK's chief concern was the relationship between the US and the Soviet Union, and the ongoing Cold War between them. Pursuant to this, he began significant intervention in Vietnam, which would end in tragedy. He was assassinated in Dallas in 1963.
A contentious President, Rutherford actually lost the popular vote and was elected in the electoral college. As part of the compromise that entailed, he withdrew the remaining federal troops from the South. He served one term and then declined to run again, which had been part of the deal!
The 12th President of the United States, Zachary Taylor was elected based on his war record as commander of the US forces in the Mexican American War. He didn't really have much in the way of a cogent platform, however, and died 16 months into his term.
An exceptional orator and famous Hollywood actor, Ronald Reagan was elected President with his only previous political experience being his governorship of California. He was elected for two terms, and the "Gipper" had one of the most resounding re-election victories of all time.
Theodore Roosevelt, a cousin to FDR, was a colorful character that seemed to embody the freewheeling spirit of his age. He oversaw the creation of the national parks system, and intervened in the affairs of foreign nations at a previously unheard of levels - for example, in his "Open Door" policy vis-a-vis China.
William McKinley narrowly defeated Bryan in a presidential race over several issues, the most significant being McKinley's support for the Gold Standard over Bryan's suggestion of minting free silver for currency. He also was substantially in favor of tariffs and led America into the Spanish American War. He was assassinated in 1901.