13 Things You Didn’t Know About the Vice Presidency
Sure, everybody’s always talking about the presidents, but what about the other guys? We searched high and low to find the most interesting facts about the second highest office in the land.
They are American history’s second bananas, forever waiting in the wings.
They are the nation’s number-twos, often overlooked, inevitably under-appreciated. And they are, of course, just a heartbeat away from the most powerful job in the free world—they are the vice presidents. To learn more about this exclusive group, keep reading.
It started as a consolation prize
From 1788 to 1800, the presidential candidate who received the second most Electoral College votes was declared the vice president. See if you can answer these 11 U.S. trivia questions about presidents that everyone gets wrong.
Practice makes perfect
Fourteen vice presidents have become president (eight because the president died in office, and one because the president resigned). Of the five non-“accidental” presidents—John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Martin Van Buren, Richard Nixon, and George H. W. Bush—all but Nixon were elected immediately after their term as vice president.
They weren’t officially the second in line until the 1960s
It’s hard to believe, but there was no official line of succession to the presidency until the 25th Amendment was passed in 1967. Prior to the amendment’s ratification, it was merely assumed that the vice president would assume the presidency if the president died or was removed from office. Here’s more U.S. trivia your history teacher never taught you.
Joe Biden earned the nickname “Amtrak Joe”
For more than 30 years as a senator, former Vice President Joe Biden commuted to work via Amtrak between Delaware and Washington, D.C. (about an 80-minute ride each way). As a result, he is friends with many Amtrak staff and would even host an annual Christmas dinner for Amtrak crew members. Check out these 50 astonishing facts about all 50 states.
One VP held his position for only a month
In 1841, Vice President John Tyler got the big job when William Henry Harrison died of complications from pneumonia only 32 days after taking office. Harrison’s death instigated a brief constitutional crisis (as mentioned, that amendment addressing presidential succession wouldn’t be passed for another 126 years), but it was decided that Tyler would assume the role of president.
John Adams had a ridiculous nickname
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John Adams was the first vice president, serving under President George Washington (1789-1797). He was nicknamed “His Rotundity” because of his weight and arrogant attitude. Learn the answers to 15 questions about the American political system you’ve been too embarrassed to ask.
The VP used to pay for his own house
Vice presidents and their families now live in the Naval Observatory. Originally the VP lived in his own private home, but in 1977, Vice President Walter Mondale became the first vice president to live in a government-supplied home when he and his family moved into the newly renovated Observatory. Don’t miss these 12 mind-blowing facts about the White House.
The 1970s were tumultuous times
It took three vice presidents to complete the 1973 to 1977 vice presidential term. First, Spiro Agnew, President Nixon’s original VP, resigned following a criminal investigation. Nixon chose Gerald Ford as Agnew’s replacement, and Ford assumed the presidency after Nixon’s resignation. Finally, Nelson Rockefeller became vice president under Ford.