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The Hidden Talents of 24 U.S. Presidents

You'll never guess what these presidents secretly did in their free time.

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George Washington was a dancer

Before he became our nation’s first president, Mr. Washington danced the night away at countless parties and balls, often with a new leading lady on his arm. Don't miss these 11 facts about George Washington you never learned in school.

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Thomas Jefferson was an architect

President Jefferson wasn’t just a founding father; he was also the “father of national architecture.” He contributed to plans for the first government buildings in Washington, D.C., designed the University of Virginia, and oversaw construction of Monticello, his 5,000-acre plantation in Charlottesville, Virginia.

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Andrew Jackson was a master of duels

The war vet was a gunslinger even off the battlefield. He’s said to have fought up to 100 duels in his lifetime and was shot multiple times. In 1806, the future president killed Charles Dickinson in a duel after he cheated on a horse bet and insulted Jackson’s wife. Here are 44 fascinating facts about America's first ladies, too.

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John Tyler was a musician

Being the 10th president of the United States wasn’t his first career choice. Tyler originally studied to become a concert violinist before switching to law and eventually the presidency, where he is said to have played violin at many White House parties.

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James K. Polk was a lover of brandy

President Polk was a sickly child, but he earned his tough-guy chops when, at the age of 17, he had urinary stones removed (while wide awake!), with brandy as his anesthetic of choice.

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Franklin Pierce had a supercharged memory

Pierce was the first president to recite his inaugural address from memory. He gave his entire 3,319-word speech without a single notecard. For more presidential trivia, check out these 12 surprising facts about the White House you missed in history class.

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Abraham Lincoln was a bartender

Long before he wrote the Emancipation Proclamation, President Lincoln co-owned a tavern in Illinois. But his booze business was short-lived when the store fell into debt; Lincoln soon abandoned the pint glasses for law books.

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James Garfield was ambidextrous and multilingual

Double is no trouble for President Garfield. As if being a lefty wasn’t neat enough, Garfield could write with both hands at once—Greek in one hand and Latin in the other. Here are 12 famous presidential quotes that are actually fake.

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Chester A. Arthur had expensive taste

Known as the “Gentleman Boss,” Arthur had elegant taste and an appetite for the finer things. But his passion ran up a big bill: he regularly hosted lavish, 12-course feasts at the White House, owned more than 80 custom-made suits, and took an ornate horse-drawn carriage to all of his social engagements.

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Jimmy Carter was a speed-reader

If reading were an Olympic sport, this president could be a national contender. After enrolling in a speed-reading course with his wife, Carter could read 2,000 words per minute with a 95 percent comprehension rate. Although this is true, here are 8 presidential "facts" that just aren't true.

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Originally Published in Reader's Digest