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Rebecca O'Connell // istock (background) / getty images (obama)
Rebecca O'Connell // istock (background) / getty images (obama)

How Many Presidents Visited All 50 States Before Leaving Office?

Rebecca O'Connell // istock (background) / getty images (obama)
Rebecca O'Connell // istock (background) / getty images (obama)

As you may have read, President Obama raised some eyebrows earlier this month when it was reported that he has only visited 49 out of 50 states since his first term began. The lone outlier? South Dakota.

“We’d always love to have him,” said ex-senator Tom Daschle, who suggested one of the state’s nine Indian reservations for a stop on Obama’s next road trip. Back in 2013, South Dakota’s department of tourism officially invited him over, noting “your wife and daughters have visited Mount Rushmore … now it is your turn.” And don’t miss John Oliver’s brilliant take on Obama’s neglect of South Dakota (complete with a phony, somewhat NSFW ad).

A little over a week after the comedian’s bit aired, Obama announced that he would indeed be dropping by Watertown, S.D., where he’ll deliver a commencement address at Lake Area Technical Institute. By exploring the great states of South Dakota, North Carolina, Idaho, and Utah this year, Obama will soon become only the fourth sitting president in U.S. history to have set foot in all 50 states.

WHERE THE OTHER PRESIDENTS STAND

FDR would be on this exclusive list, if it weren’t for the fact that Alaska and Hawaii didn’t become states until 1959. Fittingly, the longest-serving POTUS managed to explore—or at the very least pass through—those two territories and all 48 extant states during his twelve-year stint in the White House. 

“Unfortunately,” says archive specialist Jim Armistead of the Harry S. Truman Library and Museum, “no one has compiled a list of all the states which President Truman visited while he was in office.” Still, his public papers reveal that at least 40 hosted him at one point during his two terms. Furthermore, Armistead notes that before Hawaii joined the union, Truman stopped there “on his way to Wake Island for a conference with General Douglas MacArthur in 1950.” As for America’s other soon-to-be state, he considered taking an Alaskan vacation during the summer of ‘46, but ultimately opted for a New England getaway instead.

Dwight Eisenhower was technically the first president to serve all 50 states—under his watch, two new stars were added to our flag after Alaska and Hawaii joined the union. But despite that—as well as Eisenhower’s part in the creation of America’s interstate highway system—there were a few states that the 34th president never got around to seeing before he left D.C.

For example, Idaho, which got snubbed by Ike and his successor. In John F. Kennedy’s defense, he did manage a visit to every single state at some point (just not during his tragically-short administration). Next up was Lyndon Johnson, who made time for Idaho as chief executive, but neglected places like North Dakota.

Then came Richard Nixon. One day in 1971, “Tricky Dick” met with Republican fundraisers at a Delaware estate. As unassuming as this little foray was, it capped a remarkable accomplishment. By crossing Delaware off his list, Nixon had done something that no previous president had—he’d checked out all 50 states while in office, and did so in less than three years.

According to his press secretary Ronald L. Ziegler, Nixon firmly believed in getting out and meeting everyday people—as his travels purportedly demonstrated. “He has done that,” said Ziegler. “I think he will continue to do that.” 

Unfortunately, Nixon’s sudden, scandalous departure didn’t give Gerald Ford much time to work with, and he couldn’t keep the fifty-state visitation streak alive. (Just like Johnson, North Dakota was among those Ford missed). Jimmy Carter also fell short during his one-term presidency, failing to reach such states as South Dakota and Vermont.

Let’s pause here for a moment, because the syrup-scented home of Ben & Jerry’s really deserves a shout-out. Historically, presidential visits to Vermont have been quite scarce. Before Obama was sworn in, three of the previous five commanders-in-chief never came calling on the New England gem. After Carter overlooked it, Vermont went on to become one of only four states that Ronald Reagan passed over (along with Maine, Rhode Island, and Delaware). Even so, the whole quartet voted for him in 1984—and all but Rhode Island had done so in 1980.

George H.W. Bush did in a single term what Reagan couldn’t in two, becoming the first president since Nixon to see every state. Bill Clinton then followed suit, squeezing in his final state just under the wire.

While Clinton was in office, GOP leaders in Nebraska began taking pride in an odd piece of trivia. “We have the distinction,” Governor Mike Johanns gloated at the Republican National Convention in 2000, “of being the only state in the union, I repeat the ONLY state in the union, never visited by Bill Clinton since he’s been president.” Naturally, the conservative crowd went wild. Four months later, Clinton finally showed and shook hands with Johanns himself when Air Force One touched down at the Kearney Municipal Airport.

George W. Bush spent time in a grand total of 49 states before calling it quits. Care to guess which one he spurned? (We’ll give you a hint: it starts with a “V” and rhymes with “croissant.”)

To say that the 43rd president wasn’t a popular guy in Vermont would be a serious understatement. After all, in 2008, two Vermont towns—Brattleboro and Marlboro—approved a nonbinding measure supposedly requiring local police officers to arrest Bush and then-VP Dick Cheney on sight. Perhaps it was for the best that the head of state kept his distance.

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History
The Funky History of George Washington's Fake Teeth
Screenshot via Mount Vernon/Vimeo
Screenshot via Mount Vernon/Vimeo

George Washington may have the most famous teeth—or lack thereof—in American history. But counter to what you may have heard about the Founding Father's ill-fitting dentures, they weren't made of wood. In fact, he had several sets of dentures throughout his life, none of which were originally trees. And some of them are still around. The historic Mount Vernon estate holds the only complete set of dentures that has survived the centuries, and the museum features a video that walks through old George's dental history.

Likely due to genetics, poor diet, and dental disease, Washington began losing his original teeth when he was still a young man. By the time he became president in 1789, he only had one left in his mouth. The dentures he purchased to replace his teeth were the most scientifically advanced of the time, but in the late 18th century, that didn't mean much.

They didn't fit well, which caused him pain, and made it difficult to eat and talk. The dentures also changed the way Washington looked. They disfigured his face, causing his lips to noticeably stick out. But that doesn't mean Washington wasn't grateful for them. When he finally lost his last surviving tooth, he sent it to his dentist, John Greenwood, who had made him dentures of hippo ivory, gold, and brass that accommodated the remaining tooth while it still lived. (The lower denture of that particular pair is now held at the New York Academy of Medicine.)

A set of historic dentures
George Washington's Mount Vernon

These days, no one would want to wear dentures like the ones currently held at Mount Vernon (above). They're made of materials that would definitely leave a bad taste in your mouth. The base that fit the fake teeth into the jaw was made of lead. The top teeth were sourced from horses or donkeys, and the bottom were from cows and—wait for it—people.

These teeth actually deteriorated themselves, revealing the wire that held them together. The dentures open and shut thanks to metal springs, but because they were controlled by springs, if he wanted to keep his mouth shut, Washington had to permanently clench his jaw. You can get a better idea of how the contraption worked in the video from Mount Vernon below.

Washington's Dentures from Mount Vernon on Vimeo.

There are plenty of lessons we can learn from the life of George Washington, but perhaps the most salient is this: You should definitely, definitely floss.

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Pop Culture
11 Famous Men Who Used to Be Cheerleaders
Darren McCollester/Newsmakers/Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Darren McCollester/Newsmakers/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

When cheerleading was “born” on November 2, 1898, it looked a lot different than it does today. There were no tiny outfits, no wild stunts and—surprise!—no women. University of Minnesota student Johnny Campbell rallied a football crowd with the ad-libbed cheer, "Rah, Rah, Rah! Ski-u-mah, Hoo-Rah! Hoo-Rah! Varsity! Varsity! Varsity, Minn-e-So-Tah!” and unwittingly became the father of cheerleading. (The school, by the way, still uses Campbell’s original cheer to this day.)

Soon after Campbell’s performance, the University of Minnesota organized a six-man “yell squad” and other colleges followed suit. Women didn’t really enter the picture until 1923. Although male cheerleaders are the minority today, there was a time when they were the vast—and loud—majority. Here are 11 famous examples of them.

1. GEORGE W. BUSH

Future president George W. Bush wasn't just a cheerleader at Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts in the 1960s: he was head cheerleader. And he’s in good company ...

2. AARON SPELLING

Aaron Spelling may have made his name behind the scenes as one of television's most prolific—and successful—producers, but he was front and center when he was head cheerleader at Southern Methodist University.

3. JIMMY STEWART


Getty Images

Iconic actor Jimmy Stewart was also head cheerleader during his tenure at Princeton.

4. DWIGHT D. EISENHOWER

When he was no longer able to play football at West Point, Eisenhower decided to continue supporting his team by cheerleading instead.

5. FRANKLIN D. ROOSEVELT

FDR cheered for Harvard football in 1904, notably rallying the crowd for a particularly heated game against Brown.

6. SAMUEL L. JACKSON

Samuel L. Jackson lent his legendary voice to the squad at Riverside High in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

7. STEVE MARTIN


NBC Television/Courtesy of Getty Images

Steve Martin tried to write cheers for the squad he was on, but has said “Die, you gravy-sucking pigs” didn’t go over too well.

8. TRENT LOTT

Former Mississippi senator Trent Lott was a cheerleader at Ole Miss.

9. RONALD REAGAN


Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

Ronald Reagan cheered on his basketball team at Eureka College in Illinois.

10. AND 11. KIRK DOUGLAS AND MICHAEL DOUGLAS

Before he was an actor, Kirk Douglas honed his performance skills as a cheerleader at Amsterdam High School in Amsterdam, New York. As with acting, Kirk's son Michael also followed in his dad's footsteps in cheerleading; he was on the squad at Choate.

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