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No U.S. President Has Ever Died in May and Other Weird Trivia About Presidential Lives

Presidential lives are scrutinized for meaning, even when none is readily apparent

President Truman receives a birthday cake in the Oval Office in 1951. Six years earlier, his birthday coincided with V-E Day. (Wikimedia Commons)
smithsonian.com

Presidents are people too. Like the rest of us, their lives are finite.

But unlike most people, the details of a presidential life are obsessively recorded and analyzed by everyone from staff to historians. With this much attention, people are bound to see patterns. Some of them probably don’t mean much, but they can feel meaningful. Take these examples, which just might help you win your next game of trivia:

June and July are the months that have seen the most presidential deaths

More than one third of presidential deaths have taken place in the summer, writes Eric Ostermeier, “including 12 of the first 22 men to serve in the office.”

Six presidents have died in June, including three Jameses (Buchanan, Madison and Polk), Andrew Jackson, Grover Cleveland and Ronald Reagan. Seven have died in July, including Thomas Jefferson, the third President of the United States, and John Adams, the second. The day they both died on: July 4, 1826.

Exactly fifty years after the Declaration of Independence was signed, the two men, who were 83 (Jefferson) and 92 (Adams) respectively, both died of old age-related ailments. Supposedly, Adams’s last words were “Jefferson still survives.” Although this is a poignant epithet, particularly because the men fought for years and only reconciled in old age, Jefferson had, in fact, predeceased him by five full hours.

Five years later to the day, James Monroe died, on July 4, 1831.

No president has ever died in May and only two were born in that month

Only Harry Truman and John F. Kennedy were born in May: the most common presidential birth month is October. John Adams, Teddy Roosevelt, Jimmy Carter and the little-remembered Chester Arthur were all born then.

President’s Day celebrates the February birth of two presidents: founder George Washington and (in many states) Abraham Lincoln. William Harrison and Ronald Reagan share their birth month.

Presidential birthdays have been a big part of American cultural history

From FDR’s January birthday bashes that started March of Dimes to JFK’s 1962 blowout featuring Marilyn Monroe in the memorable role of chanteuse, presidential birthdays have made an impact on American culture.

Sometimes, though, presidents celebrate their birthday on otherwise-momentous occasions, Fitzgerald writes. On November 2, 1920, Warren Harding was elected president as he turned 55. On May 8, 1945, Harry Truman turned 61 as Germany surrendered, helping to end World War II. “As the rest of the U.S. celebrated V-E day, Truman shared a cake with secretaries, aides and close friends,” she writes.

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