Donald Trump Isn’t the Only U.S. President Who Ran a Business Before Taking Office
All U.S. presidents had careers before they took office. Some were lawyers, some were teachers, one was even an actor — and some owned their own businesses. Find out which presidents were entrepreneurs before they entered the White House — including Donald Trump on page 5 — you’re definitely in for a surprise.
1. Jimmy Carter
According to the website ondeck, when Jimmy Carter’s father, Earl, died in 1953, the peanut farm he had built was nearly failing. Carter came home from the Navy to Plains, Georgia, to turn things around, and he had to keep the farm afloat on credit. Determined to make the farm work, Carter implemented state-of-the-art agricultural practices that came to fruition.
From his efforts, Carter developed a new appreciation for the economy’s dependence on agriculture and signed the Agricultural Trade Act into law in 1978. The act established trade offices in global agricultural commerce centers to “develop, maintain, and expand international markets for U.S. agricultural commodities.”
Next: You’ll be shocked by this president’s business choice.
2. George Washington
According to the website ondeck, the country’s first president, George Washington, was quite the entrepreneur. At the urging of his farm manager, James Andersen, Washington ran two successful whiskey stills at Mount Vernon in early 1797. This was no Podunk operation: Washington’s business consisted of a boiler and five copper stills and a 2,250- square-foot distillery.
His venture became profitable almost immediately. And when he produced nearly 11,000 gallons of whiskey in 1799, he owned the largest distillery in the country at the time.
Next: A giant fail
3. Abraham Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln took a liking to the town of New Salem, Illinois, so he and his friend William Berry opened the Lincoln-Berry general store there in January 1833, according to ondeck. Lincoln and Berry, unfortunately, were not as successful as George Washington with their business — the location wasn’t great because the town had stopped growing. Berry tried to boost sales by getting a liquor license, but that didn’t work.
The store went belly-up in a few months, leaving Lincoln with a debt that he has to wait to pay off when he was elected to Congress in 1848. That was not the end for Lincoln, however; he started a successful law practice in 1837, and received a patent in 1849 — for a device to lift boats over shoals — becoming the only president to ever get one.
Next: This president had it all sewed up before he took office.
4. Andrew Johnson
When Andrew Johnson was 18, his seamstress mother helped him get an apprenticeship with a tailor in Greeneville, Tennessee. Johnson turned out to be a master at the craft and opened his own shop in 1826. Johnson’s shop did very well, and he wisely invested the profits in real estate, according to ondeck. His shop also served as a gathering place for political debate, as well as the place Johnson held his first meetings as an alderman in 1829.
Next: You can’t deny Donald Trump is a savvy businessman.
5. Donald Trump
You likely know Donald Trump owns businesses, but maybe you don’t know how many. According to Time, he might just own or control more than 500 businesses in about 24 countries across the globe. He owns a vast real estate empire that stretches around the world, and The Trump Organization’s interests range from high-end towers in Turkey to an agreement with China regarding a New York City lease to a new hotel on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington .
Next: This president couldn’t figure out what he wanted to do.
6. Warren Harding
Warren Harding worked as an insurance salesman and teacher after graduating from Ohio Central College when he was 17. After deciding that neither profession was for him, Harding purchased — along with a group of local investors who contributed $300 — The Marion Daily Star, his failing hometown newspaper based in Marion, Ohio.
Harding turned the paper around and became full owner two years later. Next, Harding took on the Marion Independent to become the city’s official daily newspaper, according to ondeck. And, on July 5, 1899, he used the Star to announce he wanted to be a Republican state senator.
Next: A really smart businessman, this one
7. Herbert Hoover
Herbert Hoover earned a geology degree from Stanford, then served as a mining engineer at Bewick, Moreing & Co, according to ondeck. He left the company to start his own international mining consulting business, establishing offices in Paris, New York, and San Francisco. Hoover wore many hats: He was engineer, financier, promoter, and technical consultant.
Hoover concentrated on restructuring near-bankrupt mining companies, eventually employing more than 175,000 workers. He was a strong believer in the power of trade, and when he was appointed Secretary of Commerce in 1921, he worked to make the Commerce Department the nerve center of American growth and stability.
Next: This president went bankrupt.
8. Harry Truman
After he served World War I, Harry Truman and his friend, Edward Jacobson, opened a haberdashery in Kansas City, Missouri. Three years later, following the recession of 1921, the pair went bankrupt. Truman took 15 years to pay off his share of the company’s debts, according to ondeck. Regardless, Truman gained a reputation as a good businessman, and he joined a group of businessman — the Triangle Club — who wanted to improve the city.
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