Scientific research suggests that taller men and women are richer and more successful than short people. And while that’s not true in every instance, it does explain why so many American presidents were taller than the average man.
Business Insider reports that in general, human beings are biased to see tall people as more leader-like. They say it all goes back to caveman days, when strong, powerful-looking leaders were selected as the best chance for protecting a group.
True or untrue, the propensity for choosing tall presidents has played out throughout our nation’s history, and over time the average height for presidents has jumped from 5 feet 11 inches to 6 feet in the twenty-first century.
Read on to discover the tallest and shortest presidents ever — including our current leader’s surprising spot on the list, which may or may not be factual.
1. Abraham Lincoln — 6 feet 4 inches
There’s no debating that America’s 16th president was also the tallest in history. One journalist described Abraham Lincoln as having, “long pendulous arms” and “hands of extraordinary dimensions…far exceeded in proportion by his feet.”
These descriptions inspire historians to question whether Lincoln suffered from Marfan Syndrome, a genetic disorder which disrupts the connective tissue of the joints and causes lankiness. While this condition is treatable today, in Lincoln’s time it contributed to his poor health, including cardiovascular issues and vision problems.
Next: Lyndon B. Johnson
2. Lyndon B. Johnson — 6 feet 3.5 inches
LBJ wasn’t just the nation’s second tallest president — he was also rumored to be well-endowed and proud of it.
Richard Caro’s biography of the former president claims that Johnson enjoyed showing off his assets in the bathroom. Caro says, “if a colleague came into a Capitol bathroom as he [Johnson] was finishing at the urinal there, he would sometimes swing around still holding his member, which he liked to call ‘Jumbo,’ hooting once, ‘Have you ever seen anything as big as this?,’ and shaking it in almost a brandishing manner as he began discoursing about some pending legislation.”
Next: Donald Trump
3. Donald Trump — 6 feet 3 inches (maybe)
There’s a lot of conflicting information about how tall President Trump really is.
Trump’s driver’s license, which was issued in May 2012, lists his height as 6 feet 2 inches. Meanwhile, the White House medical report states that Trump is actually 6 feet 3 inches, which would make him the third tallest president in history. Skeptics cite photographs of Trump standing next to former president Barack Obama and point out that the two men appear to be the same height (Obama is 6 feet 1 inch).
We may never know Trump’s exact height, but there’s no denying that he’s one of the tallest presidents in history.
Next: Thomas Jefferson
4. Thomas Jefferson — 6 feet 2 inches
One of the leading figures in our country’s journey to independence was also one of our tallest presidents. And that wasn’t very common during his era.
A true Renaissance man, Jefferson is known for being exceptionally talented at many things, from archaeology to architecture. So he probably wasn’t just elected for his height — though it may have positively affected his self-confidence and the people’s confidence in his leadership skills.
Next: George Washington
5. George Washington — 6 feet 2 inches
The first president of the United States was also one of the tallest.
George Washington stood over six feet tall and fought bravely on the battlefield during the American Revolution, which helped clinch his place as premier leader of the nation. The average height for men in the early 1800s was about 5 feet 10 inches, proving that Washington would have towered over most of his contemporaries.
Next: Franklin D. Roosevelt
6. Franklin D. Roosevelt — 6 feet 2 inches
FDR is the longest serving president and no one will ever take that title from him. He was elected to four terms in a time before the 22nd amendment came into play, which limited presidents to just two terms each.
The nation’s 32nd president was also crippled with polio at the age of 39. While some historians claim the press agreed to cover up his disability, others point out that numerous articles were published documenting FDR’s significant medical challenges, including custom-made braces for his legs.
Standing or sitting, FDR is one of the tallest presidents we’ve ever had.
Next: George H.W. Bush
7. George H.W. Bush — 6 feet 2 inches
The 41st president was the first sitting vice president to get elected into office since 1836. George H.W. Bush was also the second president to father a future president — his son George W. Bush took office in 2001.
But the senior Bush had a few inches on his son. Like a few others on the list, he stood 6 feet 2 inches tall.
Next: Bill Clinton
8. Bill Clinton — 6 feet 2 inches
Clinton was one of the few presidents to get impeached — though that doesn’t mean he was removed from office, which has never happened in the history of the presidency.
His height may have something to do with his popularity with the ladies. Studies show that heterosexual women are naturally attracted to taller men. Former president Bill Clinton stood 6 feet 2 inches tall, making him one of the tallest in history.
Next: Andrew Jackson
9. Andrew Jackson — 6 feet 1 inch
Did you know that Andrew Jackson killed a man in a duel?
“Old Hickory” is also one of the tallest presidents to ever take office, standing 6 feet 1 inch tall. He also has the unfortunate honor of being the first president to become the target of an assassination attempt, though in a strange twist of fate both of the shooter’s guns misfired. The odds of that happening are 1 in 125,000.
Next: Barack Obama
10. Barack Obama — 6 feet 1 inch
Barack Obama made history as the first African American to become president of the United States. The Grammy winner is one of the tallest presidents, standing just over 6 feet in height. He’s also the first president to be born outside the continental United States; Obama was born in Hawaii in 1961.
Next: James Madison
11. James Madison — 5 feet 4 inches
Not all American presidents were tall — in fact, some were downright short of stature.
James Madison is notorious for being the shortest president in history and stood just 5 feet 4 inches tall. The so-called “Father of the Constitution” wasn’t just short, he was also thin, weighing just over 100 pounds.
Madison was sickly and had a weak voice, which made it hard for crowds to hear him during speeches. The wife of a Virginia politician described Madison as, “the most unsociable creature in existence.”
Talk about harsh words for the leader of a nation.
Next: Benjamin Harrison
12. Benjamin Harrison — 5 feet 6 inches
Benjamin Harrison was just seven years old when his grandfather, William Henry Harrison, was elected president. The 23rd president of the United States stood just 5 feet 6 inches tall, but he made up for his shortness by talking a lot. Once he made 140 speeches over the course of just 30 days.
Next: Martin Van Buren
13. Martin Van Buren — 5 feet 6 inches
President Martin Van Buren isn’t the most famous former president, but he is one of the shortest.
Standing just 5 feet 6 inches tall, Van Buren was the first president ever born in the United States of America. He also had some less than flattering nicknames, including “Little Magician,” “Sly Fox,” and “Red Fox of Kinderhook,” which alluded to his height and reddish blonde hair.
Next: John Quincy Adams
14. John Quincy Adams — 5 feet 7 inches
JQA only served one term as the 6th U.S. president, but he went on to become the only former president to serve in the House of Representatives. Adams also argued a case before the Supreme Court and won using the law degree he earned despite never going to law school.
At just 5 feet 7 inches tall, John Quincy Adams was one of the shortest presidents to serve.
Next: John Adams
15. John Adams — 5 feet 7 inches
Think the presidential campaign between Clinton and Trump was bad? You should have seen the mudslinging going down during the election of 1800.
Adams and Jefferson resorted to personal attacks, including Jefferson accusing Adams of being a “hideous hermaphroditical character” who smuggled prostitutes into America. No word on whether Adams’ height was part of the slander, but since he was just 5 feet 7 inches tall, it very well may have been.
Next: William McKinley
16. William McKinley — 5 feet 7 inches
Poor William McKinley. Though he’d never seen the mountain in Alaska that was named after him, it was still a great honor, if not a little surprising considering how short he was. But then on September 12, 2013, it was determined that America’s highest peak was actually 83 feet shorter than originally recorded.
Adding insult to injury, Alaska legislators approved the name change to Mount Denali, effectively stripping the 25th president the privilege of having his name on a mountain.
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