In Honor of Presidents’ Day: Presidential Tech Firsts!

Happy Presidents’ Day! In honor of the day, and of the men who have held that title, here are some fun Presidential Technology Facts, in chronological order (many courtesy of whitehousehistory.org)…

1833: Andrew Jackson becomes the first president to ride on a locomotive.

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Probably not precisely how it looked. Source: tayham.com, click the photo for more presidential facts.

 


 

1877: Rutherford B. Hayes is president when the White House receives a telephone and a typewriter. Clearly he was a “gadget guy.”

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Pictured: President Hayes, on hold. Not really, this is from a Smithsonian diorama. Source: art-now-and-then.blogspot.com, click photo to learn more about Hayes and the phone.

 

Coincidentally, Hayes modems, which let computers communicate over telephone lines, were not named after Rutherford, but after inventor Dennis Hayes (no relation), who founded Hayes Microcomputer Products in 1981.

 


 

1891: Benjamin Harrison is president when electricity is installed in the White House (Although he refused to touch the switches for fear of shock).

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President Harrison, possibly lit by electric light. Click the photo to learn more.

 

1899: William McKinley becomes the first president to ride in an automobile. He rides in a Stanley Steamer driven by Stanley Motor Carriage Co. co-founder Freelan O. Stanley.

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A Stanley Steamer, carrying twin brothers F.E. and F.O. Stanley. Source: bruceatkinson.com

 


 

1902: Theodore Roosevelt is the first president to use an automobile–and an electric one, at that!–on official government business.

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Teddy Roosevelt (riding shotgun?) in 1902. Click photo for more.

Teddy would also be the first president to fly in an airplane.

 


 

1915: Woodrow Wilson is the first president to watch a movie in the White House (infamously, that film is Birth of a Nation).

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President Wilson, wishing he had picked something by Charlie Chaplin, instead. Click photo to learn more about the White House movie theater.

 


 

1922: Warren G. Harding becomes the first president to be heard on the radio.

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Harding’s official portrait. Click photo to learn more about his radio address.

 


 

1947: Harry S. Truman becomes the first president to have a speech broadcast on television.

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Click the photo to hear President Truman’s speech (ironically, video is not available).

 


 

1994: Bill Clinton‘s White House launches its first website.

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Click the image to learn more (but sorry, this site isn’t up anymore).

1998: Clinton becomes the first president to send an email:

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Click the photo to learn how Bill Clinton (right) sent the first Presidential E-Mail.


 

2009: Barack Obama, an avid Blackberry user (remember those?) is allowed to keep his smartphone after his inauguration, becoming the first president with his own cellphone.

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President Obama on his Blackberry. Click the photo to learn what a big deal it was in 2009 that he got to keep it.

 


 

Those were just some quick facts. I’ll be back next week with more on technology, and I promise: less on presidents. ◼︎

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