Lizbeth Henninger

Written by Lizbeth Henninger

Modified & Updated: 21 May 2024


Ever wondered about the man behind the beard, Rutherford B. Hayes? Sure, you might know he was the 19th President of the United States, but there's so much more to his story than just his political career. Did you know that Hayes was a staunch advocate for educational reform and a pioneer in initiating civil service reform? Well, buckle up, because we're about to dive into the lesser-known, quirky side of President Hayes. From his unique pet to his unexpected hobbies, get ready to be surprised, amused, and maybe even a bit bewildered by these 25 best Rutherford B. Hayes fun facts. Trust me, history has never been this entertaining!

Key Takeaways:

  • Rutherford B. Hayes overcame humble beginnings to become the 19th President of the United States, showcasing bravery in the Civil War and advocating for civil service reform and unity post-Civil War.
  • Despite a controversial election, Rutherford B. Hayes left a lasting legacy of integrity, dedication to reform, and commitment to education and veterans' rights, shaping American society long after his presidency.
Table of Contents

Early Life of Rutherford B. Hayes

Rutherford Birchard Hayes, born on October 4, 1822, in Delaware, Ohio, was the 19th President of the United States. His early years were marked by modest beginnings, with his father passing away just ten weeks before Rutherford's birth. Raised by his single mother, Sophia Birchard Hayes, his upbringing was steeped in values of hard work and education.

  1. Hayes was named after his father's brother, Rutherford, and his mother's family name, Birchard.

  2. Despite the family's financial constraints, Hayes was provided with a quality education, attending Kenyon College and later Harvard Law School.

Military Service and Political Ascent

Before his presidency, Hayes served with distinction in the Civil War, rising to the rank of major general. His military service significantly boosted his political career, leading to his election to Congress and later as the Governor of Ohio.

  1. Hayes was wounded five times during the Civil War, showcasing his bravery and commitment to the Union cause.

  2. His military accolades played a crucial role in his political rise, making him a popular figure in Ohio and nationally.

Presidential Election of 1876

The election of 1876 was one of the most contentious in American history. Hayes lost the popular vote to Democrat Samuel J. Tilden but won the presidency through a compromise in the Electoral College.

  1. The Compromise of 1877 awarded Hayes the presidency in exchange for the withdrawal of federal troops from the South, effectively ending Reconstruction.

  2. Hayes was known as "Rutherfraud" or "His Fraudulency" by his detractors due to the controversial nature of his election.

Presidency and Reforms

Hayes's presidency (1877-1881) was marked by efforts to reform the civil service and attempts to reconcile the divisions left by the Civil War.

  1. He initiated the first significant efforts to reform the civil service, including executive orders that banned federal employees from being required to make campaign contributions.

  2. Hayes advocated for the rights of African Americans and attempted to protect them through federal legislation, although with limited success due to the political climate of the time.

Life After Presidency

After his term, Hayes did not seek re-election and returned to Ohio, where he remained active in educational, humanitarian, and social causes until his death in 1893.

  1. Hayes was instrumental in founding Ohio State University and served on its board of trustees.

  2. He became a strong advocate for educational reform and prison reform, reflecting his lifelong commitment to public service.

Personal Life and Legacy

Hayes's personal life was characterized by a strong family orientation and a deep, enduring marriage to Lucy Webb Hayes, who was known for her temperance advocacy.

  1. Lucy Webb Hayes was the first First Lady to have a college degree.

  2. The Hayes were known for their sobriety in the White House, earning Lucy the nickname "Lemonade Lucy" because of her refusal to serve alcohol at official functions.

  3. Rutherford B. Hayes was an avid reader and kept a diary throughout his life, providing valuable insights into his personal thoughts and the era he lived in.

  4. The couple had eight children, underscoring their commitment to family life despite the demands of public service.

  5. Hayes's legacy is often overshadowed by the controversy of his election, but his contributions to civil service reform and efforts to heal the nation post-Civil War are noteworthy.

  6. An animal lover, Hayes was known to have several pets during his time in the White House, including dogs, cats, and even a mockingbird.

  7. Hayes died of complications from a heart attack on January 17, 1893, in Fremont, Ohio. His presidential library, the first in the United States, was established at his estate, Spiegel Grove.

  8. His commitment to education and reform continued to influence American society long after his presidency, with many schools and institutions bearing his name as a testament to his legacy.

  9. Despite the controversies, Hayes is remembered for his integrity, dedication to reform, and efforts to unify a divided nation.

  10. Hayes's personal motto, "He serves his party best who serves his country best," reflects his approach to governance and his belief in placing national interests above partisan ones.

  11. An advocate for technological advancement, Hayes installed the first telephone in the White House, signaling his openness to innovation and progress.

  12. Hayes's administration was marked by a strong foreign policy that sought to improve relations with South American countries, laying the groundwork for future diplomatic efforts.

  13. Known for his judicial temperament, Hayes was respected for his fairness and ability to mediate between conflicting interests, traits that served him well both as president and in his post-presidential life.

  14. Hayes's commitment to veterans' rights was evident in his efforts to improve the lives of Civil War veterans, including supporting the establishment of homes for disabled soldiers.

  15. The Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Center, established in his honor, serves as a repository for his papers and artifacts, offering insights into his life, presidency, and the times he lived in, preserving his legacy for future generations.

A Final Nod to Hayes

Rutherford B. Hayes, a name that might not echo as loudly in the halls of history as some of his counterparts, certainly carved out a niche that merits recognition. From his pivotal role in ending Reconstruction to his efforts in civil service reform and education for African Americans, Hayes's presidency was more than just a political tenure; it was a period of subtle yet significant transformation. His commitment to restoring faith in the government and advocating for technological advancements, like the telephone in the White House, showcases a leader attuned to progress and justice. Hayes's legacy, marked by his dedication to reform and equality, leaves a lasting impression that extends beyond his time in office. As we look back, it's clear that his contributions have shaped the course of American history in ways that continue to resonate today.

Frequently Asked Questions

What made Rutherford B. Hayes a unique president?
Hayes brought a distinctive touch to the presidency by ending the Reconstruction era, which was a period of rebuilding and reconciling after the Civil War. Unlike others before him, he focused on civil service reform and education for African Americans, aiming for a more united country.
How did Hayes become president without winning the popular vote?
In the 1876 election, Hayes lost the popular vote but won the presidency through a special Electoral Commission. This commission decided the outcome of disputed electoral votes, ultimately giving Hayes a one-vote margin in the Electoral College.
Did Hayes have any pets while in office?
Yes, Hayes and his family were quite fond of animals. They had a menagerie at the White House, including cows, a goat named Old Whiskers, and the first Siamese cat in the United States, sent as a gift by the American consul in Bangkok.
What was Rutherford B. Hayes's stance on technology and innovation?
Hayes showed great interest in technological advancements and innovation. He was the first president to have a telephone installed in the White House, embracing new ways to communicate and lead.
How did Hayes contribute to education during his presidency?
Hayes was a strong advocate for education reform. He supported federal aid for education and emphasized the importance of providing educational opportunities for African Americans, laying groundwork for future educational policies.
What hobbies did Hayes enjoy during his lifetime?
Beyond his political career, Hayes was passionate about reading, fishing, and horseback riding. He believed in staying active and engaged with the world around him, values he carried throughout his life.
After leaving office, what causes did Hayes dedicate himself to?
After his presidency, Hayes remained active in public service, focusing on educational initiatives, veterans' affairs, and prison reform. He believed in the power of education to transform society and worked tirelessly to support these causes until his passing.

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