Presidential Alcohol Awareness - Part 3

by: Mike Miller

As the title suggests, this is the third part in a 4-part series on the history of “presidential drinking.”  Part one dealt with the drinking habits of the Founding Fathers while part two looked at presidents up through Civil War hero-President Ulysses S. Grant.  In this installment we begin with one the last presidents of the 19th Century – Chester Alan Arthur. Just a little free alcohol education for our students.

I know what you’re thinking – “was he the fat one?”  While he was overweight, due in part to his prodigious drinking habit, the man generally of thought of as the “Fat President” is William Howard Taft.  How much Arthur drank before getting into office is subject to many interpretations, but generally he was considered to be a man who liked to drink daily.  During his four years in office Arthur gained 40 pounds.

Only 4 Beers A Day

What comes to mind when you think of Grover Cleveland?  One of the students in my alcohol awareness class thought he was an old-time baseball pitcher.  The pitcher was actually Grover Alexander, who interestingly was born during one of the times Grover Cleveland was president (1887).

You history buffs I am sure are aware of that interesting piece of presidential trivia – Grover Cleveland (22nd and 24th president) is the only man to have help the Oval Office on two separate occasions.  He followed Chester Alan Arthur, serving from 1885 to 1889, before being unseated by Benjamin Harrison.  The people of the country must have wished they hadn’t elected Harrison, as they re-elected Cleveland in the following election. 

One thing to note of Grover Cleveland was his enormous beer belly.  During one of his presidential campaigns both he and his competitor vowed, that in an effort to stay clear-headed, they would only drink 4 beers per day.  They gave up on the plan after only a few short days.

Did Taft Party or What?

I am sure you all are wondering if William Howard Taft, the 27th President of the United States, to some envisioned as the “Fat President”, was a big time drinker.  I’ll tell you this, the man loved to socialize.  Taft was renowned for the social gatherings he had, events that definitely included alcoholic beverages for his guests.  Believe it or not, but the big guy was not a big drinker.  He was a sober life of the party.

Don’t Mess With Teddy!

Taft followed Teddy Roosevelt in office.  The first member of the Roosevelt family was known as a teetotaler.  He was a big drinker of coffee, but never touched beer or other alcoholic beverages.  Some publication made a claim that he was a heavy drinker and he sued them for libel, claiming under oath that he has “never been drunk or under the slightest influence of liquor.”  He won his case and was awarded .06 cents.

Teddy Roosevelt ushered into America the beginning of a changing outlook on alcohol consumption.  Over the course of the next 30 years America would go all the way to banning the sale and consumption of Alcohol with the passing of the 18th Amendment in 1919.

The next series of articles will deal with Prohibition Era presidents and go all the way through our current president, Barack Obama.