Throughout history, the presidents of the United States have been giants in the political world. But in a literal sense, it’s not always easy to discern their actual height when we see them on stage behind a podium. So keeping that in mind, we’ve ranked the American leaders in the order of their size – and the smallest might surprise you!
40. Abraham Lincoln: 6 ft 4 in
Measuring in at over six feet tall, Abraham Lincoln sits at the summit as America’s biggest president. But did you know that Honest Abe’s size might’ve been caused by an ailment named Marfan syndrome? It’s a genetic condition that alters your cellular structure, resulting in gangly appendages and a large frame. And whether it caused Lincoln’s height has long interested experts.
39. Lyndon B. Johnson: 6 ft 3½ in
While Lyndon B. Johnson may not have expected to be president, the untimely demise of JFK means he makes this list ahead of Kennedy as one of the country’s tallest leaders. At the same time, he wasn’t that healthy either. According to a study by the Medicare Supplement website, Johnson was overweight at 210 pounds. Overall, the site named him 31st in the presidential health rankings.
38. Thomas Jefferson: 6 ft 2½ in
Thomas Jefferson was another presidential giant at over six feet tall – but how did he carry himself? Well, a senator named William Maclay offered a vivid description in his diary back in 1790. He said, “Jefferson is a slender man, [and] has rather the air of stiffness in his manner. His clothes seem too small for him. [And] his whole figure has a loose, shackling air.”
37. Bill Clinton: 6 ft 2 in
As one of the tallest presidents of recent times, Bill Clinton was pretty active during his spell in the White House. Then again, that didn’t save him from injury, as he needed a knee operation in 1997. But Clinton’s size wasn’t to blame. According to the Chicago Tribune, he blew it out following a fall at a golfer’s house. Ouch!
36. George Washington: 6 ft 2 in
George Washington wrote his name into the history books as America’s first president. And his size was also pretty notable at the time. You see, Ohio State University researchers reported that the “average height” in the 1700s was roughly 5 ft 5.7 in. Washington blew that number out of the water, so he would’ve seemed very tall to those around him.
35. Franklin D. Roosevelt: 6 ft 2 in
While Franklin D. Roosevelt was one of the tallest men to take office, his size wasn’t always that clear to the public. Why’s that? Well, Roosevelt suffered with polio. Unfortunately for FDR, his encounter with the ailment left him without the use of his legs at just 39 years old.
34. George H. W. Bush: 6 ft 2 in
George H. W. Bush was another towering presence in the White House during his time as president. But how was his health? As it turned out, Bush was always trying to be active, taking up jogging as he got older. Mind you, he still tipped the scales at 196 pounds.
33. Andrew Jackson: 6 ft 1 in
At just over six feet tall, Andrew Jackson joined the ranks of America’s biggest leaders. He was also very light compared to several of his counterparts, weighing 140 pounds. Despite his notable size, though, Jackson is probably best remembered for surviving an assassination attempt when the would-be killer’s pair of pistols both malfunctioned. How lucky!
32. Ronald Reagan: 6 ft 1 in
Ronald Reagan was a pretty tall guy when he became president, but towards the end there were real question marks regarding his health. To explain more, a writer named Gil Troy spoke to Medicare Supplement. He said, “Did [Reagan] have Alzheimer’s before he retired? I think he was on his way. He was forgetful, he was ailing.”
31. John F. Kennedy: 6 ft 1 in
It could be argued that John F. Kennedy is one of the most famous American presidents in history. He was a sizable man too, standing at over six feet. On that note, Kennedy didn’t have a particularly strong back, so he required a brace. The leader had it on when he was killed in 1963.
30. James Monroe: 6 ft
Coming in at exactly six feet tall, James Monroe was the fifth president in office in the United States. It’s said that he was a big fan of dishes from the southern states, as well as French-inspired food. That’s quite a mix! Anyway, all that grub meant that Monroe weighed 189 pounds: the 13th-heaviest president on record.
29. John Tyler: 6 ft
Upon closer inspection, John Tyler is seen as one of the healthiest presidents to take office. According to Medicare Supplement, he wasn’t a big fan of alcohol or smoking. Then again, Tyler’s spell in power wasn’t without its problems. When a bad bout of flu hit America, people referred to it as the “Tyler grippe.” That’s pretty harsh!
28. Gerald Ford: 6 ft
Gerald Ford was another president to stand at six feet tall; but when he was younger his life could’ve taken a very different turn. Ford had the chance to become a professional football player after a stellar spell with his college side. Maybe his size had something to do with it? After he finished university, both the Green Bay Packers and the Detroit Lions wanted to sign him.
27. Warren G. Harding: 6 ft
On the surface, Warren G. Harding seemed to be in pretty good shape: he tipped the scales at 173 pounds. Yet all was not as it seemed. You see, Harding had a bad diet, enjoyed smoking, and suffered with heart issues. On top of that, he endured a mental breakdown as well.
26. James Buchanan: 6 ft
As another six-footer, James Buchanan stands among some of the White House’s tallest occupants. We hope the door frames reflected that! Anyway, what kind of a person was he? Pennsylvania State University’s Dr. Amy Greenberg told Medicare Supplement, “[Buchanan] was such a heavy drinker. Even by the standards of the time, he could drink anyone under the table.”
25. James A. Garfield: 6 ft
James A. Garfield must have been expecting a long, fruitful time in office when he had the honor of becoming America’s 20th leader in 1881. Unfortunately for him, though, his time as president was cut tragically short. Garfield got shot that July, before he succumbed to his injuries over two months later. He was just 49 years old.
24. George W. Bush: 5 ft 11½ in
Coming in just a few inches shorter than his dad, George W. Bush is the first president on this list under six feet. Mind you, it could be argued that he was one of the fittest leaders in the White House. It’s reported that Bush finished a marathon in less than four hours as he approached his 50s. Pretty impressive right?
23. William H. Taft: 5 ft 11½ in
Of all the men to take office, William H. Taft holds the record as the heaviest American president in history. He weighed in at the scales at 340 pounds. Wow! It’s no wonder, though, because Taft’s breakfast often included a 12-ounce steak, so that might go some way to explaining his size.
22. Herbert Hoover: 5 ft 11½ in
Herbert Hoover once said, “If a man has not made a million dollars by the time he is 40, he is not worth much.” But don’t be fooled by that statement. As it turned out, the tall leader worked very hard in his attempts to eradicate hunger following World War One and Two. His colleague Neil MacNeil even noted, “He fed more people and saved more lives than any other man in history.”
21. Richard Nixon: 5 ft 11½ in
Richard Nixon is without doubt one of the most recognizable presidents in America’s history. And he was taller than you might’ve expected! How was his health, though? Well, Dr. Robert Kaufman informed Medicare Supplement, “Looks can be very deceiving. Overall, Nixon was an extremely fit man, not just physically but intellectually, until the end of his life.”
20. Woodrow Wilson: 5 ft 11 in
Standing at nearly five feet 11 inches tall, Woodrow Wilson’s time in the White House hit a significant speed bump in 1919 following a stroke. “He should’ve stepped down from the presidency [after that], but the White House campaign of deception convinced enough members of Congress that he could finish the job,” Dr. Stephen F. Knott told Medicare Supplement. Wilson passed away five years later.
19. Grover Cleveland: 5 ft 11 in
When you think of famous U.S. presidents, Grover Cleveland probably won’t pop into your head straightaway. But here’s the thing: he’s a real history-maker! You see, Cleveland is the only leader to serve two distinct terms in the White House. He’s also the second-heaviest president on record at 260 pounds.
18. Dwight D. Eisenhower: 5 ft 10½ in
Dwight D. Eisenhower was reasonably tall at a bit more than five feet ten inches. But he suffered from a long list of medical issues that ranged from weight problems to heart trouble. Yet Eisenhower didn’t let that stop him from enjoying himself. Apparently, he loved playing golf as he got older.
17. Calvin Coolidge: 5 ft 10 in
Calvin Coolidge was named the 30th president of the United States back in 1923. And in terms of his physical condition, Medicare Supplement claims that he was the 22nd-healthiest leader. Sadly, though, Coolidge had to deal with a bout of depression 12 months after his election when his son passed away. He then died in 1933.
16. Franklin Pierce: 5 ft 10 in
While Franklin Pierce was one of several presidents to measure five feet 10 inches high, he stood out in a different way. A skinny type, he’s the third-lightest leader on record at 144 pounds. Mind you, Pierce’s lengthy battle with alcohol and depression might explain that low number in the grand scheme of things.
15. Andrew Johnson: 5 ft 10 in
Here’s something to remember for your next trivia night. After Andrew Johnson’s victory in the presidential race, he was due to speak at his inauguration. But the leader became anxious beforehand. So he gulped down an alcoholic beverage – unaware of its strong effects. In the end, Johnson was pretty drunk when he made his address!
14. Theodore Roosevelt: 5 ft 10 in
One of America’s most iconic leaders, Theodore Roosevelt wasn’t the literal giant that you’d expect when you hear his name. In fact, he was under six feet tall. Yet despite his size, Roosevelt was an incredibly active president. Among other things, he liked horse riding, swimming, boxing, hiking, and climbing. That’s some set of interests!
13. Jimmy Carter: 5 ft 9½ in
At 5 ft 9½ in, Jimmy Carter wasn’t the biggest president to take office in the White House. Plus, he was on the lighter side as well, weighing just 160 pounds. Yet Carter is up there with the country’s healthiest leaders. Yes, he came fourth in Medicare Supplement’s rankings.
12. Harry S. Truman: 5 ft 9 in
While Harry S. Truman was another shorter, healthy president, his life nearly came to a shocking end back in 1950. What happened? Well, Truman was the target of an assassination plot while he lived outside the White House. Apparently, one of his bodyguards met his end while halting the attack.
11. Rutherford B. Hayes: 5 ft 8½ in
Even though Rutherford B. Hayes wasn’t particularly tall, he was named the healthiest American president in history by Medicare Supplement. Incredibly, this man had no major medical problems up until his passing from a heart attack. He didn’t drink or smoke. Swearing was off the table too – yes, you’re reading that correctly!
10. Zachary Taylor: 5 ft 8 in
At just over five feet eight inches tall, Zachary Taylor is certainly in the bottom half when it comes to height. Unfortunately, though, he’s probably best remembered for his untimely passing after a heat stroke in 1850. As Dr. Robert Watson told Medicare Supplement, “Some early presidential health issues were either caused or exacerbated by environmental conditions and poor medical technology.”
9. William Henry Harrison: 5 ft 8 in
When William Henry Harrison won the presidential race in 1841, he delivered a speech that lasted for around an hour-and-a-half in the rain. And despite the passage of time, that still stands as the lengthiest inauguration in history. It’s suggested, though, that the speech might’ve indirectly led to his death: Harrison got sick and passed away from pneumonia a few weeks later.
8. Ulysses S. Grant: 5 ft 8 in
If we were ranking presidents by their names, Ulysses S. Grant would surely be at the top. It’s awesome! Mind you, The middle letter only came about due to a clerical mistake. The short leader humorously touched on that while corresponding with his girlfriend, writing, “You know I have an ‘S’ in my name and don’t know what it stands for.”
7. James K. Polk: 5 ft 8 in
Another one of the White House’s shortest residents, James K. Polk had to deal with some tricky illnesses when he was president. And, in the end, he succumbed to a bout of cholera after his term concluded. Polk wasn’t the only person to either: up to six patients lost their lives every 24 hours because of the infection at that time.
6. John Quincy Adams: 5 ft 7 in
John Quincy Adams might not have been the tallest man in office, but he still kept himself relatively fit. Yes, he would either go for a six-mile stroll or a swim each morning. That puts most of us to shame! Adams was a big fruit fan as well, so his health never came into question.
5. William McKinley: 5 ft 7 in
Although William McKinley stood just shy of five feet seven inches, he’s in the upper bracket of heaviest presidents. He weighed 199 pounds – so only seven men who reached the Oval Office were bigger than him. Anyway, McKinley’s time in the White House was cut tragically short after his murder in 1901.
4. John Adams: 5 ft 7 in
John Adams made his name as America’s second leader after George Washington’s spell. But here’s an interesting fact to consider. Champlain College’s Willard Sterne Randall told Medicare Supplement, “Adams stayed in Massachusetts all through the yellow fever epidemic of 1793. [It] killed 6,000 Philadelphians, one-fifth of the capital’s populace.” He became president four years later.
3. Benjamin Harrison: 5 ft 6 in
While William Henry Harrison wasn’t one of the taller presidents, he was still bigger than his grandson Benjamin. Yes, the 23rd leader of the country was some two inches smaller when he took office. Not only that, but the younger Harrison was slightly lighter too, weighing exactly 160 pounds.
2. Martin Van Buren: 5 ft 6 in
We don’t know about you, but we feel a great deal of sympathy for Martin Van Buren. Why’s that? Well, the former leader faced down some rather derogatory nicknamess – all referencing his height. For instance, those monikers included the “Red Fox of Kinderhook” and “Sly Fox.” Poor guy!
1. James Madison: 5 ft 4 in
At just over five feet four inches tall, James Madison is the smallest American president on record. He was also the lightest by a considerable distance: he weighed only 100 pounds. Wow! Madison suffered with his health too, and, no surprise with his small frame, he struggled to project his vocals when addressing large crowds.