crappy holidays

Let’s Celebrate America’s Most Forgotten President

Portrait of Benjamin Harrison (1833 - 1901), the twenty-third President of the United States
This is allegedly what our 23rd president looked like. Photo: Hulton Archive

Today is “Presidents Day,” a holiday that doesn’t actually exist but which honors either George Washington’s birthday, or the birthdays of Washington and Abraham Lincoln, or discount furniture. Nobody really knows. 

Since Presidents Day is such a vague, irrelevant mess, we’ve decided to celebrate in an entirely new way. Washington and Lincoln were great and all, but, because they are so universally beloved, they get plenty of recognition throughout the rest of the year. They don’t need a special day. Instead, we’d like to commemorate someone who never gets any attention, someone who barely even exists in the public consciousness. We’re going to commemorate the nation’s least known president. But … who is that? 

It’s not an easy question to answer. For such an important position, the presidency has had many forgettable occupants, and as far as we can tell, no polls have been taken to determine the most forgotten American president. So we’ll have to figure it out ourselves via a little process we like to call the “process of elimination.”

  • It obviously can’t be anyone from the 20th or 21st century. Too recent. 
  • It can’t be any of the Founding Fathers. They’re famous. 
  • It’s not John Quincy Adams. He’s famous too. 
  • It can’t be someone who served two terms (Jackson, Grant, Cleveland).
  • It can’t be someone who was assassinated (Lincoln, Garfield, McKinley), because that is a memorable thing.
  • It can’t be someone who otherwise died in office (William Henry Harrison, Taylor), because that’s also somewhat memorable.
  • It can’t be a president widely considered to be one of the worst presidents ever  (Buchanan, Pierce), because infamy is a kind of fame.
  • It can’t be someone who was impeached (Johnson).
  • It can’t be someone who oversaw a war (Polk).
  • It can’t be someone with a distinctive and memorable name (Millard Fillmore, Martin Van Buren, Rutherford B. Hayes) or distinctive facial hair (Chester A. Arthur — mutton chops).

So, according to this highly subjective analysis, we’re left with John Tyler and Benjamin Harrison. John Tyler could have been a possibility a couple of months ago, but his still-living grandkids recently brought him a surge of publicity. So he’s out. That means we have a winner, or loser, depending on how you look at it: Benjamin Harrison, our 23rd president. 

Probably seven or eight people in the entire country could even recognize your name, Benjamin Harrison. None of those people are familiar with anything you did as president. But today, and forever more, Daily Intel will celebrate your non-existent legacy on Presidents Day. Because, after serving this great nation for four years as president, you deserve at least one day a year where people acknowledge that you did, in fact, exist. 

Who Is America’s Most Forgotten President?