Remembering the U.S. Presidents

Remembering the U.S. Presidents

Author: Don Smithmier

Remembering the order of the U.S. presidents can serve as an excellent "quick reference" guide to key events in American history.

In this learning packet, I'm working to identify great mnemonic devices to help remember which president came when.

My favorite mnemonic devices for remembering the order of the U.S. presidents.

See More
Introduction to Art History

Picture this:
Our Intro to Art History Course is only $329.

Sophia's online courses help save you money, while earning credits that are eligible for transfer to over 2,000 colleges and universities.*


"Washy Ad Jeffy" by Jonathan Coulton

I really dig this one by Jonathan Coulton. Great voice, great melody, great hook for remembering the list! You can get the scoop on this great mnemonic (and on "JoCo") at http://www.jonathancoulton.com/2008/06/13/washy-ad-jeffy/.

What's really excellent about this song is it is a "double mnemonic." Not only does it help remember the order of the presidents, but if you pay attention, it will also teach you how many terms each president served. The number of syllables indicates the number of terms in office. Love it!
Meanwhile, I've included the lyrics below so that you can read while you listen.

Source: Jonathan Coulton

"Washy Ad Jeffy" lyrics with translation

Washy Ad Jeffy (Washington, Adams, Jefferson)
Maddy Monroe (Madison, Monroe)
Ad Jackson Van Har (John Q. Adams, Jackson, Van Buren, William H. Harrison)
Ty Po Tay Fill Pear (Tyler, Polk, Taylor, Fillmore, Pierce)
Bu Lincoln John Grant too (Buchanan, Lincoln, Andrew Johnson, Grant)
Hayes Gar-thur and Cleve (Hayes, Garfield, Arthur, Cleveland's first term)
Harr Cleve and McKin (Benjamin Harrison, Cleveland's second term, McKinley)
Roosevelt Taft (Theodore Roosevelt, Taft)
Wilson Hard Coolidge (Wilson, Harding, Coolidge)
Hoov Franklin Roosevelt Truman Ikey (Hoover, Franklin Roosevelt, Truman, Eisenhower)
Ken Johnson Nixon Ford Cart Reagan Bush (Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, George HW Bush)
Clinton Dubya (Clinton, George W. Bush)

And maybe you someday
And if you do they’ll say
What a fine president you made


In the age of Google, why bother remembering the U.S. presidents?

While it's easy to do a Google search to find out that Abraham Lincoln was the 16th president, I still believe there's a lot of value in knowing it for yourself.  Why?  Because I believe that remembering who the presidents were and the order in which they served can provide a great mental reference for what was happening in the United States and the world at key points of history.  

For example, if you can remember that Andrew Johnson came AFTER Abraham Lincoln, then you can quickly make the association between Johnson and the end of the Civil War; but especially between Johnson and Reconstruction.   This will also help you remember Johnson's presidency as largely ineffective and nearly ending with his impeachment.  See?  Just knowing that Johnson followed Lincoln triggers a lot of historical context around his presidency that would be hard to remember otherwise.

So, how do you remember which president came when?  That's the tough part.  In this learning packet, I'll be working to gather some helpful mnenomic devices for doing just that.  If you have suggestions, please let me know and I'll post them here.



Quick Reference Guide to the Presidents: Numbers 1 through 10



Most Associated With (As President)



•America’s first president

•Set the precedent of serving only two terms

•To his dismay, political parties emerged during his tenure



•The war between Britain and France

•Kept peace with France despite the “X, Y, and Z” affair

•The Alien & Sedition Acts



•Cut military spending and eliminated Whiskey Tax

•Acquired the Louisiana Territory from Napoleon

•Kept the U.S. out of the Napoleonic Wars



•The War of 1812

•British enter Washington, burn White House and Capitol

•War deemed successful; a new nationalism emerges

•Due to its war opposition, Federalism disappears as a national political party



•The “Era of Good Feelings”

•The Missouri Compromise

•The Monroe Doctrine

Adams (John Quincy)


• Lost both popular and electoral vote to Andrew Jackson, a southerner, but won election by House of Representatives

• Proposed national programs for highways, canals, a national university and support for arts and sciences



·     Emergence of Democratic Republicans (Democrats) and National Republicans (Whigs)

·     Aggressive use of the presidential veto

·     Major political battle to stop the Second Bank of the United States

Van Buren


·     The Panic of 1837 – the worst depression the U.S. had seen to that point

·     Blocked the annexation of Texas in attempts to stop the spread of slavery



·     The first president to die in office

·     Died of pneumonia after only a month in office



·     Heavy emphasis on states’ rights

·     Expelled from the Whig party while in office

·     Passed the “Log Cabin” act to encourage westward expansion