Alex Forman

Pierce, 14th, 1853–57

Franklin Pierce was the most unambitious man ever to run for office.

He is the great-great granduncle of George W. Bush.

Handsome Frank Pierce probably had more personal friends than any other president.

In 1852, Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote Pierce's autobiography. He described Pierce as, "with the boy and man in him, vivacious, mirthful, slender, of a fair complexion, with light hair that had a curl in it. His bright and cheerful aspect made a kind of sunshine."

Hawthorne spoke in awed tones of Pierce's good luck, but the president was anything but lucky. As brigadier general, in Winfield Scott's drive on Mexico City, Pierce's horse bucked and tossed him forward so that the pommel of his saddle was driven into his groin. He fainted. Called a coward, Pierce was unable to find heroic redemption.

Two months before his inauguration, Pierce and his wife, Jane Means Appleton, were in a train that derailed and toppled over an embankment. They sustained slight physical injuries, but their son was practically decapitated in front of their eyes. He was their third son to die. Jane decided that God had taken their son so her husband would have no family distractions while president.

He was the first president to commit his inaugural speech to memory.

In 1853, while in office, Pierce was arrested for running over an old woman with his horse. The case was dropped due to insufficient evidence.

He was the first president to have a Christmas tree in the White House.

He was an alcoholic. At the end of his term, when asked what a president should do after leaving office, he sighed: "There's nothing left . . . but to get drunk."

d. October 8, 1869 (Concord, New Hampshire), at 64, from cirrhosis of the liver.