From the desk of Jan Hommel, Museum Director:
Q: Which president was a tailor in his early working life?
A: Andrew Johnson. No president has ever risen from such meager beginnings as Andrew Johnson. Born in North Carolina to a landless laborer and a washerwoman, Johnson lived in extreme poverty and never spent a day in school. At fourteen, he began working as a tailor’s apprentice. After two years of hard work, he fled and lived on the run while authorities hunted him down for breaking his indentured servitude. He eventually returned to his former employer to fulfill his tenure, but was immediately dismissed upon his return. Johnson then gathered up what was left of his family (his father had died when Andrew was three) and crossed the mountains into Tennessee. Everything they owned fit into a two-wheeled cart hauled by a blind pony. Shortly after moving to Tennessee, Johnson married Eliza McCardle (she was sixteen when they married), and opened his own tailor shop. He loved his trade and could not pass a tailor’s shop without stopping in to talk. As governor of Tennessee, he once made a suit for the governor of Kentucky, who, as a blacksmith, returned the favor by giving Johnson a shovel and tongs. Johnson rose from poverty to politics and was elected to Congress at the age of thirty-four. In1864, he became Lincoln’s vice-president and ascended to the presidency after Lincoln’s assassination in 1865. Johnson was a democrat and Lincoln a republican. Not sure if that would work today! (The Essential Book of Presidential Trivia; Secret Lives of the U.S. Presidents; Smithsonian Book of Presidential Trivia)