Special Report

Each President’s Path to the Oval Office

Source: Henry Guttmann / Hulton Archive / Getty Images

John Quincy Adams (1767-1848)
> Term: 1825-1829
> Party affiliation: Democratic-Republican
> Notable occupation: Diplomat, senator

It never hurts to be the grandson of a president, yet John Quincy Adams came to the presidency with his own set of impressive credentials. Adams had a successful diplomatic career, serving as Washington’s minister to the Netherlands. His observations about the wars ravaging Europe and the dangers of getting involved in them got the president’s attention. Adams is credited with laying the groundwork for what would become the Monroe Doctrine, the dominant American foreign policy in the Western Hemisphere for almost 200 years. It maintained that the U.S. should not involve itself in the affairs of other Western nations.

Source: Hulton Archive / Getty Images

Andrew Jackson (1767-1845)
> Term: 1829-1837
> Party affiliation: Democratic-Republican
> Notable occupation: Soldier

Never one to avoid a fight, Andrew Jackson, veteran of street brawls and survivor of duels, took on Native Americans and the British in the War of 1812. He defeated Native American opposition in the South and also beat the British at New Orleans, a feat that put him in the small but growing pantheon of American military heroes.

Source: National Archives / Newsmakers

Martin Van Buren (1782-1862)
> Term: 1837-1841
> Party affiliation: Democratic
> Notable occupation: Governor, secretary of state

An impeccably dressed man and shrewd political operator, Martin Van Buren forged an alliance with the forces of Andrew Jackson, who rewarded his loyalty by naming him secretary of state. Eventually, Van Buren would become Jackson’s vice president. He was then elected president in 1836.

Source: Wikimedia Commons

William Henry Harrison (1773-1841)
> Term: 1841-1841
> Party affiliation: Whig
> Notable occupation: Soldier

School children know “Tippecanoe and Tyler too,” the campaign slogan of William Henry Harrison. Tippecanoe was the site of Harrison’s military victory over Native American forces in 1811, and that feat helped him win the presidency.

Source: National Archives / Newsmakers / Getty Images

John Tyler (1790-1862)
> Term: 1841-1845
> Party affiliation: Whig
> Notable occupation: Lawyer, vice president

John Tyler was a Virginia legislator who became known as “His Accidency.” That was because he was the first vice president to become commander in chief following the death of his predecessor, Harrison, who had served as president for about a month. Tyler served in the House of Representatives and was governor of Virginia before he became vice president.