Special Report

Each President’s Path to the Oval Office

Source: Hulton Archive / Getty Images

Chester Arthur (1829-1886)
> Term: 1881-1885
> Party affiliation: Republican
> Notable occupation: Lawyer, customs collector

Chester Arthur, who had the reputation of a well-dressed man about town, was a product of the New York patronage system, which helped propel him to the vice presidency. He assumed the presidency following the assassination of President James Garfield.

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Grover Cleveland (1837-1908)
> Term: 1885-1889, 1893-1897
> Party affiliation: Democratic
> Notable occupation: Governor, sheriff

Grover Cleveland’s nickname was “Ugly Honest” for his no-nonsense look, integrity, and reputation as a reformer. He was a sheriff in Erie County, New York, and during his tenure as sheriff, he hanged two men. The 1884 presidential race was one of the dirtiest in U.S. history, but Cleveland’s dignity in the face of scurrilous accusations helped him win the election. He was the only president to serve two non-consecutive terms.

Source: Hulton Archive / Getty Images

Benjamin Harrison (1833-1901)
> Term: 1889-1893
> Party affiliation: Republican
> Notable occupation: Soldier, senator

The grandson of the nation’s ninth president, Benjamin Harrison, who rose to brevet brigadier general by the end of the Civil War, was a very popular politician in his native Indiana. Harrison supported the rights of Native Americans, homesteaders, and Civil War veterans.

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William McKinley (1843-1901)
> Term: 1897-1901
> Party affiliation: Republican
> Notable occupation: Lawyer, governor

William McKinley served for 14 years in Congress and was a two-term governor of Ohio. He was the last president to serve in the Civil War. Like many Republican contemporaries of the late 19th century, McKinley supported high tariffs and was pro-business.

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Theodore Roosevelt (1858-1919)
> Term: 1901-1909
> Party affiliation: Republican
> Notable occupation: Soldier, cowboy, vice president

Myriad lifetime experiences prepared Theodore Roosevelt to become president after McKinley was assassinated. Roosevelt was a writer, naturalist, adventurer, cowboy, and soldier. He explored the Great Plains and led the Rough Riders in Cuba during the Spanish-American War. As president, he pushed for more activist federal government, looking to strike a balance between big business and labor and put the nation on the road to world-power status.

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