Special Report

The 9 Poorest American Presidents

Source: National Archives / Getty Images

9. James Buchanan
> Term: 1857-1861 (15th president)
> Other occupations: Congressman, senator, secretary of state
> Birthplace: Franklin County, Pennsylvania

James Buchanan came from a well-off family, but he never made much money of his own since his entire career was in public service. After getting a law degree, Buchanan joined the military and served during the War of 1812 before being elected to the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. His political career included positions such as congressman, senator, and secretary of state. Buchanan never had to provide for anyone else as he was the only president who never married.

Source: Hulton Archive / Getty Images

8. Abraham Lincoln
> Term: 1861-1865 (16th president)
> Other occupations: Lawyer, general store owner, rail-splitter
> Birthplace: Hardin County, Kentucky

Born into a modest family, Abraham Lincoln’s rise to become one of the most well regarded presidents in history is nothing short of remarkable. Tall and strong, Lincoln made money in his early 20s doing manual labor like splitting wood. After moving to New Salem, Illinois, Lincoln tried out a number of other occupations, serving as town postmaster and owning a general store.Eventually, he found politics and won a seat in the Illinois state legislature. It was only after his election that he decided to become a lawyer, an occupation which set him on his political path.

Source: National Archives / Getty Images

7. Andrew Johnson
> Term: 1865-1869 (17th president)
> Other occupations: Tailor, alderman, mayor
> Birthplace: Raleigh, North Carolina

Andrew Johnson began his working life as a tailor, but his true passion always seemed to be in debating. Johnson frequently advocated for the common man and railed against plantations. He gained the support of his Greeneville, Tennessee community, eventually becoming alderman and mayor of the town. His political career continued its upward trajectory until he was put on Abraham Lincoln’s ticket for reelection in 1864. He took office after Lincoln’s assassination.

Source: Hulton Archive / Getty Images

6. Ulysses Simpson Grant
> Term: 1869-1877 (18th president)
> Other occupations: General, leather shop worker, farmer
> Birthplace: Point Pleasant, Ohio

Ulysses S. Grant is renowned for his leadership of Union forces during the Civil War, but between that and his earlier service in the Mexican-American War, Grant struggled to find a career. After resigning from the Army in 1854, Grant failed in his attempts to work in farming and real estate, so he went to work for his father, who worked in leather goods. He returned to his true calling when the Civil War broke out.

Source: National Archive / Newsmakers / Getty Images

5. James Abram Garfield
> Term: 1881 (20th president)
> Other occupations: Teacher, general, congressman
> Birthplace: Orange, Ohio

James A. Garfield never pursued a lucrative career track, instead focusing on service. After completing his education at the Eclectic Institute, he returned to his alma mater and became a teacher of Greek and Latin. Before entering politics, Garfield was also ordained as a minister. He fought for the Union during the Civil war, leading Ohio’s 42nd volunteer infantry regiment.

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