Presidential Nicknames 1789 to Present


Villains, Steeds, Studs, Mobsters and Zeroes

Presidential Nicknames 1789 to Present is our follow-up to last week’s post, United States Presidential Pet Names 1789 to Present. With the election over we thought it would be a good time to get back to work on a long overdue project. That being finding an alternative to President Obama’s current nickname. Because, let’s face it, “No Drama Obama” is not really serving him or the country very well. So we spent an evening rooting around in the musty-dusty-attic of history in our favorite burgundy silk smoking jacket searching for the proper inspiration, direction and guidance to move this Obama brand forward to the next level of data-driven-win-win-best-of-breed-boots-on-the-ground-viral-customer-focused-next-gen-turn-key-plug-n-play-right-sized-piece of creative destruction.

After our research was complete we realized that most of the existing Presidential Nicknames fall into five conceptual buckets. They are:

  1. Less-Than-Convincing Superhero Names: Cautious Cal, Honest Abe, Mr. Nice Guy, No Drama Obama,The Liberator, The Trust Buster and The Phrasemaker.
  2. Less-Than-Awe-Inspiring Comic Book Villain Names: The Big Lub, Landslide Lyndon, Martin Van Ruin, The Rutherfraud, The Ancient One, The Decider, The Enchanter, The Gipper, The Human Iceberg, The Schoolmaster and The Walrus.
  3. Less-Than-A-Sure-Bet-Sounding Racehorse Names: Boatman Jim, Cool Cal, General Mum, Give ‘Em Hell Harry, His Fraudulency, Napoleon of the Stump, Stuffed Prophet, The Comeback Kid, Tennessee Tailor, Tycoon, Tippecanoe, Unconditional Surrender, Old Man Eloquent, Old Rough and Ready, Old Sink or Swim, and Poppy.
  4. Less-Than-Fear-Inspiring Gangster Names: Big Chief, Bullshit Johnson, Dutch, Gentleman Boss Arthur, Handsome Frank, Teddy, and The Rail-Splitter.
  5. Less-Than-Savory-Adult-Film-Stars-of-Yesteryear Names: Slick Willie, Tricky Dick, Uncle Jumbo, His Little Majesty, The Dude, The Era of Good Feelings, The Careful Dutchman, Young Hickory, and of course Old Hickory.

Here now is the full list of Presidential nicknames. Enjoy.

Nicknames of United States Presidents 1789 to Present

41 — President George Herbert Walker Bush.

43 — President George Walker Bush. Used to differentiate him from his father.

Accidency — President John Tyler, Jr. Tyler was the first president to be elevated to the Presidency by the death of his predecessor.

Big Chief — President William Howard Taft.

Big Lub — President William Howard Taft. Boyhood nickname.

Boatman Jim — President James Abram Garfield, Referencing his work on the Ohio canals in his youth.

Bubba — President William Jefferson Clinton. Common nickname in the Southern US.

Bullshit Johnson — President Lyndon Baines Johnson (Bull Johnson in public) Lyndon Johnson had a reputation for boasting at San Marcos College.

Cautious Cal — President John Calvin Coolidge, Jr.

Chet — President Chester Alan Arthur shortened version of his name used by publications of that era.

Cool Cal — President John Calvin Coolidge, Jr. His reelection campaign used the slogan, “Keep It Cool With Coolidge”.

Dubya — President George Walker Bush. Based on a Texas pronunciation of “W”

Dutch — President Ronald Wilson Reagan Shortly after his birth, his father said he looked like a “fat little Dutchman”.

Father of the Constitution — President James Madison.

FDR — President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

General Mum — President William Henry Harrison. As in the expression, “keep it mum”. Because of his avoidance of speaking out on controversial issues.

Gentleman Boss Arthur— President Chester Alan. The dapper leader of New York State’s Republican party.

Give ‘Em Hell Harry — President Harry S. Truman (also a campaign slogan)

Handsome Frank — President Franklin Pierce

His Fraudulency — President Rutherford Birchard Hayes. Because after the disputed results of the 1876 Election.

His Little Majesty — President James Madison. At only 5′ 4″, he is the shortest person to serve as president.

His Obstinacy — President Stephen Grover Cleveland. He vetoed more bills than the first 21 presidents combined

His Rotundity — President John Adams.

Honest Abe — President Abraham Lincoln.

Ike –– President Dwight David Eisenhower. Known for being in his campaign slogan “I like Ike”

Jack — President John Fitzgerald Kennedy. Kennedy was usually referred to as either “John F. Kennedy” or “Jack Kennedy”, only very rarely as “John Kennedy”

Jerry — President Gerald Rudolph Ford, Jr.

JFK — President John Fitzgerald Kennedy. Most prominent nickname and abbreviation of his full name.

Jimmy — President James Earl Carter, Jr. He was the first President to use his nickname in an official capacity.

Landslide Lyndon — President Lyndon Baines Johnson. Sarcastic reference to the hotly-disputed 87-vote win that took him to the Senate in 1949.

LBJ — President Lyndon Baines Johnson. He liked to be known by this abbreviation, which was used in the slogan, “All the way with LBJ”

Light-Bulb Lyndon — President Lyndon Baines Johnson. He hated wasting electricity, and would often storm around the White House shutting off unnecessary lights.

Martin Van Ruin — President Martin Van Buren.

Matty Van — President Martin Van Buren.  From “Tippecanoe Songs of 1840”

Mr. Nice Guy — President Gerald Rudolph Ford, Jr. Because of his clean-cut and non-partisan image.

Napoleon of the Stump — President James Knox Polk. Because of his potent oratory during his campaign for the Tennessee state legislature.

No Drama Obama — President Barack Hussein Obama II. For his perceived cool demeanor.

Old Hickory –President Andrew Jackson. Allegedly given to him by his soldiers for being as “tough as old hickory.”

Old Kinderhook — President Martin Van Buren. A reference to his hometown.

Old Man Eloquent — President James Monroe

Old Public Functionary — President James Buchanan, Jr.

Old Rough and Ready — President Zachary Taylor

Old Sink or Swim — President John Adams. For the speech in which he vowed “To sink or swim; to live or die; survive or perish with my country”

Papa Bush — President George Herbert Walker Bush. Used after his son George Walker Bush became the 43rd president, to differentiate between the two.

Poppy — President George Herbert Walker Bush. A nickname used from childhood on.

Prince Arthur — President Chester Alan Arthur. For his indulgence in extravagant luxury.

Rutherfraud — President Rutherford Birchard Hayes. Many Democrats did not consider him to legitimately to be president.

Silent Cal — President John Calvin Coolidge, Jr.

Slick Willie — President William Jefferson Clinton.

Teddy — President Theodore Roosevelt. In the New York Times at least as early as 1900.

The Abolitionist — President James Monroe, For routinely bringing up the slavery issue against Congressional rules.

The American Cincinnatus — President George Washington. Like the famous Roman, he won a war, became a private citizen instead of seeking power or riches.

The American Fabius — President George Washington. For his Fabian military strategy during the Revolutionary War.

The American Louis Philippe — President Millard Fillmore

The American Talleyrand — President Martin Van Buren.

The Ancient One — President Abraham Lincoln. A nickname favored by White House insiders because of his “ancient wisdom”

The Apostle of Democracy — President Thomas Jefferson.

The Careful Dutchman — President Martin Van Buren. Van Buren’s first language was Dutch.

The Chief — President Herbert Clark Hoover This was a nickname picked up at 23 as a geologist surveying in the Australian Outback, but it stuck for the rest of his life.

The Colossus of Independence — President John Adams. Given to him by Thomas Jefferson for his leadership in Congress in 1776.

The Comeback Kid — President William Jefferson Clinton. Coined by press after strong second place showing in 1992 New Hampshire primary, following polling slump.

The Decider — President George Walker Bush

The Dude President — President Chester Alan Arthur He was renowned for his fancy attire.

The Elephantine Economist — President Stephen Grover Cleveland. Given to him by hostile newspapers during the 1892 race, by which time his weight had gone up to 250 pounds

The Enchanter — President Martin Van Buren.

The Era of Good Feelings President — President James Monroe. “The Era of Good Feelings” was the period following the War of 1812.

The First Black President –– President William Jefferson Clinton. Used by Toni Morrison in reference to the African Americans tropes surrounding Clinton’s candidacy.

The Front Porch Campaigner –– President of the United States Benjamin Harrison. During the 1888 election, he gave nearly ninety speeches from his front porch.

The Gipper– President Ronald Wilson Reagan. After his role as George “The Gipper” Gipp in the film Knute Rockne, All American. “Win one for the Gipper”.

The Great Communicator — President Ronald Wilson ReaganIn reference to Reagan’s ability to communicate.

The Great Emancipator — President Abraham Lincoln. For the emancipation of the slaves.

The Great Engineer — President Herbert Clark HooverHe was a civil engineer of some distinction

The Great Humanitarian — President Herbert Clark Hoover. When the Mississippi flooded in 1927, he volunteered his services and did extensive flood control work.

The Great Manager — President Martin Van Buren.

The Hero of New Orleans — President Andrew Jackson. For his military victory in the Battle of New Orleans

The Hero of San Juan Hill — President Theodore Roosevelt. He led his Rough Riders up San Juan Hill during the Battle of Santiago de Cuba in 1898.

The Human Iceberg — President of the United States Benjamin Harrison. He was cold and detached when speaking with people on an individual basis.

The Last Cocked Hat — President James Monroe. Because of his favour of the old-fashioned style of the 18th century.

The Liberator — President Abraham Lincoln. For the emancipation of the slaves.

The Lion — President Theodore Roosevelt

The Man of the People — President Thomas Jefferson.

The Master Spirit — President Martin Van Buren.

The Mistletoe Politician — President Martin Van Buren.

The Napoleon of Protection — President William McKinley, Jr. “Protection” meant high tariffs, like the one McKinley wrote in 1890.

The Peanut Farmer — President James Earl Carter, Jr. He owned a peanut farm and fostered this image in his early campaigns, as a contrast to elite Washington insiders.

The Phrasemaker — President Thomas Woodrow Wilson. Wilson had no need of speech-writers to supply his oratorical eloquence.

The Rail-Splitter — President Abraham Lincoln.

The Sage of Monticello — President Thomas Jefferson.

The Schoolmaster — President Thomas Woodrow Wilson. He was a bespectacled academic who lectured his visitors.

The Stuffed Prophet — President Stephen Grover Cleveland.

The Tennessee Tailor — President Andrew Johnson. He worked as a tailor before going into politics.

The Trust Buster — President Theodore Roosevelt. So called as a pioneer of busting business trusts.

The Tycoon — President Abraham Lincoln. For the energetic and ambitious conduct of his Civil War administration.

Tippecanoe — President William Henry Harrison. A reference to Harrison’s victory at the 1811 Battle of Tippecanoe.

TR — President Theodore Roosevelt. He liked to sign communications this way. The first president to be known by his initials.

Tricky Dick — President Richard Milhous Nixon. From a Democratic Party ad leading up to the 1950 U.S. Senate election in California saying “Look at ‘Tricky Dick‘ Nixon’s Republican Record.”

Uncle Abe — President Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln was a kind and friendly man who in his later years came across as avuncular

Uncle Jumbo — President Stephen Grover Cleveland.

Unconditional Surrender Grant — President Ulysses Simpson Grant. For his uncompromising demand for unconditional surrender during the Battle of Fort Donelson

Walrus — President Chester Alan Arthur. For having strange looking facial hair (mostly used or teased by children).

Washington of the West — President William Henry Harrison. A reference to Harrison’s victories at the 1811 Battle of Tippecanoe and 1813 Battle of the Thames.

Young Hickory of the Granite Hills — President Franklin Pierce. “Young Hickory” compared his military deeds (in the Mexican-American War) with those of Andrew Jackson.

Young Hickory— President James Knox Polk. Because he was a particular protégé of “Old Hickory” – Andrew Jackson

Sources / Resources

Video: The PBS / American Exprience Presidents Collection


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