Before he was President: Abraham Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln, 1861-1865 inventor, ferry boat captain
Abraham Lincoln is the only president to receive a patent.  Known for his ability with an axe and cutting wood, the 21 year old Abraham Lincoln was hired to split logs and build a flatboat that could carry barrels of produce New Orleans. He would be paid $12 a month for building and navigating the boat.

During one of his journeys he became stuck on a dam where he stayed for 24 hours until he figured out how drilling a strategically place hole in the craft would help drain water and flip is boat over the dam. That experience led him to draw a design for a new flatboat. His patent was for a system of chambers designed to refloat boats that had run aground. He thought of the idea during a journey from Niagara to his home in Springfield Illinois. He received Patent 6469 on May 22, 1849. Source

He also received a saloon license to dispense liquor in Springfield, Illinois, but he never used it. When Lincoln moved to New Salem, Illinois in 1831, he ran into a local bully named Jack Armstrong. Armstrong challenged Lincoln to a wrestling match outside of Denton Offutt's store, where Lincoln was a clerk, and townspeople gathered to watch and wager on it. Lincoln won. Source

Andrew Johnson, 1865-1869 tailor
Andrew Johnson was a tailor, something he really loved. At the age of 14 Andrew went to work for Mr. James Selby in Raleigh, North Carolina. The small amount of money he was paid saved him and his mother from starving. He moved West believing he would make more money, married Eliza McCardle, and started his own tailoring shop. His shop was became a favorite gathering place for townspeople to talk about what was going on and they enjoyed Johnson's strong speaking ability. It was his speaking ability that got him elected to his first government position as town's alderman. Even when he started to rise in the world of politics, Johnson still had a soft spot for a spool of thread. When he was governor of Tennessee, he made a suit for the governor of Kentucky, just for fun.

Ulysses Simpson Grant, 1869-1877 sold firewood in the streets
Ulysses Grant's first lesson in business negotiations didn't go exactly as planned by his father. Ulysses' father, Jesse, told 10 year old Ulysses to go to the neighbor's farm and buy the horse that was for sale. Partly looking for a better deal and also trying to teach his young son new business skills, Jesse's instructions were, "Offer Mr. Ralston $50 for the horse he has for sale. However, if he doesn't take $50 then offer him $55.00. If he will not take the $55.00 then you may pay him the full $60.00."

Ulysses went to the neighbor's home with $60.00 in his pocket. He certainly didn't want to disappoint his father considering the trust he had put in him so he rehearsed in his mind what his father had told him to say. When he arrived at Mr. Ralston's farm he was surprised by the first question he was asked. "How much did your father tell you to pay for my horse?", asked Mr. Ralston." Ulysses answer not only demonstrated his honesty and integrity, but also his newness at negotiations. "Father told me to offer you $50.00, and if you don't take that then I should offer you $55.00. However, if you still don't accept that price I should offer you the $60.00 he gave me." Of course, Mr. Ralston sold the horse to Ulysses for $60.00, but Ulysses learned a valuable lesson when he got home with the new horse and discussed his day with his father.

More stories: Duncan Hines   George Washington   Thomas Jefferson   Benjamin Franklin   James Garfield   Harry Truman   Henry Ford

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