This Day in History: Entrepreneurial Presidents and the Startups They Loved

U Posted by Admin
\ January 17, 2014

Every four years, the country undergoes a transformation. Debates explode on every street corner, campaigners traipse across the country shaking hands and kissing babies, and we’re bombarded with a constant stream of political ads.

Election season dates back to 1788, and over 200 years of elected presidents have given us a diverse group of leaders representing varied ideas, ideologies, and zeitgeists.  From Honest Abe, to Cool Calvin Coolidge, presidential facts and trivia have spawned board games, trivia nights, and lively discussions.  

Given our love for startups and entrepreneurship here at Fundable, it’s no surprise that this year’s presidential election led to many discussions and questions concerning former U.S. presidents and entrepreneurship.

After some research, here’s what we found:

Ten of our previous forty-three presidents could be considered entrepreneurs. That’s a whopping 23%, especially compared with figure that just over 11% of Americans own their own business. While not all of these businesses were wildly successful, it is remarkable to note that those who are voted into the role of U.S. President are twice as likely to own a business.

Other interesting statistics include the fact that jobs were created at +.98% (on average) from 1921-present under non-entrepreneurial candidates while jobs were created at +2.64% (on average) from 1921-present under entrepreneurial candidates. Additionally, entrepreneurship was the second most popular profession prior to presidencies (excluding elected political positions) with the most popular sector being business/law (32.56%).

Our entrepreneurial presidents include:

Abraham Lincoln. Law practice, retail store. Not only is Honest Abe the only U.S. President to ever receive a patent, but he also once tried to file a patent for a 19th century Facebook. He envisioned each town in the U.S. having it’s own Gazette with personal pages including quotes, favorite books, and happenings around town that could be shared with the public or could be distributed only to a person’s friends and family.

Warren G. Harding. Newspaper. Harding purchased The Marion Star for $300 (the modern day equivalent of $3818) and later sold it for $550,000 (the modern day equivalent of $7,000,000).

Franklin D. Roosevelt. Polio treatment spa. After being diagnosed with polio, FDR learned of a spa treatment facility in Warm Springs, Georgia. After experiencing the spa’s treatment, he purchased the facility and used it to treat other polio sufferers.

Harry Truman. Retail store. Unfortunately, Truman’s men’s clothing store went out of business due to the Great Depression. However, Truman refused to declare bankruptcy and eventually repaid all debts related to the store.

Jimmy Carter. Peanut farmer. By the time Carter was thirteen, he had saved enough money to purchase 5 houses and rented them to area families. Later on, Carter left a military career to run his father’s peanut farm after his father died.

George H.W. Bush. Oil companies. Bush founded three separate oil companies: Bush-Overbey Oil Development Company, Zapata Petroleum Corporation, and Zapata Off-shore. The Bush family is still involved in the oil industry to this day.

George W. Bush. Professional investments. Bush invested $606,302 in the Texas Rangers between the years of 1989 and 1991 and later sold his stake in the Rangers for $14,900,000.

Herbert Hoover. Engineering. Hoover began an engineering business in 1908. His business helped to reorganize companies and find mining prospects. His business ultimately employed over 175,000 people around the world.

James Polk. Law practice.  After graduating from the University of North Carolina, Polk formed a successful law practice in Columbia, Tennessee.

Lyndon B. Johnson. TV/radio stations. Lyndon B. Johnson and his wife, Lady Bird Johnson, ran several radio and television stations in Texas. In fact, the stations made up the bulk of their wealth.

Disclaimer: this article is not a political statement, it’s intended solely to entertain, educate, and give you fun facts to share and impress your friends at your next cocktail party!

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