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Did Taft Really Get Stuck in a Bathtub?

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Did Taft Really Get Stuck in A Bathtub?


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Canden: All right, welcome to a special edition of a today is Saturday episode of Should Have Asked a Tour Guide with Top Things to Do DC and Free Tours by Foot. Today is special because... is it his birthday?

Becca: Its William Howard Taft's birthday, he was born on this day. I wanted to dispel a very popular myth about a very interesting president. Go ahead and ask me.

Canden: You all might have probably heard this. Did Taft ever get stuck in a bathtub?

Becca: Oh, Taft in the bathtub. I am a Taft truther. Taft is a really interesting president. He's the first president to actually work out of the Oval Office in the West Wing. He's the first president to have a car while he lives at the White House. He's the first president to throw out a ceremonial first pitch at a baseball game, which I love, being a baseball fan. He also probably invented the seventh-inning stretch, he was big on baseball. He's the first president to be buried at Arlington National Cemetery. He's also the only person in American history to serve as president of the United States and Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.

While he's chief justice, he kind of advocates for the building of the United States Supreme Court building and he's a driving force in the completion of the Lincoln Memorial. There's all of that without even getting into his long record of being a judge and what he accomplished during his presidency. All anyone ever asked me on my tours when it comes to Taft is did he get stuck at bath tub?

Here's the deal, Taft was a big guy. Estimations put him somewhere between 340-350 pounds. When he's president of the United States, that's sizable but he never got stuck in a bathtub. I think this myth has started because he had custom-made tubs, many of them were massive. The custom tub that Taft had put onto the ship when he went to visit the Panama Canal weighed an actual ton. It could fit four grown men with room to spare but that was not the tub he had at the White House, although he did have a customized tub there as well.

He never ever got stuck in a bathtub, we have no evidence of that. I think the story sort of comes from a time that he overflowed the bathtub at the White House. He got in, too much water, overflowed made a mess. The thing about it is Taft could even laugh at himself. The next day, he was talking to some advisers, he was in New Jersey, he was looking out onto the Atlantic Ocean and he said something to the effect that he wishes he could just rope off a piece of the ocean and that could be his bathtub and he would never overflow it.

I think Taft sort of knew that he could poke a little fun at himself. Now here's the cool thing about Taft and I think all of us from time to time worry about taking off a few extra pounds. When Taft became Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, he decided he wanted to slim down a little bit. He started walking to work three miles every day to the Supreme Court. He lost 70 pounds while he was chief justice. Walking to work, counting calories, he had a dietitian in London who he exchanged letters with. Remember that about Taft, he didn't get stuck in a bathtub, very interesting Chief Justice of the Supreme Court and a fitness fanatic like all of us.

Canden: He could have been a walking tour guide.

Becca: Could have been a tour guide.

Canden: I know. Next life.

Becca: Happy birthday, Taft.

Canden: Happy birthday. Do we want to end with something?

Becca: If you have questions about any other American president, something you've always wondered if it's true or not. Leave it in the comments you can also tweet at us, top things to do DC or free tours by foot. We love answering these kinds of questions. We love dispelling myths but we also love sharing all the interesting things about the people who occupied the highest office, so send us your questions.

Canden: We will see you on Tuesday for our weekly edition of Should Have Asked a Tour Guide.

[00:03:39] [END OF AUDIO]

About The Author

Canden Arciniega

Canden is a historian and tour guide in Washington DC with 4 published books about the city. She has written for HuffPost Travel and has been featured in the Washington Post, WTOP, and numerous other DC papers. She's also been interviewed by the BBC, NPR, Travel Channel and Discovery Family Channel. Canden is the producer of our podcast, Tour Guide Tell All With a M.A. in History from University College London and a B.A. in History from Elon University, she is an authority on D.C. history, and has led tours in the city for over 10 years. She currently resides in DC, but has also lived in London and South Korea, and has travelled to 28 countries. Her two children (both under the age of 4) have their passports and own frequent flier accounts.
Updated: September 20th, 2018
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