George Washington owned a whiskey distillery and Abraham Lincoln was an avid wrestler.

Those are just a few facts about former presidents but there are plenty more.

Learn a little more about U.S. presidents during a Presidents Day Celebration scheduled 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. Feb. 19 at the Presidential Archives and Leadership Library.

Bob Brescia, the executive director of the John Ben Shepperd Public Leadership Institute, said he will also host a 6:15 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. presentation of “fun facts” about the presidents.

Brescia said there will be self-guided tours from 5:30 p.m. to 6:16 p.m. and again from 6:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. He added that the event is free and open to the public.

“There are fun-filled facts about all of them that most people don’t know,” he said. “I’ll have quirky stuff about each one of them and refreshments will be available.”

The event is on Presidents Day and will give Odessans a chance to look around at the exhibits and the Bush house, which is located behind the library.

“George Washington actually had dentures made of gold lead and strangely enough animal teeth,” Brescia said. “James Monroe, our fifth president, once chased the secretary of state from the White House with a pair of fire tongs.”

Presidents Day is celebrated on the third Monday in February. Originally established in 1885 in recognition of President George Washington, it is still officially called “Washington’s Birthday” by the federal government.

Traditionally celebrated on February 22—Washington’s actual day of birth—the holiday became popularly known as Presidents’ Day after it was moved as part of 1971’s Uniform Monday Holiday Act, an attempt to create more three-day weekends for the nation’s workers.

The Presidential Archives and Leadership Library is located on the campus of the University of Texas of the Permian Basin and is administered by the John Ben Shepperd Public Leadership Institute. The archival collection was begun by local Odessa citizens as a memorial to the memory of President John F. Kennedy shortly after his assassination in 1963.

There was such an overwhelming response with information about other presidents that a decision was made to create a unique collection that would be dedicated to the office of the presidency and an understanding of the electoral process. It is a collection of exhibits, campaign memorabilia, books, photos, magazines and other historic collectibles that tell the history of the office of the president and of events that have shaped the American people. This collection continues to grow and expand as each new president takes office.

Among the collections of the Archives:

  • Dishong Collection: Antique dolls dressed in miniature replicas of the First Ladies’ gowns.
  • James B. Mason Collection: Wooden mosaics of Presidential images made up of more than 16 million chips of natural wood from more than 170 varieties of trees.
  • Rainbo Collection: Presidential portraits, each including a historical scene from the president’s time in office, used to create a series of trading cards placed in loaves of Rainbo Bread in the 1970s.
  • Chandler Collection: Presidential and First Lady portraits commissioned by Billie Trimble Chandler when she was a sixth grade history teacher in Japan in the 1970s and painted by a Japanese artist.
  • Campaign Memorabilia: one of the world’s largest collection of campaign buttons, ribbons, posters and literature.
  • John Ben Shepperd, Jr. Memorial Library: More than 7,500 volumes, including rare and first editions and presidential papers. Click here for a partial listing of the books in our collection, or here for a PDF version.

The library is open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Fridays and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays.

If You Go
  • What: President’s Day Celebration.
  • When: 5:30 to 7 p.m. Feb. 19.
  • Where: Presidential Archives and Leadership Library, 4919 E. University Blvd.
  • Call: 552-2850.