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Why the U.S. has had more vice presidents than presidents
Trump is #45 but Pence is #48 – and other strange consequences of the curious office of vice president.
- Initially, the vice presidency was a consolation prize for the runner-up in the Electoral College.
- For a total of almost 38 years – about one-sixth of U.S. history – the office of vice president has been vacant.
- As this map shows, Richard Nixon remains the only vice president to date born west of the Rockies.
Like the presidency of the United States, the vice presidency has its own flag, and its own ceremonial entrance march: 'Hail Columbia'.
Image: public domain
Here's a strange fact about America's top executives that you may not have noticed before: the United States has had more vice presidents than it has had presidents. Trump is POTUS number 45, but Pence is the 48th vice president (VP) of the U.S.
This map, found in the vaults of the Library of Congress, shows the birthplaces of all VPs of the United States up until 2009. A peculiar take on a peculiar institution. And one that invites closer inspection.
Where VPs are born
This map shows the birthplaces of all but three VPs: #32 (Garner), #36 (Nixon) and #37 (LBJ).
Image: Library of Congress - public domain; additional graphics by Ruland Kolen
- Twenty-two VPs – close to half the total – hail from the Northeast. New York has had eight, more than any other state. Massachusetts and Vermont both have had three. This reflects both the demographic weight and the historical importance of the region.
- The Mid-Atlantic region, from DC on south, has produced six VPs, two each from Virginia and North Carolina. That's surprisingly little for one of the earliest settled regions of the country. Until you take into account that Virginia has produced eight presidents and that the VP was often chosen to provide geographic balance.
- In contrast, the Midwest has produced no less than nine veeps. That's down to just three states, though: Kentucky, which on its own has produced four – the second-most, after New York; Ohio, birthplace to three VPs; and Indiana, home state of two vice presidents (the map dates from 2009, so doesn't yet include Mike Pence, a native of Columbus, IN).
- An equal number of VPs springs from the plains states further west, in what looks like an almost deliberately vertical line from South Dakota down to Texas.
- Then: a whole lot of nothing. Except for a single pinprick in California. That's Richard Nixon, the first and as yet only VP born west of the Rockies.
A consolation prize
The inauguration in 1873 of Henry Wilson, Ulysses Grant's second vice president.
Image: public domain
Vice president is the most useless job in the country, until it becomes the most crucial one: the VP is the 'spare' who steps up when the president dies or is otherwise officially incapacitated. For an office so often overlooked or maligned, it has had a curious history, and some interesting office-holders.
The vice presidency was conceived in 1789 essentially as a consolation prize for the person obtaining the second most votes in the Electoral College. This virtually ensured that the president and his VP would be political opponents, as was the case with Thomas Jefferson, VP to John Adams.
To make matters worse, the system short-circuited almost immediately. At the 1800 election, Jefferson and Aaron Burr got the same number of electoral votes. To avoid further iterations of the mess that followed – 36 votes in the House to determine the winner – the 12th Amendment created the current system, with electors casting separate ballots for president and for vice president.
Formally, the VP's only major role is to preside over the Senate (and, if necessary, to cast a tie-breaking vote). Another vice-presidential duty is to open the certificates of states' electoral ballots. Four VPs – Adams Sr., Jefferson, Van Buren and Bush Sr. - have thus had the pleasure of announcing their own election as president.
But more importantly, VPs are "just a heartbeat away" from the highest office in the land. Eight VPs have succeeded a president who died in office (and one a president who resigned).
According to the original job description, the VPs themselves would get no successor in case they died, resigned or succeeded the president. And so it has been throughout most of American history. In fact, the vice presidency has been vacant for more than 37 years, about one-sixth of the total time. Approved only in 1967, the 25th Amendment finally allowed that the president appoint a VP to fill a vacancy, subject to approval by the House and Senate. That provision would be used twice in the following decade.
The vice presidency has a rhythm of its own, slightly out of lockstep with the presidency. Two vice presidents have served more than one president. And several presidents have had more than one vice president. Elbridge Gerry already was the fifth VP to James Madison, who was the fourth president. The numbers would later sync up and diverge a few more times. The last president and VP with matching serial numbers (#32) were FDR and his first VP, John Nance Garner.
Confused? Just to get our facts straight, and because who can resist a truckload of trivia, here are all of America's VPs so far.
“A tranquil and unoffending station"
John C. Calhoun, 7th VP of the United States - and the only one to have resigned voluntarily.
Image: public domain
1. John Adams (°Braintree, MA), VP to George Washington (#1) from 1789 to 1797
John Adams was the very first VP. His nickname was 'His Rotundity', for his size and self-importance. Memorable quote: "I am vice president. In this I am nothing, but I may be everything." More frankly, he called the vice presidency "the most insignificant office that ever the invention of man contrived."
2. Thomas Jefferson (°Shadwell, VA), VP to John Adams (#2) from 1797 to 1801
Jefferson would go on to become president after Adams but didn't mind playing second fiddle at the time: "The second office of this government is honorable and easy, the first is but a splendid misery." In a similar vein, he called his vice-presidential duties a "tranquil and unoffending station."
3. Aaron Burr (°Newark, NJ), VP to Thomas Jefferson (#3) from 1801 to 1805
When it became clear that Jefferson would choose a different VP for his second term, Burr decided to run for governor of New York. In that campaign, Alexander Hamilton, the founder of the New York Evening Post, made statements against Burr for which he demanded satisfaction. In a duel in 1804, Burr killed Hamilton. Murder charges against Burr were eventually dropped.
4. George Clinton (°Little Britain, NY), VP to Thomas Jefferson and James Madison (#4) from 1805 to 1812
One of only two VPs to serve under more than one president. Also, the first of seven VPs to die in office. He succumbed to a heart attack in 1812.
5. Elbridge Gerry (°Marblehead, MA), VP to James Madison from 1813 to 1814
When governor or Massachusetts, Gerry gave his name to the practice of gerrymandering – creating weirdly-shaped electoral districts in order to ensure one's own party's victory. (The second part of the word derives from 'salamander'). Gerry was the second VP to die in office.
6. Daniel D. Tompkins (°Fox Meadows, NY), VP to James Monroe (#5) from 1817 to 1825
The 'D.' probably stood for nothing; Tompkins only added it to distinguish himself from another Daniel Tompkins at Columbia College. He founded Tompkinsville, on Staten Island. He paid so little attention to the (already minimal) job of VP that Congress docked his pay. Tompkins died of alcoholism 99 days after his term ended – the shortest post-office lifespan of any ex-VP. He also lived the shortest life of any VP, dying just 10 days shy of his 51st birthday. Yet he was the only 19th-century VP to serve two full terms under the same president.
7. John C. Calhoun (°Calhoun Mills, SC), VP to John Quincy Adams (#6) and Andrew Jackson (#7) from 1825 to 1832
The second (and only other) VP to serve under two presidents, Calhoun holds the record for tie-breaking votes in the Senate (31). He was the first vice president to resign, and remains the only one to have done so of his own accord. He did it in order to take up a seat in the South Carolina Senate.
8. Martin Van Buren (°Kinderhook, NY), VP to Andrew Jackson from 1833 to 1837
Calhoun got Van Buren's appointment as ambassador to Britain voted down, but this had the opposite effect of the one he desired: It killed his own career instead of Van Buren's, and Van Buren was chosen to replace him as VP. Van Buren was the only 19th-century VP who managed to get himself elected as president. The four others who succeeded to the presidency did so because of the death of the president.
9. Richard Mentor Johnson (°Bryant Station, KY), VP to Martin Van Buren (#8) from 1837 to 1841
During the War of 1812, he served under William H. Harrison in Upper Canada, where he claimed to have killed Shawnee chief Tecumseh. In 1836, he campaigned for VP with the slogan "Rumpsey Dumpsey, Rumpsey Dumpsey, Colonel Johnson killed Tecumseh". Johnson is the only VP elected under the provisions of the 12th Amendment, which states that if no candidate for VP receives a majority of electoral votes, the Senate shall decide. He was criticised for his relationship with Julia Chinn, a mixed-race slave, whom he nevertheless treated as his wife, also acknowledging the paternity of their two daughters.
10. John Tyler (°Charles City County, VA), VP to William H. Harrison (#9) in 1841
Tyler was the first VP to succeed a president who had died in office – Harrison spent only the last 31 days of his life as president. Tyler's nickname therefore was 'His Accidency'. His accession was contested. Some thought he could only become 'acting' president, but he set a precedent by claiming the presidency outright (including its five-times-higher salary). Memorable quote: "If the tide of defamation and abuse shall turn, and my administration come to be praised, future vice presidents who may succeed to the presidency may feel some slight encouragement to pursue an independent course."
11. George M. Dallas (°Philadelphia, PA), VP to James K. Polk (#11) from 1845 to 1849
Quite the expansionist, Dallas advocated for the annexation of all of Mexico and all of the Oregon Territory, plus Cuba. Several cities are named after him – although his connection with the naming of Dallas, Texas is disputed. The M. stands for 'Mifflin', by the way.
12. Millard Fillmore (°Locke Township, NY), VP to Zachary Taylor (#12) from 1849 to 1850
Born in a log cabin as the oldest of eight in a family of poor tenant farmers, Fillmore rose to become a successful attorney. As VP, he was ignored by President Taylor. Upon Taylor's death, he became president – only the second VP to do so. Fillmore managed to pass the 1850 Compromise, which defused the explosive issue of slavery for some time. Memorable quote: "May God save the country, for it is evident that the people will not."
The vice president who turned rebel
John Breckinridge, 14th VP of the United States. Both the youngest VP so far and the only one to take up arms against the federal government.
Image: public domain
13. William R. King (°Sampson County, NC), VP to Franklin Pierce (#14) in 1853
The only vice president to take his oath of office on foreign soil. He was convalescing in Havana when he took the oath in March 1853. King died of tuberculosis 45 days later, the third VP to die in office – although he never actually got to assume it. King remains the shortest-serving VP in history (with the exception of Tyler and Johnson, who went on to become president). He also was the only unmarried VP. For the last 13 years of his life, he lived as the roommate of later president James Buchanan. For that reason, Andrew Jackson nicknamed the two 'Miss Nancy and Aunt Fancy'. King also was a co-founder and the name-giver of the city of Selma, Alabama.
14. John C. Breckinridge (°Cabell's Dell, KY), VP to James Buchanan (#15) from 1857 to 1861
The youngest person ever to become VP. He was 35 when elected, and 36 when he took office. Breckinridge was expelled from the Senate for joining the Confederate Army, and remains the only VP ever to have taken up arms against the United States. He was appointed Confederate secretary of war in 1865, fled into exile after the Union victory and returned to the U.S. only in 1869, after president Johnson's general pardon.
15. Hannibal Hamlin (°Paris, ME), VP to Abraham Lincoln (#16) from 1861 to 1865
The Republican party picked Hamlin, a Northerner, because they wanted to balance out the fact that Lincoln was a Westerner. Hamlin later said the announcement reached him during a card game, and that it had "ruined a good hand". Lincoln and Hamlin were elected before they even met. Memorable quote: "There is a popular impression that the vice president is in reality the second officer of the government not only in rank but in power and influence. This is a mistake."
16. Andrew Johnson (°Raleigh, NC), VP to Abraham Lincoln in 1865
Poor and widowed, Andrew Johnson's mother sent him and his brother to work as indentured servants for a tailor. After two years, they ran away. The tailor advertised a reward of $10 for their return. They were never captured. Johnson later set up his own tailor shop. Andrew Johnson was the only Southern senator to oppose Secession and retain his seat during the Civil War. The conspirators who assassinated Lincoln also wanted to kill his VP. The assigned assassin backed out, however, so Johnson succeeded to the presidency, the third VP to do so following the death of a president.
17. Schuyler Colfax (°New York City, NY), VP to Ulysses S. Grant (#18) from 1869 to 1873
Colfax was the first VP previously to have been Speaker of the House. Since the VP is president of the Senate, that made him the first of only two persons ever to have presided over both Houses of Congress. At the end of his term as Grant's first VP, Colfax's name was connected to the Crédit Mobilier scandal, which involved manipulation of contracts for building the Union Pacific railroad. He was also revealed to have accepted, while chairman of the Congressional Committee on Post Offices, a campaign contribution from a contractor who had supplied the government with envelopes. He retired under a cloud, but regained his reputation and a living by delivering popular lectures, among others about the life of Abraham Lincoln, whom he had known personally.
18. Henry Wilson (°Farmington, NH), VP to Ulysses S. Grant from 1873 to 1875
Wilson disliked his birth name – Jeremiah Jones Colbath – and changed it when he was 21. He worked for a time as shoemaker, leading to the nickname 'the Cobbler'. A strong campaigner against slavery, Wilson helped found first the Free Soil Party, then the Republican Party. He was a Union commander during the Civil War. In 1870, Wilson personally escorted Hiram Revels, the first African-American elected to the Senate, to his desk. As VP for Grant's second term, his effectiveness was limited by a debilitating stroke in 1873. Another one killed him in 1875, while at work in the Capitol. Wilson was the fourth VP to die in office.
19. William A. Wheeler (°Malone, NY), VP to Rutherford B. Hayes (#19) from 1877 to 1881
Quiet and widely respected for his integrity, Wheeler refused a salary increase as a Congressman. He was chosen as VP because as a New Yorker, he provided geographic balance for Hayes, who was from Ohio. Upon hearing of Wheeler's nomination, Hayes wrote to his wife: "I am ashamed to say: Who is Wheeler?" Despite this, Hayes and Wheeler got on well once in office – a fact so rare that it was remarked upon.
20. Chester A. Arthur (°Fairfield, VT), VP to James A. Garfield (#20) in 1881
Despite rumors that he was born in Ireland or Canada, he was actually a native of Vermont (and thus eligible for the highest office). Arthur did like to wear a green coat, though, to show his sympathy for the Fenian Brotherhood, an Irish republican organisation. Memorable quote: "The office of the vice president is a greater honor than I ever dreamed of attaining." Yet he would go on to an even greater honor. President Garfield was shot four months into his presidency and died three months later, after which Arthur took over the job, the 4th VP to do so. The assassin composed a poem claiming Arthur had known of the assassination attempt beforehand.
21. Thomas A. Hendricks (°Zanesville, OH), VP to Grover Cleveland (#22) in 1885
Hendricks was Samuel Tilden's running mate for VP in the presidential election of 1876, in which they won the popular vote, but lost in the electoral college by one vote to Rutherford B. Hayes and William A. Wheeler. When he did win in 1884, as Grover Cleveland's running mate, Hendricks died after only eight months in office as VP. The fifth VP to die in office, Hendricks is the only VP whose portrait has appeared on paper money – on the $10 'tombstone' silver certificate issued in 1891.
22. Levi P. Morton (°Shoreham, VT), VP to Benjamin Harrison (#23) from 1889 to 1893
Named after his maternal uncle Levi Parsons, the first U.S. missionary to work in Palestine, Morton was a businessman, civic leader and one of the founders of New York's Metropolitan Opera. As Minister to France, he placed the first rivet in the Statue of Liberty in Paris in 1881. During his vice presidency, Morton's wife often performed the duties of the First Lady, following the death of President Benjamin Harrison's wife.
23. Adlai Stevenson (°Christian County, KY), VP to Grover Cleveland (#24) from 1893 to 1897
Grandfather of the more famous 1950s politician of the same name. When asked whether President Cleveland had consulted him about anything, Stevenson answered: "Not yet. But there are still a few weeks of my term remaining."
24. Garret A. Hobart (°Long Branch, NJ), VP to William McKinley (#25) from 1897 to 1899
Upon his inauguration, the Chicago Daily News predicted that "Garret A. Hobart will not be seen or heard until, after four years, he emerges from the impenetrable vacuum of the Vice Presidency." In fact, Hobart's future was even bleaker: he died in office, the sixth VP to do so.
A bucket of warm 'spit'
Alben Barkley, 35th VP of the United States: "The best audience is intelligent, well-educated and a little drunk."
Image: public domain
25. Theodore Roosevelt (°New York City, NY), VP to William McKinley in 1901
"I would a great deal rather be anything, say professor of history, than vice president," Roosevelt once said. Also: "The vice presidency is not a stepping stone to anything except oblivion." Yet he accepted McKinley's offer to become his VP candidate. Roosevelt found presiding over the Senate so boring he often slept at his desk. He became president when McKinley was assassinated, the fifth VP to succeed a dead president. He was 42, making him the youngest president so far. He would subsequently win a presidential election for himself – the first of the 'accidental' presidents to do so.
26. Charles W. Fairbanks (°Unionville Center, OH), VP to Theodore Roosevelt (#26) from 1905 to 1909
A humourless man known as 'the Indiana Icicle', he did not work well with Roosevelt. When he was offered a chance to run for the same job four years after Roosevelt's term, he replied: "My name must not be considered for vice president. Please withdraw it."
27. James S. Sherman (°Utica, NY), VP to William H. Taft (#27) from 1909 to 1912
The first VP to fly in an airplane, and the first one to throw out the first pitch at a baseball game. Nickname: 'Sunny Jim'. He was the first VP since Calhoun to be re-nominated for a second term, but he died a week before the election. He is the seventh and so far last VP to have died in office.
28. Thomas R. Marshall (°North Manchester, IN), VP to Woodrow Wilson (#28) from 1913 to 1921
Marshall didn't have a high opinion of his high office. Memorable quote: "Once there were two brothers: one ran away to sea, the other was elected vice president – and nothing was ever heard from either of them again." In another, he compared being VP to being "a man in a cataleptic fit; he cannot speak; he cannot move; he suffers no pain; he is perfectly conscious of all that goes on, but has no part in it."
29. Calvin Coolidge (°Plymouth, VT), VP to Warren G. Harding (#29) from 1921 to 1923
Upon learning of his nomination for VP, Coolidge's wife Grace asked him: "You're not going to take it, are you?" To which he reluctantly replied: "I suppose I'll have to." When Harding died, Coolidge became the sixth VP to succeed to the presidency due to the death of the sitting president.
30. Charles G. Dawes (°Marietta, OH), VP to Calvin Coolidge (#30) from 1925 to 1929
In 1925, Charles Dawes received the Nobel Peace Prize for his World War I reconstruction work in Europe. Dawes is also the only vice president (so far) to write a hit song. In 1912, he wrote 'Melody in A Major'. This was later set to words and became 'It's All in the Game', a hit for Tommy Edwards in 1958.
31. Charles Curtis (°Topeka, KS), VP to Herbert Hoover (#31) from 1929 to 1933
Only later in the 20th century did presidential candidates get to pick his own VPs. For most of history, party machines picked running mates – often to the dislike of both candidates. VP Curtis gave his inaugural address in the Senate without mentioning Hoover. A few minutes later, Hoover returned the favor in his own presidential inaugural address. Curtis was the only vice president with significant Native American heritage. He was a descendant of Kaw chief White Plume and Osage chief Pawhuska.
32. John Nance Garner (°Detroit, TX), VP to Franklin D. Roosevelt (#32) from 1933 to 1941
FDR used 'Cactus Jack' Garner as his enforcer in Congress. Garner memorably called the vice presidency "a spare tire on the automobile of government." Even more memorably, he said the office wasn't worth "a bucket of warm spit" – although that's not the actual quote: the press was too squeamish to write 'piss'. Garner was the second and only other person to ever have presided over both Houses of Congress.
33. Henry A. Wallace (Orient, IA), VP to Franklin D. Roosevelt from 1941 to 1945
Wallace co-founded the Hi-Bred Corn Company, still a globally prominent seed producer (as Pioneer Hi Bred International). He also founded the Progressive Party and was its candidate for president in 1948. One of its aims: universal healthcare. He received just 2.4% of the vote. Memorable quote: "Men and women can never be truly free until they have plenty to eat, and time and ability to read and think and talk things over".
34. Harry S Truman (°Lamar, MO), VP to Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1945
Only when FDR died and he succeeded him – becoming the seventh 'accidental' president – did Truman learn of the Manhattan Project, so secretive was America's development of the atomic bomb. As president, Truman created the National Security Council, where such matters of national importance would be discussed in the presence of the VP. Memorable quote: "I enjoyed my new position as VP, but it took me a while to get used to the fact that I no longer had the voting privileges I had enjoyed for 10 years as a senator."
35. Alben W. Barkley (°Lowes, KY), VP to Harry S Truman (#33) from 1949 to 1953
Aged 71 at his inauguration, he was the oldest person ever elected vice president. His grandson suggested 'veep' as a nickname for his office, and the name stuck (despite his successor Nixon refusing to use it, saying it belonged to Barkley). On November 18, 1949, Mr Barkley married Jane Hadley, a widow half his age. He is the only vice president to have married while in office. When Truman stated that he would not seek re-election, Barkley wanted to run for president; but his bid failed because labor leaders found him too old (74 at the time). Memorable quote: "The best audience is intelligent, well-educated and a little drunk." Final quote, in 1953, concluding a speech: "I would rather be a servant in the house of the Lord than to sit in the seats of the mighty." After which he dropped dead.
36. Richard M. Nixon (°Yorba Linda, CA), VP to Dwight D. Eisenhower (#34) from 1953 to 1961
In 1952, vice-presidential candidate Richard Nixon was accused of accepting money from large donors to fund his campaign. He saved his career via the 'Checkers' speech. Broadcast on tv, he claimed that the only gift he had kept was a dog of that name, for his children.
"190 million and one bosses"
Nelson Rockefeller, the 41st VP of the United States. Ford also considered Donald Rumsfeld and George H.W. Bush for the job.
Image: The White House - public domain
37. Lyndon B. Johnson (°Stonewall, TX), VP to John F. Kennedy (#35) from 1961 to 1963
LBJ started his career as a teacher, during which time he also observed janitorial duties, including mopping floors. He is the 8th and so far last VP so far to have assumed the presidency upon the death of the sitting president. Johnson took the oath of office on board Air Force One, just hours after JFK had been shot. He is one of only four people to have been elected to all four federally electable offices (i.e. U.S. representative, senator, VP and a president). The others are Tyler, Andrew Johnson and Nixon.
38. Hubert Humphrey (°Wallace, SD), VP to Lyndon B. Johnson (#36) from 1965 to 1969
One of five VPs to be elected to the Senate after his term. The others were John C. Calhoun, John C. Breckinridge, Hannibal Hamlin and Alben Barkley. Memorable quote: "The president has only 190 million bosses. The vice president has 190 million and one."
39. Spiro Agnew (°Baltimore, MD), VP to Richard M. Nixon (#37) from 1969 to 1973
Agnew had a knack for alliterations, calling Nixon's opponents "nattering nabobs of negativity", and "hopeless, hysterical hypochondriacs of history". Agnew was the first VP with an office in the White House itself. Following the opening of investigations into allegations of extortion, bribery and income-tax violations relating to his tenure as governor of Maryland, Agnew reluctantly resigned. He was the second person to resign the vice presidency, and the first to do so under duress. Because he resigned a year ahead of Nixon himself, he was later also known as 'Nixon's Nixon'.
40. Gerald Ford (°Omaha, NE), VP to Richard M. Nixon from 1973 to 1974
Gerald Ford was born Leslie Lynch King Jr., but his parents divorced and he took the name of his new stepfather. Ford was appointed by Nixon after the resignation of Agnew. He was the first VP to be nominated under the provisions of the 25th Amendment. After Nixon resigned, he himself became president, the eighth VP to succeed a president, but the first one to do so for reasons other than the death of the president. He is the first VP and the only president who never was elected.
41. Nelson Rockefeller (°Bar Harbor, ME), VP to Gerald Ford (#38) from 1974 to 1977
In 1974, when he assumed the presidency, Ford considered Donald Rumsfeld and George H.W. Bush as his VP, but eventually chose Nelson Rockefeller. He was the second VP appointed under the provisions of the 25th Amendment, straight after Ford himself. TV cameras installed for Nixon's impeachment trial were used instead to broadcast VP Rockefeller's inauguration – the first time cameras had been allowed in the Senate. A scion of the wealthy Rockefeller clan, the new VP had a net worth or around $1 billion, making him the richest VP yet. He was not very taken with the limitations of his new job. Memorable quote: "I go to funerals. I go to earthquakes."
Previously, Rockefeller had been heavily involved in public life and politics, both domestic and foreign. At the UN Conference in San Francisco in 1945, he was instrumental in getting the UN to establish its headquarter in New York. The UN building stands on land he convinced his father to donate to NYC. As Governor of New York, he initiated so many building projects that his detractors said he had an 'Edifice Complex'. As a pragmatic, liberal member of his party, prepared to raise taxes and a committed internationalist, he was the ultimate 'Rockefeller Republican' – a species now virtually extinct.
42. Walter Mondale (°Ceylon, MN), VP to Jimmy Carter (#39) from 1977 to 1981
In 1977, Walter Mondale became the first vice president to move into the Naval Observatory, now the VP's official residence. Before, VPs had to find and finance their own private residences. Memorable quote: "When I was a young man, I used to dream maybe someday I could be an alderman. Instead of that, I became an attorney-general, a senator, a vice president, a Democratic nominee."
43. George H.W. Bush (°Milton, MA), VP to Ronald Reagan (#40) from 1981 to 1989
Bush Sr. was the first sitting vice president since Martin Van Buren in 1836 to be elected president. Memorable quote: "As his VP for eight years, I learned more from Ronald Reagan than from anyone I encountered in all my years of public life."
44. Dan Quayle (°Indianapolis, IN), VP to George H.W. Bush (#41) from 1989 to 1993
In 1992, while visiting a school in New Jersey, Quayle corrected a pupil's spelling of 'potato', urging him to add an 'e'. Which he did. "I knew he was wrong. He's the vice president and I couldn't argue with him," said William Figueroa (12). Quayle certainly had a way with words. One of his more memorable quotes: "One word sums up probably the responsibility of any vice president, and that one word is 'to be prepared'". Quayle's hometown of Huntingdon, Indiana is the location of the 'Quayle Vice Presidential Learning Center', the only museum in the U.S. dedicated to the vice presidency.
45. Al Gore (°Washington DC), VP to Bill Clinton (#42) from 1993 to 2001
Thoughts about the office of vice president (before he accepted Bill Clinton's invitation to run as his VP candidate in 1992): "I have no interest in it. Might very well turn it down, indeed, and probably would." On the campaign trail, he joked about his wooden image: "Al Gore is so boring his Secret Service code name is 'Al Gore.'" Gore was the co-recipient of the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize, for his contributions to the climate change debate – the second VP to receive a Nobel Peace Prize.
46. Dick Cheney (°Lincoln, NE), VP to George W. Bush (#43) from 2001 to 2009
When Bush chose Cheney as his running mate, both lived in Texas. Which is a problem, as the Constitution prohibits a state's electors from voting for both a president and a vice president from their own state. So Cheney changed his official residency back to Wyoming four days before the announcement was made. On 29 June 2002, Cheney was 'acting president' for just over two hours, while Bush underwent a colonoscopy.
47. Joe Biden (°Scranton, PA), VP to Barack Obama (#44) from 2009 to 2017
JFK famously was America's first Catholic president. Less well known is that Joe Biden was the first Catholic vice president.
48. Mike Pence (Columbus, IN), VP to Donald Trump (#45) from 2017
Birthplace not shown on map, which precedes his vice presidency. Pence was a Democrat early in life and has said he voted for Carter instead of Reagan in 1980. As VP, he cast a tie-breaking vote to confirm the nomination of Betsy DeVos as Education Secretary, the first time a VP had to cast a deciding vote for a cabinet nomination.
Almost half of all VPs hail from the northeast. Only ten were born west of the Mississippi.
Image: Library of Congress - public domain; additional graphics by Ruland Kolen
Strange Maps #1032
Got a strange map? Let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A Mercury-bound spacecraft's noisy flyby of our home planet.
- There is no sound in space, but if there was, this is what it might sound like passing by Earth.
- A spacecraft bound for Mercury recorded data while swinging around our planet, and that data was converted into sound.
- Yes, in space no one can hear you scream, but this is still some chill stuff.
First off, let's be clear what we mean by "hear" here. (Here, here!)
Sound, as we know it, requires air. What our ears capture is actually oscillating waves of fluctuating air pressure. Cilia, fibers in our ears, respond to these fluctuations by firing off corresponding clusters of tones at different pitches to our brains. This is what we perceive as sound.
All of which is to say, sound requires air, and space is notoriously void of that. So, in terms of human-perceivable sound, it's silent out there. Nonetheless, there can be cyclical events in space — such as oscillating values in streams of captured data — that can be mapped to pitches, and thus made audible.
Image source: European Space Agency
The European Space Agency's BepiColombo spacecraft took off from Kourou, French Guyana on October 20, 2019, on its way to Mercury. To reduce its speed for the proper trajectory to Mercury, BepiColombo executed a "gravity-assist flyby," slinging itself around the Earth before leaving home. Over the course of its 34-minute flyby, its two data recorders captured five data sets that Italy's National Institute for Astrophysics (INAF) enhanced and converted into sound waves.
Into and out of Earth's shadow
In April, BepiColombo began its closest approach to Earth, ranging from 256,393 kilometers (159,315 miles) to 129,488 kilometers (80,460 miles) away. The audio above starts as BepiColombo begins to sneak into the Earth's shadow facing away from the sun.
The data was captured by BepiColombo's Italian Spring Accelerometer (ISA) instrument. Says Carmelo Magnafico of the ISA team, "When the spacecraft enters the shadow and the force of the Sun disappears, we can hear a slight vibration. The solar panels, previously flexed by the Sun, then find a new balance. Upon exiting the shadow, we can hear the effect again."
In addition to making for some cool sounds, the phenomenon allowed the ISA team to confirm just how sensitive their instrument is. "This is an extraordinary situation," says Carmelo. "Since we started the cruise, we have only been in direct sunshine, so we did not have the possibility to check effectively whether our instrument is measuring the variations of the force of the sunlight."
When the craft arrives at Mercury, the ISA will be tasked with studying the planets gravity.
The second clip is derived from data captured by BepiColombo's MPO-MAG magnetometer, AKA MERMAG, as the craft traveled through Earth's magnetosphere, the area surrounding the planet that's determined by the its magnetic field.
BepiColombo eventually entered the hellish mangentosheath, the region battered by cosmic plasma from the sun before the craft passed into the relatively peaceful magentopause that marks the transition between the magnetosphere and Earth's own magnetic field.
MERMAG will map Mercury's magnetosphere, as well as the magnetic state of the planet's interior. As a secondary objective, it will assess the interaction of the solar wind, Mercury's magnetic field, and the planet, analyzing the dynamics of the magnetosphere and its interaction with Mercury.
Recording session over, BepiColombo is now slipping through space silently with its arrival at Mercury planned for 2025.
Research suggests that aging affects a brain circuit critical for learning and decision-making.
As people age, they often lose their motivation to learn new things or engage in everyday activities. In a study of mice, MIT neuroscientists have now identified a brain circuit that is critical for maintaining this kind of motivation.
Why not just divide the United States in slices of equal population?
- Slicing up the country in 10 strips of equal population produces two bizarre maps.
- Seattle is the biggest city in the emptiest longitudinal band, San Antonio rules the largest north-south slice.
- Curiously, six cities are the 'capitals' of both their horizontal and vertical deciles.
Sweeping re-alignments<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDYwMTAwOC9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyMzU3ODA1NH0.u_5xakBvkYwgPtiwLU3z-1e082hBeqwS4Rl1uiJqdF4/img.png?width=980" id="23ff1" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="24a5b6ec251a11f3ed7aaefc205dde17" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="Printed in March 1812, this political cartoon was drawn in reaction to the newly drawn state senate election district of South Essex created by the Massachusetts legislature to favor the Democratic-Republican Party candidates of Governor Elbridge Gerry over the Federalists. The caricature satirizes the bizarre shape of a district in Essex County, Massachusetts, as a dragon-like "monster". Federalist newspaper editors and others at the time likened the district shape to a salamander, and the word gerrymander was a portmanteau of that word and Governor Gerry's last name." />
The original cartoon of the 'Gerry-Mander', published in 1812 in the Boston Centinel.
Image: Elkanah Tisdale (1771-1835), Public Domain.<p>One way for a political party to manipulate the outcome of elections is to 'gerrymander' electoral districts: manipulate their boundaries to increase the likelihood of a favorable outcome (see also #<a href="https://bigthink.com/strange-maps/53-ever-been-ger..." target="_blank">53</a>).</p><p><span></span>The term is almost as old as the United States itself, and the practice continues to disfigure the electoral map to this day. Perhaps these maps can serve as the inspiration for a radical solution. </p><p><span></span>They show the contiguous United States (i.e. without Alaska and Hawaii) sliced latitudinally and longitudinally into ten straight-bordered bands of varying size, so that each contains exactly 10 percent of the population. </p><p><span></span>Although certainly not intended as a reflection on electoral redistricting, it's tempting to see these sweeping re-alignments of the U.S. as a suggestion with some potential in that direction. </p>
United Strips of America<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDYwMTA4MS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY0NzE1MjQ1MX0.WpISo-g15B5O3qXbHXHf-7lQtAainpO7zPuizXWFOGs/img.jpg?width=980" id="d6656" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="72ed7c905283f9979ec0f82d451ad261" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="Reddit user curiouskip used U.S. Census population data to divide the 'Lower 48' into deciles (ten equal parts), each representing about 30.8 million people. Each decile is consigned its most populous city as 'capital'." />
The contiguous United States, divided into horizontal and vertical deciles.
Image: u/curiouskip, reproduced with kind permission.<p>Reddit user curiouskip used U.S. Census population data to divide the 'Lower 48' into deciles (ten equal parts), each representing about 30.8 million people. Each decile is consigned its most populous city as 'capital'.</p><p><span></span>Looking at the top map, which divides the U.S. into 10 longitudinal strips, we see</p><ul><li>Seattle rules the northernmost slice of territory. It is the broadest, and therefore also the emptiest one.</li><li>The Chicago, Omaha, New York City and Indianapolis strips complete the northern half of the country. And indeed: 50 percent of the population occupies roughly one half of the country, from north to south.</li><li>The dividing line between the top and bottom halves of the country runs from just north of the San Francisco Bay to halfway across the Delmarva Peninsula.</li><li>Capital cities of the southern strips are San Jose, Charlotte, Los Angeles, San Diego, and Houston.</li><li>The Houston Strip is divided into two non-contiguous areas. Florida maintains its panhandle, albeit much reduced. </li></ul><p>The bottom map shows the U.S. divided latitudinally into 10 bands of equal population. </p><ul><li>San Jose and Los Angeles both retain their capital status, this time of the two westernmost strips.</li><li>San Antonio is the main city of the Big Empty, more than twice as wide as the second-broadest band.</li><li>The dividing line between America's eastern and western half, population-wise, is far off-center: it skirts the eastern edge of Chicago, making the western half much bigger than the eastern one.</li><li>Houston, Chicago, and Indianapolis also remain the largest cities in their respective bands.</li><li>Further east, Jacksonville and Philadelphia get to rule over their strip of America, while Charlotte and New York City keep winning, both vertically and horizontally.</li></ul><p>Redistricting a country into zones of equal population – and that being your only criterium – will create districts that are randomly diverse, and perhaps also, at least in this case, unmanageably large. </p><p>However, mixing up the political map with a bunch of straight lines as the only instrument is something that has been considered before. Usually, the objective is the wholesale removal of age-old divisions. <br></p>
Perfectly square departments<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDYwMTEzOS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYwOTQyMzIwOH0.kYuf58g0bjsPL9DGPq5PycZ7PDJMnItT0rfrPonOP3k/img.jpg?width=980" id="89a68" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="5b81a43e785997bb1f11f72548659a9f" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="\u200bCh\u00e2ssis figuratif du territoire de la France partag\u00e9 en divisions \u00e9gales entre elles, proposition annex\u00e9e au rapport du 29 septembre 1789 \u00e0 l'Assembl\u00e9e nationale de la commission dite Siey\u00e8s-Thouret" />
France divided into 80-odd geometrical departments: failed proposal by Jacques-Guillaume Thouret (1790).
Image: Centre historique des Archives nationales – Atelier de photographie; public domain.
European Pie<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDYwMTQ0Ny9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYxNTE5NDE3OX0.dPcY1tkO7nwkx6IX98Sleh7AmBpDnwlcJLfC_Z-WBlY/img.jpg?width=980" id="b35d7" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="84509a9425e13c0dd8fbe00df28a197e" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
In this rather outlandish proposal, continental Europe's 24 cantons center on Vienna.
Image: PJ Mode Collection of Persuasive Maps, Cornell University.<p>And in 1920, an anonymous author – possibly the Austrian P.A. Maas – proposed slicing up Post-World-War-I Europe as a pie, into 24 slices that would center on Vienna's St. Stephen's Cathedral. Each of those slices would be made up of a wide and random variety of linguistic, ethnic, and religious groups – and that would be the point: the better to unite them all into one massive superstate (see also #<a href="https://bigthink.com/strange-maps/a-bizarre-peace-proposal-slice-europe-up-like-a-pie" target="_blank">851</a>).</p><p>Needless to say, both plans never left the drawing board. Would a proposal for the longitudinal and/or latitudinal redistricting of the U.S. have more traction? <br></p>
Coast-to-coast precedents<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDYwMTIwOS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY1MDM2OTE0OX0.52UjcA_YD9Y9UB9_hoSctI_xBrRDALZ2DRLkIo9a8RM/img.jpg?width=980" id="10784" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="1999808ea21e11162fdb9181c3912753" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="Illustration of the Connecticut Charter boundary, 1662" />
Putting the 'connect' into Connecticut: the Nutmeg State extending from the Pacific to the Atlantic.
Image: Connecticuthistory.org<p>Well, for one, coast-to-coast polities have some pedigree in America's past: some of the first colonies had claims that extended from the Atlantic all the way to the Pacific. </p><p>If history had gone entirely the way Connecticut would have wanted, the state would include such inland cities as Detroit, Chicago, and Salt Lake City, and extended to what is now the northern part of California.</p><p>Is such geopolitical weirdness reasonable or feasible today? Absolutely not. But in its randomness, would it be it as unfair as gerrymandering? </p><p><em><br></em></p><p><em>Decile maps of the contiguous United States reproduced with kind permission by u/curiouskip; found <a href="https://www.reddit.com/r/dataisbeautiful/comments/ijyn7p/oc_us_population_deciles_by_latitude_and_longitude/" target="_blank">here</a> on <a href="https://www.reddit.com/" target="_blank">Reddit</a>.<br></em></p><p><strong>Strange Maps #1054</strong></p><p><em>Got a strange map? Let me know at </em><a href="mailto:email@example.com">firstname.lastname@example.org</a><em>.</em></p>