First Jobs of USA Presidents: Can You Guess Who Sold Ice Cream?

Petr Novák

One is not born a president, one becomes one. And usually at an advanced age, when one has already had life experience. So, it’s no surprise that former USA presidents have had a variety of jobs, from shoe shiner to comic book salesman to Hollywood star.

Richard Nixon and Elvis Presley | ©

  1. Andrew Jackson – Teacher

    The seventh president of the United States, Andrew Jackson, served from 1829-1837. At only 13 years old, he enlisted in the army to participate in the American War of Independence. By the age of 14, he was already a war veteran and working as an apprentice to a saddler.
    At 16, he became a teacher.

  2. Millard Fillmore – Apprentice to a Tailor

    Millard Fillmore was the 13th president of the United States, serving in office from 1850-1853. He started his working life as an apprentice to Benjamin Hungerford, a tailor in Sparta, New York, whom he subsequently helped with his shop.

    It is said that his first earnings were used to buy a dictionary, which he read when he had nothing else to do.

  3. Abraham Lincoln – Store Owner

    Before becoming the 16th president of the United States and leading the Northern states during the American Civil War, Abraham Lincoln worked hard as a small business owner. He owned and operated a small grocery store.

    Before becoming president, Lincoln (in office 1861-1865) was still working as a postmaster in the town of New Salem, Illinois.

  4. James A. Garfield – Helmsman

    James Abram Garfield served as America’s 20th president for just under a year (March to September 1881) before he was assassinated.

    In his youth, he aspired to become a sailor, which did not work out. At the age of 15, he tried his hand at steering a canal boat. He also tried transporting copper ore between American towns, but fell overboard 14 times. After four months, he quit.

  5. Herbert Hoover – Mining Engineer

    Herbert Clark Hoover, the 31st president of the United States (in office 1929-1933), worked as a mining engineer in his twenties. He even explored the gold mines of Western Australia in 1897. He continued mining until 1908.

    Twenty-one years later, he became President of the United States.

  6. Lyndon B. Johnson – Shoe Polisher

    The 36th president of the United States, Lyndon Baines Johnson (in office 1963-1969), began his working life quite modestly. At the age of nine, he started as a shoe shiner. Then, he earned extra money as a goose herder, a dish washer in a restaurant, and a waiter.

  7. Richard Nixon – Butcher

    The 37th president of the United States, Richard Milhous Nixon (in office 1969-1974), spent his youth vacations as a butcher, plucking and cooking chickens.

    He also cleaned swimming pools and helped his father in the grocery store at one time.

  8. Gerald Ford – National Park Ranger

    Gerald Rudolph “Jerry” Ford, Jr., the 38th president of the United States (serving from 1974-1977), worked as a ranger in Yellowstone National Park while awaiting his acceptance to Yale Law School.

    He once said that summer was one of the best of his life.

  9. Ronald Reagan – Lifeguard

    Ronald Wilson Reagan, the 40th president of the United States (serving from 1981-1989), rose to fame in the 1930s to 1950s in Hollywood, usually playing tough guys and cowboys.

    Before that, he worked as a lifeguard for seven summers. According to his own words, Ronald Reagan saved 77 people during those years.

  10. Bill Clinton – Comic Book Salesman

    William Jefferson “Bill” Clinton, the 42nd president of the United States, occupied the White House from 1993 to 2001. Before graduating with a degree in political science, he worked at a convenience store in Arkansas, straightening goods in plastic bags, and sold comic books in his spare time.

  11. Barack Obama – Ice Cream Man

    Before launching his political career, the 44th president of the United States, Barack Hussein Obama II (in office 2009-2017), sold ice cream at the Baskin-Robbins chain in Hawaii.

    As a teenager, he also worked in a gift shop and made sandwiches in a deli.

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