Post Banner Image
History

The 8 States Where the Most Presidents Were Born

By Michael Nordine
Read time: 7 minutes

Just like the rest of us, U.S. Presidents can be “from” more than one place. Where we’re born isn’t always where we grow up, nor is it where every commander-in-chief started his political career. Calvin Coolidge was born in Vermont but never held office there, instead becoming a political force in Massachusetts before ascending to the White House, whereas James K. Polk was Governor of Tennessee despite being born in North Carolina — and they’re far from alone. Twenty-one states can claim to be the birthplace of a future president, and eight have produced at least two. Here are all of them:

Vermont – Two

Church in Burlington, Vermont, at night
Photo credit: DenisTangneyJr/ iStock

For such a small state — it ranks 45th by area and 49th by population — Vermont is no slouch when it comes to politics. The former republic, which abolished slavery before any other state, is the birthplace of both Chester Arthur and Calvin Coolidge. The former only lived there for a few years, as his family relocated to New York when Arthur was just four years old; he became Vice President in 1881 and President just five months later, when James Garfield was assassinated.

Coolidge, meanwhile, was born in Plymouth Notch and stayed in the Green Mountain State until enrolling in Amherst College and went on to become a political force in Massachusetts. He began his political career in the Massachusetts House of Representatives in 1907 and later served as both lieutenant governor and governor before becoming Warren G. Harding’s vice president in 1921. He then served two terms as president from 1923 to 1929 and was quite popular while in office, though the Wall Street Crash of 1929 damaged his legacy tremendously. History buffs can explore Coolidge’s early years at a historic site that includes both the birthplace and homestead, as well as the general store, barns, a schoolhouse, church, cheese factory, and museum.

Pennsylvania – Two

Fountain in downtown Philadelphia park
Photo credit: f11photo/ iStock

Joe Biden represented Delaware in the Senate for 36 years before serving as Barack Obama’s Vice President, but there’s a reason he’s known as “Scranton Joe” to this day: He was born in the Keystone State and still maintains close ties to it. As one political ally has said, “You can take Joe Biden out of Pennsylvania, but you can’t take the Scranton out of Joe.” More than 150 years earlier, the 15th President of the United States was also born in Pennsylvania: James Buchanan, who held the highest office in the land from 1857 to 1861. Prior to that, he represented his home state in both the House (from 1821–1831) and Senate (1834–1845). In the 12-year interim, served as both Secretary of State and Minister to the United Kingdom — quite the resume given what ended up being a less-than-stellar legacy.

North Carolina – Two

View from grassy park of downtown Raleigh skyline
Photo credit: Mark Howard/ iStock

Just as it was a time of successful North Carolinians, the mid-19th century was a time of short presidencies. The Tarheel State’s own James K. Polk, who was born in 1795 and moved to Tennessee eight years later, entered the White House as the 11th President in 1845; Andrew Johnson, who was likewise born in North Carolina and only held statewide office in Tennessee (including, like his predecessor, the governorship), became the 17th just 20 years later. Of the five men between them — Zachary Taylor (1849–1850), Millard Fillmore (1850–1853), Franklin Pierce (1853–1857), James Buchanan (1857–1861), and Abraham Lincoln — only Honest Abe was elected to a second term, and Taylor died in office after just over a year. 

Texas – Two

Bars and restaurants in downtown Austin
Photo credit: benedek/ iStock

They say everything’s bigger in Texas, but the number of Presidents born there is fairly modest. (It’s only been a state since 1845, to be fair.) And though one could reasonably argue that George W. Bush is the Lone Star State’s most well-known politician of the 21st century, he was actually born in Connecticut. That leaves Dwight Eisenhower, who was a five-star general and Supreme Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Force during World War II before assuming the presidency, and Lyndon B. Johnson.

Unlike “Ike,” whom the country liked quite a bit during his two terms, Johnson wore many political hats before becoming commander-in-chief — most of them in his home state. He represented Texas’ 10th congressional district from 1937 to 1949, was a senator from 1949 to 1961 (including a four-year stint as Senate Majority Leader), and Vice President from 1961 until John F. Kennedy’s assassination in 1963.

Massachusetts – Four

Massachusetts state house in Boston
Photo credit: miralex/ iStock

Speaking of the Bay State, its presidential legacy is considerable. The most famous of its Presidents would have to be John F. Kennedy, who represented Massachusetts for 13 years (as a congressman from 1947 to 1953 and as a senator from 1953 to 1960) before entering the White House, but he was preceded by two others: John Adams, the second President (1791–1801), and his son John Quincy Adams, the sixth (1825–1829).

Quincy Adams began representing Massachusetts in the House of Representatives three years after losing his reelection bid, holding his seat from 1831 until his death in 1848. The fourth and most recent President to hail from Massachusetts was George H. W. Bush, whose birthplace in the Boston suburb of Milton is now marked by a small stone monument. He moved his family to Texas after graduating from Yale in 1948.

New York – Five

Statue and gardens in front of New York state capitol building in Albany
Photo credit: DenisTangneyJr/ iStock

They don’t call it the Empire State for nothing. Five heads of state have been born in New York, beginning with Martin Van Buren in 1782. The only President to speak English as a second language had an extensive political career in his home state before his White House tenure (1837–1841) that included a brief stint as governor, seven years in the state senate, and a four-year term as attorney general. Next was the aforementioned Millard Fillmore, who was born 18 years after his fellow New Yorker and spent a decade representing the state’s 32nd congressional district and one as Comptroller. The next two were related: Theodore and Franklin Roosevelt, both of whom were also governors before they were Presidents (Theodore from 1899 to 1900 and his fifth cousin from 1929 to 1933). The most recent was Donald Trump, who was born in Queens in 1946.

Ohio – Seven

Ohio statehouse lit at night
Photo credit: DenisTangneyJr/ iStock

It’s been just over a century since an Ohoian was elected President, but the Buckeye State was a political powerhouse for the prior half-century. Ulysses S. Grant (1869-1877), Rutherford B. Hayes (1877–1881), James A. Garfield (1881–1881), Benjamin Harrison (1889–1893), William McKinley (1897–1901), William Howard Taft (1909–1913), and Warren G. Harding (1921–1923) were all born in Ohio. And as Grant was the 18th President and Harding was the 29th, there was even a 44-year stretch where seven of 12 Presidents all hailed from the same state. Hayes and McKinley also governed their home state, whereas Harding served as both lieutenant governor and senator.

Grant held no political office prior to his presidency, as he was too busy winning the Civil War, while Harrison was a senator from Indiana before leveling up to the Oval Office and Taft’s prior experience was largely judicial (he’s also the only former President to later serve as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court). That leaves Garfield, who represented Ohio’s 19th congressional district from 1863 until he was elected President in 1880.

Virginia – Eight

Gardens in Virginia
Photo credit: aimintang/ iStock

Four of the first five Presidents were born in Virginia — George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and James Monroe — as were William Henry Harrison (1841–1841), John Tyler (1841–45), Zachary Taylor (1849–1850), and Woodrow Wilson (1913–1921). That makes Old Dominion the most presidential state by birthplace, even if it, like its closest competitor, is in the midst of a bit of a century-long slump. And though Virginia wasn’t technically a state until those four future Presidents signed a certain declaration, several of them did serve in its government. Washington was a member of the Virginia House of Burgesses from 1758 to 1775, as well as a Delegate to the Continental Congress, roles Jefferson held as well — he, Madison, and Monroe were also Delegates to the Congress of the Confederation. Jefferson was also Virginia’s second governor, whereas Madison represented it in the House of Representatives and Monroe did in the Senate.

Harrison, Taylor, and Wilson never held office in their home state — Taylor was a military officer, whereas Harrison was a senator from Ohio and Wilson governed New Jersey — but Tyler did several times over. He represented the 23rd district from 1816 to 1821, was the state’s 23rd governor from 1825 to 1827, and senator from 1827 to 1836. Given that 29 states have never produced a President — get with the program, Maine! — the Virginia dynasty is even more impressive.

  • Share on Facebook
  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Email

Featured Stories

These Airlines Have the Best On-Time Performance

Tips

5 Replicas of Famous Landmarks You Can Visit Without Leaving the U.S.

Culture

6 of America’s Coolest Secret Beaches

Outdoors

5 Airplane Etiquette Rules You Might Be Breaking

Tips