5 Bizarre Coincidences Between American Presidents and July 4th

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"The Spirit of '76" by Archibald MacNeal Willard

The mythology of America is rife with meaning and symbols. On no other day of the year is this more apparent than the 4th of July. There's no more American holiday.

As fireworks boom, flags are waved and worn, and bald eagles weep over the Statue of Liberty every time someone plays the 1812 Overture thinking it's an American song.

It's about the Russians beating Napoleon. Look it up.

Even though George Washington was afraid that the office of the president would too closely resemble the pomp and circumstance surrounding the monarch they had all bled to escape, it has nonetheless traditionally been a position of very high esteem. In the history of the nation, only 45 individuals have held it.

So is it a little weird that 11% of United States presidents have had a significant, (mostly) unplanned personal interaction with the anniversary of our nation's independence? We submit that it is.

1. Calvin Coolidge Was Born on July 4th

The "Mr. Burns" of American presidents.

Good ol' Silent Cal was the man who brought peace to the tumultuous years between Warren G. Harding's scandal-wrought presidency and the Hoover administration's stunning descent into economic collapse.

He was born on the 4th of July, but not in an Oliver Stone kind of way. Calvin Coolidge was practically Mayflower material, as his American ancestors settled in the Massachusetts Bay Colony around 1630. Coolidge is the only president to have been born on Independence Day.

2. Zachary Taylor Ate the Cherries That Killed Him on July 4th

Imagine being the president of the United States on July 4. What a great feeling it must be to watch everyone in America celebrate their freedom. In Washington, D.C., however, it gets swelteringly hot. So it makes sense that President Zachary Taylor, dressed in his finest presidential garb, would stop for heaping bowls of cherries and a "jug" of iced milk to cool down and celebrate the day.

"Yolo." - Zachary Taylor

Unfortunately, somewhere along the way, he ate some bad fruit (allegedly cherries) and contracted a stomach bug. By the time Taylor returned to the White House, he was already sick. A few days later, he was dead. The cause was "cholera morbus" -- 19th century doctor-speak for "I Don't Know, But I'm Pretty Sure It Was Something to Do With His Stomach." A big bowl of fruit did what 82,000 Mexican soldiers couldn't.

3. Presidents John Adams and Thomas Jefferson Died on the Same Day

On July 4, 1826, exactly 50 years after American Independence was declared, former Presidents John Adams and Thomas Jefferson died just five hours and 490 miles apart.

In their political lives, no two politicians could have been further away from each other. In their post-presidential years, however, they became much closer.

Ben Franklin just wishes they would both shut up so he could read.

When Adams died in Quincy, Massachusetts, his last words were "Thomas Jefferson survives." Sadly, Jefferson was the first to go, dying at his Virginia estate.

4. Actually, 3 of the first 5 Presidents Died on July 4th

How cool is it that three of the first five presidents, all Founding Fathers of our nation, died on Independence Day?

Stop pouting, Monroe. It's kinda cool.

James Monroe, the last of the Founding Fathers, died on July 4, 1831. He lived long enough to see his Era of Good Feelings shattered by the rise of Andrew Jackson's brand of democracy.

5. They Tried to Keep James Madison Alive Until July 4th

How cool would it have been if every Founding Father president after George Washington had died on July 4? James Madison's doctor thought so too -- and considered keeping the fourth president alive using drugs after he came down with a severe case of rheumatism at age 85.

The face you make when you ensured the Bill of Rights and led the War of 1812 but all people remember is that you might have choked to death on eggs.

Madison, likely in terrible pain and barely able to move, declined to stay alive for six more days, even though it would have been cooler if he did. The former president died on June 28, 1836, from congestive heart failure.

-- Blake Stilwell can be reached at blake.stilwell@military.com. He can also be found on Twitter @blakestilwell or on Facebook.

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