Former Presidents Who Owned Their Own Businesses

In just a little over a week, our nation will celebrate the annual President’s Day holiday. The third Monday of the month, this year falling on Feb. 19, marks an annual tradition in which America celebrates George Washington's Birthday (actually the 22nd). It was first observed as a holiday in 1880. President’s Day was bestowed as a federal holiday in 1885. Beginning in 1971, this holiday was moved to the third Monday in February. With our attention focused on honoring our nation’s forefather, we began to search for a connection to our cause—franchising. And here it is. We present to you former presidents who started as entrepreneurs and owned their own businesses. Something we can all celebrate together!

Though this is a subjective opinion, perhaps our greatest president, Abraham Lincoln, was a business owner. It’s well known that he ran a law practice of his own before running for office. It’s been written that he and his partners worked on over 5,000 cases in all legal practice areas. Long before entering politics, Lincoln himself had several instances in which he argued case law before the Illinois Supreme Court. 

President Warren G. Harding, who served in the early 1920s, once bought a fledgling newspaper operation—becoming the editor-in-chief of the Marion (OH) Star publication. By all accounts, he made a successful run of it and his decision-making skills were said to have been honed while behind the editing desk. His motto for running the business was, “All paid in, all paid out, books even." Now that’s some sound business advice!

President Herbert Hoover, who presided over the nation during the disastrous Great Depression, was once a mine-owning consultant and speculator, employing thousands of others. Having traveled all over the world as a mining engineer, he began his company in 1908.

President Harry Truman, widely considered the force behind ending World War II in the Pacific

Theater, was once a clothing store owner. After returning from service in World War I, he and a fellow servicemember opened the menswear storefront in Kansas City, MO—and named it Truman and Jacobsen Haberdashery.

President Jimmy Carter was a family farmer long before he ran for president. The peanut farm, which had been in the family for generations, was struggling until Carter brought it back to financial stability and prominence in 1959. He famously turned the farm and its assets over to a blind trust when he was elected president in 1976—all to avoid any conflict of business interests with the fortunes of his political future.

President George W. Bush had a much more exciting term as a business owner before becoming a twice-elected President of the United States. He and his partners owned the Texas Rangers, the Dallas-Fort Worth Major League Baseball team. He and his investors bought the team for $89 million in April of 1989.

Last but not least, our current president, Donald J. Trump, was a well-known businessman before he threw his proverbial red MAGA baseball cap into the ring in running for office. The son of a New York City real estate scion and developer, Trump not only took the reins of his family business, but branched out into countless other business ventures of varying success over the past four decades.

If you’re a budding entrepreneur and you happen to admire many of the men who have famously held the highest office in the land, perhaps you may see the connection with our presidential leadership and their attempts at business ownership. Some weren’t successful and others were practically business tycoons. Either way, it’s comforting in a way to know that not every president who has led our country was a career politician!

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