U.S. Presidents Before And After Major Historical Events

This list of US presidents before and after major historical events gives visual insight into the presidential aging process. The ways in which big decisions, political scandals, and international warfare take a toll on a president becomes abundantly clear with the photographs below. See the ways in which World War II affected the Commander in Chief or the drastic difference between a pre-Iran-Contra Ronald Reagan and a post-Iran-Contra Ronald Reagan.

From FDR to LBJ, these presidential before and after photos are astounding. This job comes with gray hairs and wrinkles, as President Bill Clinton learned the hard way, given this appearance once impeachment was on the table. Speaking of impeachment, Richard Nixon got even saggier after the Watergate scandal, just as George W. Bush became far crustier once he was knee deep in the Iraq War. Even President Barack Obama shows intense aging after Benghazi and HealthCare.gov.

Which historical events took the biggest toll on sitting US presidents? Upvote the photos below that show the most drastic difference between the appearance of these US political leaders early in their terms, and later on, after the realities of politics and government affairs wore them down.

Abraham Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list U.S. Presidents Before and After Major Historical Events
Photo:  Alexander Gardner/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

Facing arguably the most arduous task of any executive before or since, Lincoln’s years maintaining the Union took a visible toll on him. His already gaunt appearance grew even gaunter throughout the Civil War, and his previously dark beard grew more silver and wispy.

Harry S. Truman

Harry S. Truman is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list U.S. Presidents Before and After Major Historical Events
Photo: Edmonston Studio/Abbie Rowe/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

Harry Truman wasn’t exactly a young man when he entered the Oval Office. However, these two photos show the distinction between his first years as president and the years towards the end. On the right, you can see President Truman has aged considerably after making the call to drop the A-bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Franklin D. Roosevelt

Franklin D. Roosevelt is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list U.S. Presidents Before and After Major Historical Events
Photo: Elias Goldensky/Nicholas Robbins/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain/CC BY 2.0

FDR came to office under stressful times that would age any man, but Pearl Harbor rendered him a ghost of his former self. The launch of World War II took a toll on President Roosevelt, as his hair thinned and skin wrinkled from the stress.

Richard Nixon

Richard Nixon is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list U.S. Presidents Before and After Major Historical Events
Photo: Oliver F. Atkins//Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

Even once Richard Nixon committed the Watergate crimes, he did not look terribly aged. His rapid aging was a result of the scandal actually breaking, as you can see a bespectacled President Nixon saying farewell to his job.

Ronald Reagan

Ronald Reagan is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list U.S. Presidents Before and After Major Historical Events
Photo: Pete Souza/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

Ronald Reagan was always the oldest president, but his transition to the absolute oldest-looking president is startling. The Iran-Contra affair took a toll on the President, as the picture on the right clearly reveals.

Lyndon B. Johnson

Lyndon B. Johnson is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list U.S. Presidents Before and After Major Historical Events
Photo: Arnold Newman/Yoichi Okamoto/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

LBJ looked even more like Droopy Dog after the Vietnam War was underway. Of course, President Johnson came into a very stressful office, considering JFK’s assassination, but his turn for the worse (physically speaking) can be attributed to his war.

Herbert Hoover

Herbert Hoover is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list U.S. Presidents Before and After Major Historical Events
Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

The Great Depression was not so great for Herbert Hoover, who rapidly became a gray-haired president. You can almost watch Hoover’s downward spiral, in terms of aging, in correlation with the downward spiral of the economy he was presiding over.

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