Did William Howard Taft Really Get Stuck in a Bathtub?

It was once rumored that the 27th President of the United States, William Howard Taft, was so large that he had got stuck in the White House bathtub and needed butter and 6 strong men to lift him out. This rumor is not as unrealistic as it seems if you have some knowledge of the 27th President of the United States.

Nicknamed ‘Big Bill’, William Taft was a very large man and is documented as being the heaviest President in history tipping the scales at between 335 and 350lbs. Being 5 foot 11inches, he weighed almost 170lbs more than a healthy person of his age and height. Being more than double the healthy size of a person, it adds to the possibility of this rumor being true.

President William Howard Taft wearing a cowboy hat
William Howard Taft at his biggest size. He weighed up to 350 pounds at one point in his life making him the largest President to date.

There is a case in 1909 in which President Taft requested a large bathtub in preparation for a visit to inspect the construction of the Panama Canal. It was also said by Ike Hoover, a butler who worked at the White House for over 40 years, that the President needed help getting out of the bath every time due to him sticking to the tub. However, this is the only primary source of this actually occurring and it is believed this could have been where the rumor stemmed from.

Painting of chief usher of the White House Ike Hoover
Irwin Hood “Ike” Hoover, he worked at the White House for 40 years and could be the origin of the Taft stuck in a bathtub rumor.

Apart from Hoover’s account, there are no other sources of William Howard Taft getting stuck in a bath in the White House and there is no evidence pointing to the fact he needed 6 people to lift him out of the bath. The rumor could have also emerged out of the 1912 Presidential Election campaign due to Teddy Roosevelt’s supporters making fun of Taft’s size. The only other account of it happening was a second-hand account from the daughter of an employee during Taft’s 4-year term.

William Howard Taft and Theodore Roosevelt standing together in suits
Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft standing together. Taft was originally Roosevelt’s recommendation for President but they became rivals in the 1912 Presidential Election.

It is unlikely that this urban myth is true due to the reason that there is so little evidence for it to have occurred. It was also the case that during Taft’s term, larger bathtubs were used. Even before he entered the White House, larger bathtubs had been installed in preparation for his residency there.

four men sitting in a large bath tub made for William Howard Taft
One of the bathtubs that William Howard Taft could fit 4 people. It would be unlikely that Taft would get stuck in a bath this size.

Sadly, this is the only thing people remember the 27th President for despite there being other interesting facts about him:

Taft was the last president to date to be elected with facial hair and he is the only person to hold the highest office in both the Executive (President) and Judicial (Chief Justice) branches. It is also interesting to know that as Chief Justice he swore in presidents Coolidge and Hoover.​​​​​​​

Chief Justice William Howard Taft wearing his judge gowns
William Howard Taft as Chief Justice which he served as from 1921 until 1930.

Taft did not stay as large for the rest of his life; only a year after leaving office, he lost 70lbs.

A slim William Howard Taft in a hat and suit
William Howard Taft in the 1920s after losing 70lbs.

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