Seventeenth President Andrew Johnson took office unexpectedly after the assassination of President Lincoln. He was unlike Lincoln in several key ways, both politically and personally. One way, of course, is by his number of pets – none. Andrew Johnson remains one of the few Presidents to officially not have had pets during his Presidency.
However, he did befriend a family of white mice during his impeachment.
Times were tumultuous for Johnson during his impeachment period, but he did continue to play with his grandchildren and manage his businesses. One business was a flour and grain mill, and when Johnson discovered the family of white mice in his bedroom, he used flour and grain from these mills to feed them.
While the impeachment process dragged on, Johnson remained hidden in the White House, entertaining himself with the mice. He would leave water out for the family to drink their fill and watch their antics while he waited for the decision to come down from the Senate. He claimed to have won the mice’s confidence and often called them “the little fellows.”
Johnson’s efforts with the mice did not go unchallenged. His daughter Martha, who took on the role of hostess in the White House due to her mother’s reclusivity and illness, was determined to eradicate the rodent population in the home – rats and mice alike. While Martha brought in poisons, traps, and cats in an effort to check the rodents, Johnson was quietly feeding and encouraging them a few floors away!
In the end, Johnson was acquitted by just 1 vote – a very narrow escape from prosecution indeed. It is unknown if the mice managed their own narrow escape, or if in the end Martha had her way. But the little mouse family certainly brought solace and comfort to the troubled President, and one hopes they made their escape.