A lot of people once thought we could never have a president with a name like "Barack Obama". But in the 1800s, political figures flaunted their weird names like muttonchops. That century saw U.S. presidents named Millard, Rutherford, and Grover, but to find the really cool names, you had to look further down the list of Presidental succession. Here are my ten favorite Cabinet members of the 19th century, based on names alone...
Columbus Delano (left): the Brezhnevian eyebrow tufts. The austere, mustacheless beard. The stern, steady gaze, like the pitiless stare of a wrathful God who has judged you and found you wanting. It just wouldn't be right to call this guy something mundane like Tim Miller or Steve Brady. I'm just sorry Mr. and Mrs. Delano missed the opportunity to give him an equally thunderous middle name.
Philander C. Knox: appointed by President Theodore Roosevelt to serve as Secretary of O.P.P., succeeding Tryst M. Bullock and Cuckold Blackwell Vance.
Lot M. Morrill: What did you say your name was? "Lot Morrill"? That's a name? OK, cool, whatever. Here, please enjoy a 15-year stint in the Senate followed by the office of Secretary of the Treasury.
Salmon P. Chase (above): "Perhaps Chase's chief defect was an insatiable desire for high office," his Wikipedia page says. Well, let's see: dude was governor of Ohio, Secretary of the Treasury, and Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. Seems like ol' Salmon did all right for himself. But he's probably best known for appearing on the $10,000 bill, perhaps the highest honor ever bestowed on a man named after a fish.
Elihu Root (left): William McKinley's first Secretary of War reminds us that there's more to Biblical names than Matthew, Mark, and John. Not that his awkward Hebrew moniker held him back any: he went on to win the 1912 Nobel Peace Prize while cultivating an impressive mustache. So take heart, anybody out there named Eliphaz or Shecaniah.
Return J. Meigs, Jr.: Just imagine it. You serve as Postmaster General, governor of Ohio, and a U.S. Senator... and the very first fact on your Wiki page is "Rhymes with 'eggs'". History knows no mercy. But that goofy first name is the real story here. It comes out of some folksy story involving his grandparents' courtship, but before I could finish reading it I was lulled to sleep by the fiddle music playing in my head.
Hamilton Fish (left): between high-level diplomatic talks and presidential briefings, this laid-back Secretary of State enjoyed kicking the Hacky Sack around the Capitol lawn. His brilliant political career was derailed in 1877 when he failed a urine test, whereupon he changed the "F" in his last name to "Ph" and rolled out of DC in a Volkswagen bus. He lived out his final years selling Fimo beads and fake blotter hits.
Reverdy Johnson: a fateful batch of misprinted business cards changed the Rev. Erdy Johnson's life forever. Or so I assume, since I can't figure out what else is going on with that first name. As far as I know, Johnson is the only person on this list to be a character in a Hollywood film starring Evan Rachel Wood, although sadly, she did not play that role.
Cornelius Newton Bliss: in the more innocent 19th century, a guy with a name like this could have any job he wanted, up to and including Secretary of the Interior. Today, his career options would be limited to running a circus or piloting a hot-air balloon.
Cave Johnson (left): in rural Tennessee in 1793, people were too busy worrying about survival to pore over baby-name books. "What is it this time, a boy? Uhh, let's, uh, name him after that cave over there. Yeah, perfect. Cave Johnson. Done. Now somebody help me skin this porcupine. I'm hungry." Judging by his unsettling official portrait, it haunted him for the rest of his life.
Much has been said about what makes a great man - genetics, education, the right aftershave - but at least when it came to political success in the 1800s, it helped if your parents were insane. Hipster parents: if you see a name you like here, better jump on it, because it's only a matter of time before the playgrounds are full of little Elihus and Reverdys.
(P.S. OK, Philander Knox didn't take office until 1901, but a name that powerful cannot be constrained by a mere calendar.)