Abraham Lincoln and Benjamin Franklin aren’t just famous figures in American history — they were also accomplished athletes. Honest Abe has been honored by the National Wrestling Hall of Fame, while Franklin earned a spot in the International Swimming Hall of Fame.
Standing 6 feet, 4 inches tall, Lincoln was a formidable opponent in amateur wrestling. At age 19, he reportedly defended his stepbrother’s river barge by throwing potential hijackers overboard. In 1831, he wrestled and defeated Jack Armstrong, the leader of a local gang in New Salem, Illinois. While some reports claim the pair may have actually fought to a stalemate, the bout earned Lincoln respect and a reputation for being tough. Lincoln continued to wrestle while studying law, and legend has it that he amassed more than 300 victories during a 12-year period, losing just one time. Lincoln was honored with the National Wrestling Hall of Fame’s Outstanding American award in 1992.
Franklin, meanwhile, was posthumously inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, in 1968. During his life, he was an avid swimmer and spent time teaching and coaching the sport in Europe and America. Franklin even proposed that all schools in Philadelphia institute swimming programs. As a scientist and experimenter, the founding father is also credited as an inventor or early adopter of many swimming-related innovations, including kites for kitesurfing, hand paddles, and flippers.