In Pictures: Shortest U.S. Presidents in History

In this gallery, we look at U.S. presidents in descending height order.
In Pictures: Shortest U.S. Presidents in History Saul Loeb/AFP

Americans have grown taller over time—and so have their leaders. With that, it's no surprise that most of the shorter presidents served before the second World War. But not all of them.

James Madison, the shortest U.S. president, came in at about 5 feet 4 inches. The fourth American president was a full foot shorter than the tallest American president, Abraham Lincoln, who was about 6 feet 4 inches.

Martin Van Buren, while not quite the shortest president, neared Madison in height. At 5 feet 6 inches, Van Buren was referred to by some as the "Little Magician," due in part to his stature.

Benjamin Harrison, William McKinley, John Adams and John Quincy Adams were also relatively short, each at around 5 feet 6 inches or 5 feet 7 inches. United States presidents have, however, gotten taller over time. The two most recent presidents, Barack Obama and Donald Trump, stand above average, at 6 feet 1 inch and 6 feet 3 inches, respectively.

Humans have, on average, become taller over time. As such, it's no surprise that most recent presidents have stood above average.

"Most geneticists believe that the improvement in childhood nutrition has been the most important factor in allowing humans to increase so dramatically in stature," said biologist Michael J. Dougherty, according to Scientific American.

In this gallery, Newsweek takes a look at the shortest presidents in United States history.

See also: Tallest U.S. Presidents in History.

James K. Polk (11th U.S. President, 1845-1849). 5 feet 8 inches. Getty Images