April 3, 1715 – Birthday of the Maybe Actual Sort-of-First U.S. President, John Hanson

Prior to the adoption of the Articles of Confederation, representatives of the British colonies in America met in a Continental Congress. The “United Colonies of America” elected the following presidents:

Peyton Randolph
September 5, 1774 to October 22, 1774


Henry Middleton
October 22, 1774 to October 26, 1774 (filling in for a sick Randolph)
Peyton Randolph May 20, 1775 to May 24, 1775 (he chose to leave to preside over the Virginia House of Burgesses)
John Hancock
October 27, 1775 to July 1, 1776

Peyton Randolph, first and third president of the Continental Congress, and cousin of Thomas Jefferson, by Charles Willson Peale

Peyton Randolph, first and third president of the “United Colonies of America”, by Charles Willson Peale

After the Declaration of Independence, when the colonies officially became the United States of America, there were yet more presidents:

John Hancock
July 2, 1776 to October 29, 1777
Henry Laurens
November 1, 1777 to December 9, 1778
John Jay
December 10, 1778 to September 28, 1779
Samuel Huntington
September 28, 1779 to February 28, 1781

Portrait of John Hancock, first president of "The United States of America" by John Singleton Copley, c. 1770–72

Portrait of John Hancock, first president of “The United States of America” by John Singleton Copley, c. 1770–72

When the Articles of Confederation, formally called “Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union,” established the United States of America as a confederation of sovereign states and were adopted by all parties in March of 1781, Samuel Huntington was chosen to continue as President of the United States. He only served from March until July, however, because of poor health.

Samuel Huntington, painted by Charles Willson Peale in 1783

Samuel Huntington, painted by Charles Willson Peale in 1783

Next, Thomas McKean served from July until November 4th. (McKean, also the Chief Justice of Pennsylvania, agreed only to serve until his court commenced in late October.) John Hanson was then chosen unanimously, and was the first President of “the United States” to serve a full year.

[The Articles of Confederation only allowed a President to serve a one-year term during any three-year period, so Hanson served in that office from November 5, 1781 until November 3, 1782.]

Portrait of John Hanson, circa 1770

Portrait of John Hanson, circa 1770

Hanson’s successors were as follows:

Elias Boudinot
4th President of the United States 
in Congress Assembled
November 4, 1782 to November 3, 1783
Thomas Mifflin
5th President of the United States 
in Congress Assembled
November 3, 1783 to June 3, 1784
Richard Henry Lee
6th President of the United States 
in Congress Assembled
November 30, 1784 to November 23, 1785
John Hancock
7th President of the United States 
in Congress Assembled
November 23, 1785 to June 6, 1786
Nathaniel Gorham
8th President of the United States 
in Congress Assembled
June 1786 – November 13, 1786
Arthur St. Clair
9th President of the United States 
in Congress Assembled
February 2, 1787 to October 29, 1787
Cyrus Griffin
10th President of the United States 
in Congress Assembled
January 22, 1788 to March 4, 1789

Following the ratification of the Constitution by the required nine States, George Washington was inaugurated on April 30, 1789 as the first President of (the Constitutionally-defined) United States.

Oil painting of George Washington's inauguration as the first President of the United States painted circa 1899

Oil painting of George Washington’s inauguration as the first President of the United States painted circa 1899

So Happy Birthday, Mr. In-Some-Senses First U.S. President!

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