Forget what you’ve been told. George Washington was not the first president of the United States.
George Washington, our celebrated “first” president, the guy who appears on the $1 bill, the quarter, and is the subject of numerous iconic paintings, was not the first person to preside over America. Now that your mind has been totally blown, you should know that there were actually eight other presidents before him! Life is a lie, friends.
The United States declared its independence from Great Britain in 1776, and the Revolutionary War ended in 1783. Washington wasn’t elected until 1789, so what was going on in the meantime? Our country’s first system of government was organized in 1781 under the Articles of Confederation, at which point officials from the Continental Congress elected presidents. The following eight gents sat at the helm of the U.S. government before George Washington came along.
1. John Hanson (1781-1782)
Hanson was elected by Congress unanimously as the first president of the United States. He was a member of the Continental Congress and was elected to serve a one-year term.
2. Elias Boudinot (1782-1783)
This gentleman served as the second president. A delegate from New Jersey, Boudinot later led the United States Mint.
3. Thomas Mifflin (1783-1784)
Mifflin served as Major General in the Revolutionary War and was a congressman from Pennsylvania before he was elected to be the third president. He then became the first governor of Pennsylvania.
4. Richard Henry Lee (1784-1785)
Lee was a statesman from Virginia, and he’s the one who first proposed a motion for the colonies’ independence from Great Britain. After his stint as president, he became a senator.
5. John Hancock (1785-1786)
The country’s most famous signature came from this man, who served as our fifth president. He then acted as the first governor of Massachusetts.
6. Nathaniel Gorham (1786-1787)
This delegate from Massachusetts was a highly respected merchant who later became the sixth president. You can find his signature on the Constitution as well.
7. Arthur St. Clair (1787-1788)
St. Clair was a major in the Continental Army before serving as president. After his presidency, he presided as the first governor of a region that later became Ohio.
8. Cyrus Griffin (1788-1789)
The last of the pre-Washington presidents, Griffin resigned after the Constitution was put into place. He spent the latter portion of his career working as a federal judge.
The next time someone tells you that George Washington was the first president, tell them that he was the first president under the Constitution, not under the Articles of Confederation. That’s some mind-blowing trivia right there, folks.